#12 Don’t cry off attending your friend’s party just because you think you’ll be the only one there without a fantastic job

In Down and Out on November 23, 2009 at 11:13 pm

At an unspecified point earlier this year, when the whole no job=no status thing was really getting to me, I did a shameful thing.

A lovely friend had very sweetly invited me to their birthday lunch in a lovely restaurant with lovely people. How lovely, I hear you say. And ordinarily I would have had to agree. But as anyone who has ever been unemployed for a lengthy period will know, one of the worst things about it is the crippling loss of self-esteem. I’ve seen it happen to other people, I’ve read about it in sociology books, but I hadn’t expected it so soon or so deeply. So in spite of all the loveliness on offer, at the eleventh-hour, I bottled it. I texted (yes, texted!) some feeble excuse about the kids and hid.

One day, when things are on the up again, I promise I’ll pluck up the courage to apologise to my friend (face to face). In the mean time, however, I have, as they say ‘got over myself’. I’ve given myself a metaphorical slap, and pushed myself out of the door and back into social situations.

Guess what? It turns out the recession isn’t limited to my back bedroom. In fact, lots of journalists far more talented and better connected than me are also struggling to find enough work. Ditto lawyers (an increase of 483% in past 18mths), accountants (up 377%), marketing managers (up 28%), PRs/advertising types (up 298%), and architects (up an incredible 1,115%), not to mention actors, directors, IT consultants, and more. In fact, these days it is quite unfashionable to actually have enough work.

As part of my new ‘no hiding’ rule, I’ve taken a deep breath and frog-marched myself along to press launches, professional networking groups, council-sponsored careers surgeries, and redundancy leaving dos. Even birthday parties. And everywhere the story is the same. In fact, some of these get togethers are more like AA meetings: ‘Hello, my name is Jessica, and I haven’t had a commission for five months.’ Without wanting to take pleasure in other people’s misfortune, they’re mutually supportive, therapeutic, and a good excuse for  drink.

Nowadays, instead of feeling alienated from the working society, I’m beginning to feel part of a growing, non-working society. And, financial pressures aside, just knowing you’re not alone makes it all seem somehow ok.

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