Tuesday, August 4, 2009

One Year of Searching

It has been one year since my husband, Donald, started his full-time job search.

But let me back up. Like many people our age, Donald decided that his chosen career would not make him happy, so he went back to school. I happily accompanied him since I was also looking for a change and I was excited that my husband would not settle for a job that wasn't a good fit for him. We had been married for only a year and were still in the throes of "we can do anything"-itis, believing that we would be different, that we would be happy with everything in our lives.

During his program, Donald grew and changed and explored and learned. It was wonderful sharing the experience with him. He was often excited about new ideas and was energized by the ways in which he could make the world a better place. He met some friends who would get together once a week to throw ideas around. They ended up latching on to one particular idea, raised funds, filled out all the legal paperwork, and launched the company, all before graduation.

Running a company, his company, suited Donald completely. He was tireless and determined, motivated and capable. We would go for long walks through the neighborhood, talking about his ideas, looking at houses and imagining what kind of house we would buy, how many kids we would have. He believed that he could not fail, that the idea was good, and his team was good, and the market was ready. He and his team traveled to give presentations to angel investors and other groups who invest in start-up companies. He is an amazing public speaker and I know he did justice to his endeavor. But the money never came. And then the economy took a dive and we knew that we were headed for something new and unexpected.

Donald tried to save his company, but there was a point at which he knew that an income was not in the near future and that my job was not covering our living expenses. He let his dream company go. He polished his resume, still fresh out of school, and started looking for a job. His parents seriously-jokingly said that we could move in with them. He had interviews. He networked. He consulted with his dad. He consulted with me. No jobs. When our financial situation was clearly heading down a bad road, we decided to take his parents up on their offer and move in with them. We never thought we'd actually have to take them up on it. We are grateful we did.

Before we moved in with Donald's parents, Donald spent his days alone in our apartment while I was at work. I didn't pick up on it right away, but it soon became apparent that Donald was having a harder time than I thought. The job search was frustrating; he was mourning the loss of his company, largely blaming himself for its failure. He was deflated, angry, and, I eventually discovered, depressed. Spending his days alone in the apartment was only making it worse, especially when I would come home from a long day and pester him about whether he had made any progress. And then we would argue about whether we had enough money to order pizza for dinner on weekends. It felt to both of us like a circle of the same conversations, never ending, without help in sight. At the time, it still felt like a stigma to talk about one's spouse being unemployed, so it was hard to reach out for support from our friends and family. We wanted to be able to take care of it ourselves. We wanted to be adults. We wanted things to be the way we had pictured.

Now that we're in a new place and have Donald's parents around (they are retired), things have improved in some ways. I was able to find another job after about 2.5 months of searching (boy, was that a topic of frustration for Donald), so now when I go to work during the week, I know that Donald is not home alone (most of the time). I don't want this to make him sound like a child, but time alone for a depressed adult is not healthy or helpful. Donald has loving and supportive parents, and they have helped him enormously in maintaining his motivation and helping him stay on track. Obviously, there are drawbacks to being long-term guests in someone's home, but I'll write about that another time. The bottom line is that we are deeply grateful to Donald's parents for taking us in and for giving us somewhere to go when things got tough. And, as news media has covered, many singles and couples our age are doing the same thing - returning home to parents.

How are you and yours faring?

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