I have lost count at the number of job applications that I have submitted over the last several months. I can, however, unhappily count the number of responses my tenacious efforts have generated. Exactly two very sincerely penned Thanks but No Thanks…
Sadly, there has been nothing else. Despite my skills and experience, despite my best efforts at networking, working with recruiting agencies, and self-promotion, despite every fine-tuned cover letter and targeted resume I submit. Nothing. You keep thinking that it cannot go on like this forever, the right opportunity will present itself so long as you remain positive and focused. Soldier on, right? But, I am no soldier. I am a 44 year old woman with a currently bruised ego and a real fear that perhaps I am no longer relevant. That somehow I am no longer competitive and that I have skipped middle-age and went directly to relic. A fossil. No longer potent.
Other clues present themselves to me as well. The hot flashes, the night sweats, and my personal favorite; complete absence of concentration or memory. Recently, I was packing some boxes at home for my quarterly edit and purge. Several hours later I was not able to find my mobile phone. Being a creature of habit and a sticker for structure I could not understand where my phone could be. When I am not using my phone it has a place. And it was not in that place. My keys were in their place, my sunglasses in theirs, even my handbag sat in its usual spot. No phone though. I think to myself, I wouldn’t. But, I did. I had folded my phone in packing paper and placed it carefully in the box prepared for donation to Goodwill. Really?
I am beginning to feel like I have passed my expiration date and must have been removed from shelves without realizing what had happened. I’m discounted goods.
Having followed a less traditional life path, I wonder if it is my own doing since I never earned a college degree. With great pride I can state that every accomplished I achieved was based on the merit, quality, and commitment of my work alone. Without a degree I managed to work my way into great positions with great organizations and achieve the impossible: A Project Management role. Salary and all. My first salaried role and a very proud accomplishment. My lack of degree has been a sort of badge of honor for me, my own Girl Scout badge of accomplishment, my own way of assuring myself that I had something meaningful to contribute and that I could accomplish anything. Today it feels less like an accomplishment and more like a cautionary tale. My value has decreased I fear.
I am aware that I am not alone in this. I know others like myself; women who used to be able to pick and choose from employment offers can no longer find work. So, those like us working at finding work are reminded that it is “the market” we live in now and it is difficult to find a job. There is some comfort I suppose in those facts. But for me the question still lingers…is it me? Have I become an antiquated relic destined for a place on the dusty shelves of antiquity?
The uncertainty chips away at my confidence and the real fears of loss of income and lack of medical benefits make this a difficult reality to overcome with positivity. There is a lesson to be learned in this somewhere and the words of my yoga teacher come to mind when she asks us to evaluate our joy: “How are your relationships?” Oh, that. That is a conversation for another day.