I wanted to start with wishing people a HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope this year is filled with joy, fortunes, love and fulfillment. I have not written in a while because life was pretty hectic. No, I am as of yet not employed and even though, it hurts me to write that I just wanted to address this right off the bat.
Today, I will write mostly about a big problem which I faced in 2013– and perhaps, this might help someone out there. Perhaps, it wouldn’t be a problem for someone else. Earlier in the year, I wrote about undergraduates asking recent graduates really annoying question– please refer to this post. In sum, I was ranting about an phenomenon where you would say hi to an acquaintance and the first thing that friend would ask is if I had found a job. The problematic nature of “Have you found a job yet?” is kind of hinted at here:
Don’t ask, “Have you found a job yet?” right before or right after “How are you?” In fact, don’t ask it at all. Instead ask, “What have you been up to?” or “How are you?” Finding a job is very stressful and sometimes people are getting traction in their job searches but it is not manifesting as job offers. Or the simple fact that people are not defined by their jobs. Whether or not this person is currently employed, they still have a lot to contribute to your life and others’ communities. If you are looking to catch up, it may be better to ask open-ended questions and let them volunteer the information.[…] Remember, people will always remember how you make them feel.
After further reflection I realized that the reason why my so-called acquaintances’ persistence at asking me “Have you found a job yet?” right after exchanging hellos bothered me, was because it reduced me to my economic status. Instead, of being Cathryn who loves books, knitting and travelling, I became “Are you employed Cathryn?” There was a feeling that these people sought to categorize me. Additionally, I knew that if I faced any anxiety or problems, these acquaintances would never really be there to help me. If and when I was employed, it would be awkward and even strange for them to spend hours asking me about my job.
My sibling told me that my problem reminded her of a passage in Le Petit Prince by Alexandre Saint-Exupery (Chapter IV):
Les grandes personnes aiment les chiffres. Quand vous leur parlez d’un nouvel ami, elles ne vous questionnent jamais sur l’essentiel. Elles ne vous disent jamais: “Quel est le son de sa voix ? Quels sont les jeux qu’il préfère ? Est-ce qu’il collectionne les papillons ?” Elles vous demandent: “Quel âge a-t-il ? Combien a-t-il de frères ? Combien pèse-t-il ? Combien gagne son père ?” Alors seulement elles croient le connaître. Si vous dites aux grandes personnes: “J’ai vu une belle maison en briques roses, avec des géraniums aux fenêtres et des colombes sur le toit…” elles ne parviennent pas à s’imaginer cette maison. Il faut leur dire: “J’ai vu une maison de cent mille francs.” Alors elles s’écrient: “Comme c’est joli !”
When you tell them that you have made a new friend, they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you, “What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?” Instead, they demand: “How old is he? How many brothers has he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make?” Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him. If you were to say to the grown-ups: “I saw a beautiful house made of rosy brick, with geraniums in the windows and doves on the roof,” they would not be able to get any idea of that house at all. You would have to say to them: “I saw a house that cost $20,000.” Then they would exclaim: “Oh, what a pretty house that is!”
Our society has spent so much time defining us according to arbitrary categories : employed vs unemployed, skilled labour vs unskilled labour, racial and ethnic group, economic class and so on so forth. In the excerpt above, the narrator comments on how grown-ups (which I will intepret as society) loves numbers and to attach numbers to someone. Similarly these acquaintances looked no further beyond my economic status for topics of small talk without paying mind to the impact this could have. Until recently, many people defined themselves according to their jobs– which can become a problem.
All of this is just to say remember to value the people in your lives for whom they are and not for the numbers attached to their circumstances. Lady (Un)employed recently published a touching testimony from an anonymous contributor. I would really recommend that you read it as it addresses the devastating effect that unemployment can have.
After all, the essential is invisible to the eyes of humans.
That’s it from me.