Job? Check.

Bolso pistacho

I am among the lucky.

After some three years of freelance-punctuated unem­ploy­ment, next month I’ll be return­ing to work. And not only will I have a full-time job, I’ll also have the oppor­tu­nity to work with peo­ple I really like on issues that really mat­ter. As a mem­ber of the Har­vard School of Pub­lic Health’s exter­nal rela­tions team, I’ll have the priv­i­lege of sup­port­ing glob­ally sig­nif­i­cant work in areas rang­ing from dis­ease pre­ven­tion to diet and nutri­tion to health care policy.

I feel both for­tu­nate and grate­ful – espe­cially given my appar­ent demo­graphic handicap.

As the New York Times reported in May, “[a] worker between ages 50 and 61 who has been unem­ployed for 17 months has only about a 9 per­cent of find­ing a new job in the next three months.” (While I’m at the low-end of that range, I’m squarely within it.)  And if that’s not enough: The num­ber of unem­ployed peo­ple between the ages of 50 and 65 has more than dou­bled since the onset of the Great Recession.

The result is noth­ing short of a national emer­gency,” the arti­cle con­tin­ued. “Mil­lions of work­ers have been dis­con­nected from the work force, and pos­si­bly even from soci­ety. If they are not recon­nected, the costs to them and to soci­ety will be grim.”

Given the focus of my new job, it seems fit­ting to point out that unem­ploy­ment is a press­ing pub­lic health issue. To wit, the Times cites stud­ies link­ing unem­ploy­ment to can­cer, heart dis­ease, and psy­chi­atric prob­lems. One study esti­mated a 50 to 100 per­cent increase in death rates for con­sis­tently employed older men imme­di­ately after a job loss.

While my own story has been less har­row­ing health-wise, these years have unques­tion­ably been the most chal­leng­ing of my life. And as I wrote in Salon last fall, “Cop­ing with pro­longed job­less­ness is hugely demand­ing .…Two years of job hunt­ing has required infi­nitely more of me than any of my lauded past achievements.”

That said, while I wouldn’t have cho­sen it, I can’t say that I entirely regret the past three years. There’s some­thing to be said for hav­ing been swept up in the larger story, for lessons that can come in no other way than liv­ing into them. For all my Har­vard degrees and impres­sive resume, I was not immune – nor do I think I should have been. I’m reminded of an inter­view with the late actor Christo­pher Reeve after the acci­dent that ren­dered him quad­ri­plegic. Asked whether he some­times asked “Why me?” Reeve responded: “Why not me?”

Cut loose from expec­ta­tions, I also found a new voice as a writer – I stopped wor­ry­ing about what peo­ple would think and started tak­ing big­ger risks. This was a tremen­dous gift and one that I carry with me. As I wrote here, blog­ging changed my life, and I’m deeply grate­ful to all of you who’ve shared this space with me over the past nine months. I can’t imag­ine the past year with­out Plan B Nation – or with­out you, its readers.

Now that you have a job, will you keep writ­ing the blog?” a friend asked curiously.

My answer: Absolutely.

Going back to work feels like reach­ing home in a storm. I’m grate­ful for the shel­ter, grate­ful for the sus­te­nance. But out­side, the gales are still blow­ing, and many more are home­less. We’re all still liv­ing in Plan B Nation, whether we see it or not.

© 2012, amy gut­man. All rights reserved.

35 thoughts on “Job? Check.

    • Thank you! For me, it’s always a bal­ance between focus­ing on the good and acknowl­edg­ing life’s very real pain and chal­lenges. So glad you liked the post.
      amy gut­man recently posted…Job? Check.My Profile

  1. I sec­ond all the com­ments above. Your blog has been an immensely valu­able touchstone.

    Don’t. Stop. The blog.

