On Being “Unemployed”

unemployment“So what do you do?” The dreaded question. It used to be so easy- I could just tell people the name and mission of my organization, and all the awesome things I was doing that made me sound really important and exceptional. These days, not so much. It’s tough to say what I “do” in one sentence. Sometimes I wish that question could be banned from casual conversation. In a perfect world, people at parties would ask each other, “where are you on your journey?” instead. I know that sounds a bit cheesy, but it would give us all an opportunity to learn much more about each other as an introduction.

These days, I am, according to the U.S. Government, a statistic. I am part of that scary, rising “unemployment” percentage that you keep hearing on the news. But I didn’t get laid off, and I wasn’t fired. I quit. I quit a perfectly good full-time job, with no new job on the horizon, in this grizzly economy. (GASP!) Just to calm your nerves, we are still living in our home, and eating food (alot of Ramen, but I think that is still considered food).  Things are very tight, but we are making it.

I am back in school part-time working toward a Master of Divinity, so that when I graduate I can work in ministry, and possibly teach someday. I will be going full-time next semester. I am working part-time doing organizing for a private client, and  doing home health care, which doesn’t exactly give me many job boasting opportunities.  I am also volunteering some of my time with a pastor who is working with the homeless in Nashville. So as you can imagine, that dreaded question isn’t easy for me to answer, although I am more satisfied and excited about my life then I have been in a long time.

This quote from Mother Teresa gives me great inspiration:

“Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.”

It seems as though in this society, our complete identities are wrapped up in what we “do”. It defines us. It is how people place us in a box, so that they can understand who we are in a neat, tidy way. But none of our lives are neat and tidy, whether we are part of the “workforce” or not. We have to stop and think about how we are labeling each other. The relationships that I cherish, the things that I am passionate about, those that I serve in ministry, and that which I love make me who I am. What I do flows out of that, but it is simply a product of those things. It does not define me. So next time you are at a party, and introducing yourself to someone, give them something that will make their jaw drop. It’s fun, I promise.


  1. says

    I love this. I think it’s so easy for people to get caught up in recognizing themselves and other people by the career that they chose. I love that you left a full time job to find something more fulfilling, because isn’t fulfillment really what the journey is all about? Finding whatever makes you feel like you’re living your life in the best way possible. Good luck with everything, though it sounds like you’re already doing a great job :)

  2. says

    Good for you! I want to be as brave as you and go after what I really want in life. (Which includes moving to Nashville and pursuing photo stories I’m passionate about, as opposed to covering the day-in-day-out assignments at the newspaper..)

    It bothers me how many people put an emphasis on your job as a defining part of you. I am who I am, and I do my job. I don’t let it define me. And I’m glad you aren’t letting yours define you, either.

  3. hilarybarnett says

    Melissa- you are exactly right– life is too short to stay miserable forever. Sometimes we have to be patient, but when we know it is time to break away, we have to take the leap! It’s exhilarating.

  4. hilarybarnett says

    E.P.- looks like you ARE more brave than you thought!!! Welcome to Nashville girl! I’m so excited for you to be here. Whenever you get settled in let’s try to do a little meetup!

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