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Lost Job and Found Time

I feel silly saying, “I have never seen anything like this before” since I am only thirty-two and missed the Great Depression and most other popular comparative references for what we are experiencing now, but I truly have never seen anything like this before. Not a single American remains unaffected by our demolished U.S. economy. Some have felt it marginally, an unpleasant tickle, others speak of a friend of a friend while I can compete with any variation of the stories having lost two jobs in less than a year. Honestly, I’m not a total numbskull loser but I did work in fashion, so what did I expect, right? When the nation is frightened into white knuckling their money, they certainly aren’t going out on an emotional limb to purchase the designer jeans that I pushed. Everyone needed to learn they could live without another hoodie and tomorrow will still come if they wear a recycled dress on Valentine’s Day.

Penny pinching and doing it well has become a source of pride for some who are braving this terrifying and quickly spiraling economy. Drinking my tea at home, cooking for my husband (although groceries seem to cost as much if not more than ordering out now), less dining out in general, not talking about the Caribbean, and reluctantly canceling HBO and Showtime. We had to make choices, even if they were hard ones. Before I even got laid off again, I knew I was losing my job and had to prepare. If people aren’t buying clothes, the buyers in the stores aren’t placing orders with the vendors, and account executives at the clothing companies aren’t meeting sales projections, and the factories can’t cut the line without enough orders and the next thing you know, this has happened twice and both companies went out of business, right out from underneath me. The first time it happened I was devastated; the second time it happened I was relieved. I needed some time off!

When I was working, I was expected to put in at least forty-five hours per week. The minimum fashion sales workday, which is the only industry I can speak of, is nine hours. Nine hours, as opposed to eight, is justified by exclaiming that you get an hour lunch break every day, which is then frowned upon if you actually take it. In other words, you work nine hours a day to take an hour-long lunch break that you are not supposed to take so you are actually paying your company to go to lunch. Now, add an additional two hours per day for the door-to-door commute and you are out of the house for eleven hours per day! If you require eight hours of sleep to avoid feeling hung over, fatigued, angry, defensive, or suffering from acute short term memory loss, then you have six hours of “free time” per weekday. Other variables must also be considered: do you go to the gym, do you cook your meals, do you have children or pets, a spouse, or a second job (please say no!), then you probably can’t find the time or energy to get your ass to the movies as often as you would like. Some may say that’s what the weekends are for, that’s laughable. 

Weekends are for attending other folks events or getting to your own extracurricular scheduling: Christenings, brunches, showers, birthday parties, housewarmings, yoga, a date with your husband, sleeping, downtime, cleaning, Grandmas and Grandpas, weddings, pet projects, apartment shopping, grocery shopping, flea marketing, mouse trapping, in-lawing, reading, and grooming. Too many whiners view going to the movies as a “waste of two hours” and not suitable because “it’s so beautiful out” and they have “too much to do” besides “sit in a movie theater all afternoon.” Well excuse me for living. Sorry one of the only things I love to do involves relaxing in a dark room and being entertained for a couple hours while eating delicious food. Is that so hard to understand?

It’s a never-ending battle if you aren’t bound to someone who needs the movies as much as you do. You’ll have to learn to go solo and blow off the comments like “She’ll see anything!” and “Let me guess, you’re calling cause you want to go to the movies.” You’re probably on your own which is sometimes the best way to be. No hassle. Nobody has a cow if you want to see a movie two weeks in a row. You decide. It’s like Julia Roberts hooker character, Vivian Ward, in Pretty Woman, “I say who. I say when. I say how much.” When it’s all up to you, all you have to do is find the time.

Losing my job in December really liberated me. Once I was released from this depressive environment and accepted the fact that I was a statistic for the Department of Labor I really embraced my new freedom. Granted, I am lucky enough in this economy to have a husband whose job is secured; I was eligible for unemployment insurance and had mastered the double trickery that it takes to deal with the unemployment office. I chose not to panic this time around and I do know that others can’t embrace unemployment as fluffily as I did. The fact of the matter was, this was awards season, and I had a hell of a lot of catching up to do. 

After our new puppy, Knuckles, was tended to (spoiled, really) the greater part of my morning had been spent cruising Craigslist, WWD, and Stylecareers for a new job. When my resumes were sent out accompanied by corny and predictable cover letters that I fear may haunt me for the rest of my life, I was free! I would set out to indulge in one of the best parts of living in New York City, going to the movies! Between Brooklyn and Manhattan, I could see any movie I wanted to at almost any time. I could even plan an afternoon around hopping from Union Square’s United Artist Theater for a blockbuster straight over to the IFC Center on Sixth Avenue for something cerebral. This didn’t distract from my job hunt, it only made me happy and allowed me to accept my time off and enjoy it. I lived in the moment. I carpe diem’d. 

Since my most recent job loss I’ve been able to see The Wrestler, Slumdog Millionaire, Doubt, Rachel Getting Married, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Notorious, Paul Blart Mall Cop, He’s Just Not That Into You, Milk, Che Part I and Part II, Frost/Nixon, Revolutionary Road, Gran Torino, The Reader, Taken, The Uninvited, The Dark Knight, The Changeling, and Vicky Cristina Barcelona. And you don’t have to say it; I couldn’t pay you to see a handful of those movies. So sue me, there are a couple stinkers in there. Paul Blart: Mall Cop, a lark, a good excuse to get a delicious turkey sandwich on an everything bagel from Terrace on Ninth Avenue and sneak it into the theater. And honestly, I expected better things from He’s Just Not That Into You, at least a decent chick flick, but I was hoodwinked into that one by the innocuous trailer. Had I known it was the biggest vehicle of modern day misogynistic googly eyeing I may have skipped it, even though I brought one of those awesome sandwiches into that movie, too. Not sure if you have a problem with Notorious so I’ll just go ahead and say I ended up in that one as a pure exercise of 1990s New York nostalgia and was captivated from the very opening scene, which starred Biggie’s biological son, playing the rapper as a kid. Good picture. One after the other I checked them off my list. The must-sees, the cornballs, the guilty pleasures, the obligatory smart ones, I got to see them all, thanks to getting laid off!

Let me be clear, I do not think unemployment is funny and I don’t think the demise of the economy is the joke of the century, in a “ha ha” way. I know it’s all very scary and losing my paycheck wasn’t exactly a cause to celebrate in our home but what’s done is done. We can all work very hard to get our lives back on track, to save money, to stay afloat, to get back to work, to hang on to what we have, and not lose everything, but we can also use our time if we find ourselves laid off one day. Now, I have chosen to transition into another career and I can thank unemployment for allowing me to finally do that. This is a time for us all to figure out what we want. How are we living? How have we been living? What do we need and how do we get it? We aren’t in as much control anymore. The world has shrugged us off and woken us up. Write your book, repaint your dining room, work with kids, make a roast, get in shape, keep looking for a new job but by all means, get out and go to the movies. Enjoy this time. I certainly did! Besides the whole losing one’s income in a two-income household thingy, my biggest issue now is figuring out what movie to see next; I’ve seen everything. I’m confident some new Oscar contender will be released soon, if not, you can bet I’ll be seeing Confessions of a Shopaholic, if for nothing more than to be entertained while enjoying one of those smuggled turkey sandwiches I love.