    • And you, Matthew, have been an incred­i­bly valu­able com­menter. Really! Your con­sis­tency has heart­ened and encour­aged me over the past months, and I’m always inter­ested in what you have to say. I promise to keep writ­ing if you promise to keep read­ing. :-)
      amy gut­man recently posted…Job? Check.My Profile

  2. I love this post, espe­cially the “gales are still blow­ing” line, which calls up the iconic last scene of The Ter­mi­na­tor.…( “there’s a storm coming”.…”I know”). Look­ing for­ward to more on Plan B Nation.

    • Thanks so much Bets! Hop­ing those gales blow me right into Simon’s and cof­fee w/you in the not-too-distant future. Hop­ing to see much more of you once I’ve landed back.
      amy gut­man recently posted…Job? Check.My Profile

  3. Amy, FANTASTIC!!! Huge con­grat­u­la­tions. This doesn’t mean you’re mov­ing back to Cam­bridge, though, right?? Will you be doing this from lovely Nohamp? (I hope so!)

    • Sadly, no — the job’s one prob­lem­atic aspect is that I really need to do it from there not here, so I’ll be mov­ing back. But mov­ing doesn’t mean leav­ing! I plan to make it out for fre­quent vis­its and hope to see you soon.
      amy gut­man recently posted…Job? Check.My Profile

    • Many thanks, Alle­gra — for this and all your kind words and sup­port since I launched the blog. Speak­ing of which, renewed thanks for your won­der­ful guest post!
      amy gut­man recently posted…Job? Check.My Profile

  4. You give me hope by say­ing you will be work­ing “with peo­ple I like on issues that really mat­ter.” For me, a a job that addresses impor­tant issues in con­cert with a group of like-minded peo­ple is but yet a dream. But maybe not out of reach. Thanks for bring­ing that message.

  5. Won­der­ful piece, Amy! I’m look­ing for­ward to see­ing the meta­mor­pho­sis of Plan B Nation as you re-enter the work­force — espe­cially with such a dynamic job. I’ve loved see­ing the world through your eyes this past year and look for­ward to fol­low­ing your path into the future. Huge con­grat­u­la­tory hug!

    • Thanks, Peggy! That means so much — as has all your sup­port since we first “met” on FB. Look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing the con­ver­sa­tion — & per­haps even meet­ing you irl in this next chap­ter.
      amy gut­man recently posted…Job? Check.My Profile

  6. Con­grats Amy! I’m so glad to hear that you’re still plan­ning to write..and to cover the ongo­ing storm around find­ing work. Your have added an impor­tant voice to these con­ver­sa­tions and your new perch will likely give you even more per­spec­tive to share.

    • Thank you so much, Marci! For obvi­ous rea­sons, this means a spe­cial lot com­ing from YOU. So glad we’ve con­nected beyond our myr­iad 1 degrees of sep­a­ra­tion and hope to (finally) con­nect irl in the not-too-distant future.
      amy gut­man recently posted…Job? Check.My Profile

  7. Amy, that’s ter­rific! But…um…DON’T LEAVE US OUT HERE ALL ALONE!
    Seri­ously, yours has been an invalu­able voice for me in my own annus (and a hal­fibus) hor­ri­bilis. At this point I’m solidly, um, half-employed. It’s dif­fer­ent than part-time; I’m run­ning my own firm but it’s just me and in terms of income and time so far it’s really only a half mea­sure, and not from a lack of try­ing. Thank­fully my wife remains employed, and our home is paid off, but col­lege for the boys looms. I will there­fore still be need­ing my reg­u­lar Amy Fix!
    And you are 100% right; the impact of unem­ploy­ment is absolutely an impor­tant national pub­lic health issue.

    • So glad you’ve found the blog help­ful — huge thanks for being a reader. And, as I wrote, no inten­tion of stop­ping the blog, just start­ing another chap­ter. :-)
      amy gut­man recently posted…Job? Check.My Profile

  8. So happy for you, Amy! And glad to hear we won’t be los­ing your blog. Dixie and I wish you all the best in the School of Pub­lic Health.

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