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.

Copyright © Amy Gutman. All rights reserved.

30 thoughts on “Job? Check.

    • Thanks so much! And yes, it’s definitely a wild ride (complicated by the fact that, along with starting the job, I need to MOVE!)

  1. Congratulations! I so appreciate your willingness to see the benefit in all that unfolds in your life, and to keep on creating. Blessings!

    • 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.

  2. 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. :-)

  3. This is but one more step in a very interesting life journey. Congratulations and here’s to gratitude! It always make us feel happy to count our blessings.

    • Yes, here’s to gratitude — definitely easier to feel in some situations than others but always always helpful & welcome.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

    • 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!

  6. 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.

    • Thanks for reading, Renee — and yes, such things are possible (though far less easy to come by than one would hope.)

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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. :-)

  10. Congratulations Amy! Ken and I are thrilled for you. Best of luck with the new job!

  11. Many happy congrats! Your posts have been very inspiring- all of them! Please tell us that this is not the end of your blogging!

  12. 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.

  13. May the storm gales you have been facing become the wind at your back.

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