Long before the current employment crunch, I became unemployed. I reside in Dalton, Georgia—a small southern mill town, where opportunities for a high-brow English Literature major—and bachelor’s degree like mine are few and far between. I also hold a minor concentration in History. Although there is a lot of history around these parts, no one actually would consider paying you to do anything with it.
I received my associate’s degree in Southern unemployment over thirteen years ago. Previously, I had lived and worked in Atlanta, Georgia, which is an hour and a half to the south. I was proud of my work there in marketing and public relations and I shared a wonderful old townhouse in Buckhead with a sorority sister of mine from college. Then we parted ways after a difference in opinion over her frequent and strange house guests. I decided to move back to Dalton and commute back and forth for my job, which was a good one.
Perhaps I was frazzled from the daily commute that lasted over three hours a day. Perhaps I was merely exhausted and had dark circles under my eyes. Whatever the reason, the boss decided I was no longer a prime employee and that I had ‘let myself go.’ She then actually let me go.
This action by an insensitive Atlanta boss fulfilled the requirements of the Associate’s Degree in Being Highly Educated and Unemployed.
I was actually relieved to stop driving back and forth. I decided I would begin working on the Great American Novel. Within a week, I was sending out query letters to regional historical publications and was receiving a few great vibes. Two weeks later, my parents ended this endeavor and refused to float me even one car payment. I was told in no uncertain terms that I was to go get a real job. My car payment was not due for two weeks.
They did not find it amusing when I returned a pricey stereo system to the store and was able to receive a complete refund for it, and covered the next car payment. They harassed me daily to apply for jobs. The daily grind of the arguments made it impossible for me to write. I was so stressed out with their doubt and embarrassment over my latest artistic endeavor—this sort of thing is just not done around these parts—that I went out and applied for jobs just to stop the chattering madness. Little was I to know that I would be hired on the spot as an Activities Director for a local nursing home at minimum wage.
So off I went to the smells, sounds, and general insanity of the nearby nursing home. Within a year, I had folks singing hymns as I played the piano in the commons (another grand skill with little employability potential), dancing square dances and decorating Christmas trees all over the building. This was disliked by the Director of Nursing, also known as the DON.
During this time I married a wonderful local guy with steady non-artistic employment. After my two week hiatus to get hitched and honeymoon at the Gulf of Mexico, I returned to work, only to have the very large DON-woman grab my arm and twist it due to residents singing hymns during breakfast. I promptly clocked out and headed home. That was the last time I actually put a dime into social security. I had completed the requirements of a Bachelor of Arts in Mill Town Unemployment. October will mark eleven years.
So once again I began to write. My husband wholeheartedly agreed to this bachelor’s degree in unemployment. I did not cost him much more than he had been spending before—for a while. I dabbled in the writing but became increasingly interested in home décor and little women’s parties. I had achieved Southern respectability as a married woman. Unemployment is acceptable when you are a little married lady living off your new husband instead of your parents who desperately want to retire.
Then, within eighteen months of the nuptials, I became pregnant with my first child. For the next few years, I earned the Masters of Stay At Home Mommy.
Several years later, we have two children. It has not been easy supporting two children on one income. I have tried to secure at least part-time employment but am turned down for one of two reasons: I am under-qualified or I am over-qualified. Nothing is ever ‘just right,’ as Goldilocks would infer. For two years, our area displayed the highest unemployment rate in the state.
Because Georgia is broke, schools are hurting and hundreds of teachers have been dismissed. All I have is time. I am writing much lately and beginning to see a little publishing success. At 42, I have received a PhD in Southern Unemployment: because of the sorry condition of Georgia schools and my gifted son had already skipped a grade and remained bored, I am now homeschooling him. Between that thesis and that of the three year old toddler girl, I could not take a job now should I be magically offered one.
Call me Dr. Stay At Home Mom. My advice to anyone who wants to avoid my situation? Head to the Yankee Hills! Take up residence in the largest city you can find! There is nothing in Georgia—by all means, don’t come here—unless you want my Dean of Unemployment City University position.