Who I Thought I Was

Last year, I became one of the 5 million Americans who have been jobless or underemployed for longer than 6 months.

by Ce Ce Iandoli
coping with long-term unemployment
Ce Ce Iandoli

Labor statistics confirm my pessimism. More than 14 million Americans are currently unemployed. In California, 12% are now unemployed. Nowadays, the Bureau’s statisticians wonder how long will people keep looking for work. Ironically, the likelihood of becoming employed decreases the longer one is unemployed. 

These facts assure me that I am not alone.


Aside from the brazen men and women on Wall Street, I don’t think anyone meant to deliberately harm me. But, none of us could imagine what we never saw before: A moment as depressing and as ominous as the Great Depression.


Perhaps I followed America’s script too scrupulously: Get an education. Buy a house. Invest in the market. Swap up for bigger, better, larger, huge. I bought a mortgage that smelled like secrecy. It was too good to be true for three years. And then I bought a car that worked. Yes, that was me in my air conditioned car beside you, feeling beneficent. Handing money to tired men who wanted to wash my windows. Unaware, I’d lose my job.  I’m not in shock now, but I’m also not any safer.


This woman I thought I knew lies dormant, still hoping things will change. My mother-in-law Cynthia [who lived through the first Great Depression] comforts me this way, “We had nothing, and we knew it. But we had so little, we never lost so much. Whatever you do, don’t internalize any of it.”


I have one more story to share. When Max was four years old, we went to an amusement park with a fountain that spit water at us unexpectedly. We loved these surprises because we never knew when the fountain would catch us off-guard. Over time we ran toward the water to master what might happen next. But we never really knew really when the water would find us.

First Published February 7, 2012

Share Your Thoughts!


missyj 04.13.2014

CeCe,I know your pain & difficulty. After 9/11, and the difficult economy we went through, I went through 9 difficult years. Used up savings and retirement, divorced my spouse who refused to work, and I could not remain in a sales position long enough because the employer expected miracles in a down economy. I had many dark days but reminded myself I had a little one to support. After 4 yrs. a friend hired me. Eventually, her firm closed. Finally I lost everything, house, money. A friend kept paying for my car insurance. Another housed me. We survived on revolving credit cards. I couldn't get a job in retail or restaurants because I did not have experience I was told. The blessings were plenty...plenty of time for introspection, prayer, community service and new friendships. Because of the latter, a new friend helped me land a job. My valuable lesson: As much as I tried to steer my path, I learned that my days were ordered by the Man Above. I had a new found faith. I was humbled. It is still painful to recall those days. It is painful to see others go through it. Have faith. You will make it.


What a well-written story, told with such courage and heart.
I am like you, without steady employment, except for me it's been almost three years. At 48, I'm finding agism is alive and well. And we are in our own Great Depression indeed. This lack of employment has caused all sorts of anxiety and depression for me and my older friends. Men and women between the ages of 45 and up can't seem to find a job worthy of their experience and intelligence. Employers want young kids with no experience they can work to the bone and pay peanuts.
To be honest, I have much disdain for the work I once found immense pleasure and joy in. Life coaches and therapist offices are filled with these people who lost their lives/purpose/self-esteem. I always defined myself by what I did, what I drove, what I wore and where I lived. Seems shallow, but we find a sense of self in what we do for work. For the first time in decades, our parents are living better lives than we are. Like so many, I live with family, unable to afford rent, food, and utilities. I am luck to have enough to pay for my cell phone, gas and car insurance. Thank God for MassHealth. What will our nation do with the millions of Americans no longer working? Our country cannot afford to support us all. There are even more than are calculated, as so many of us can no longer collect unemployment. Never in my life did I ever think I would be on food stamps. So many of us are. Ce Ce, keep writing. I'd join you in your writing group any day.

Christina 04.07.2013

Thank you for sharing. We need to hear more voices like yours. As a 50-year-old divorced, educated woman who recently moved in with her 77-year-old father due to the economy, I can certainly relate. I'm employed, but the pay is less than I made as a beginning publicist in 1990. So much for self-esteem. Best of luck to you, CeCe. You're not alone.

sarah alley04.16.2012

This is such a beautiful yet and painful view of what happens when your life shifts expectantly. I appreciate Cece's honesty describing the different phases of being unemployed. She has a great style of writing. I would love to read more from her regarding her journey.

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