Exactly a year ago today, I said goodbye to my last full-time work, and hello to my second jobless status in 17 years.
That morning, I completed the requisite paperwork for my departure, said goodbye to the one and only person in the company who was there to “send me off” (the admin manager), and made my solitary way to my favourite Tuesday haunt – an empty sports stadium near my son’s school.
There, I found myself staring blankly at a running track under an overcast sky. Those tracks seemed almost to mock me that day, reminding me that I’ve been “here” before. The same way a marathoner in training must feel after completing his umpteenth time around that track, with the gray sky above casting a dark and dreary shadow over the track’s red polyurethane surface.
Back “here” again – the starting point of another 400 meters (a quarter of a mile) of track. Or in my case, “400 meters” of an uncertain future.
Some 17 years ago today, I was without work and looking at an uncertain future too. But that was a different time. Back then I was still in my early 30s, and feeling unafraid about the prospects of finding work. After all, when you’re in your 30s, you feel like you own the world. You feel like there’s nothing that can stop you.
Like James Cameron (director of acclaimed movies like Titanic and Avatar) once famously said as he picked up his Best Director Oscar: “I’m the King of the World!”
Yea, that kind of feeling.
Fast forward almost two decades and a global COVID pandemic which we’re all still reeling from, and it’s a whole different feeling altogether. Instead of King, I think the more appropriate term is Kid. I felt like that a year ago, a new kid on the block, stepping into an unknown freedom. An unknown future.
I still feel that way today as I recall that morning at the stadium one year ago.
Except now I’m busy typing out cover letters, resumes, and filling up multiple fields in online job application portals. Which can take anything from half to over an hour to complete! Hunting high and low for this certificate or that testimonial to bolster my chances, and plowing through endless job websites in search of opportunities.
Some days I feel like I’m taking control, choosing where to send my stuff to. Some days I feel like I’m out of control, choosing just about anyplace to send my stuff to. Or not.
Especially when rejections boomerang my applications back. Or worse – silence.
But even though age is against me now as I turn 50 in five weeks, and the job market is drying up, I trudge on.
I have to.
There are still dependents at home who need me to help keep the family afloat. It’s for them that I soldier on, leaving the outcome to God but trying each time to channel more fortitude after each painstaking application I make is met with silence.
Speaking of “fourth-titude”, our country’s Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister just announced the fourth in a series of “pandemic rescue packages” yesterday. He called it (wait for it) the nation’s……Fortitude Budget. Following the patriotic, nationalistic-sounding Unity, Resilience and Solidarity budgets previously announced.
It’s nice that I still live in a country where the government has enough in its coffers to barricade us against economic storms like the one this COVID pandemic has stirred, launching one wave of financial rescue package after another.
For me, it’s restored some confidence that if I’m unemployed, I’m at least unemployed in a country that’s working hard to help every worker find jobs and survive this historical moment.
But then, at the end of the day, it’s still on me to forge a future for myself and my family.
So on I trudge, with fortitude as my fuel, towards an uncertain future.