I saw it coming months before July 9, 2009, so I wasn't surprised when I got called into a private office at The Indianapolis Star and was handed my walking papers.
Saddened, but not surprised.
I've wobbled daily, sometimes hourly, since then -- giddy with anticipation after applying for jobs that seemed a hand-in-glove fit, brooding when I heard nothing except an unnerving silence from prospective employers.
But unemployment has given me something precious: the chance to seize opportunities that I didn't when I was a 9 to 5 (or more realistically, 8 to 8) worker.
One of the biggest opportunities has been having time to volunteer.
I wanted to be a Meals on Wheels volunteer for years. I wanted to be part of an organization that ensured that older or homebound people in the community get at least one nourishing meal and hear at least one person say hello each day. I thought I couldn't possibly do that while I was working (I could have -- easily), so within days of my layoff, I signed up to deliver meals.
Best phone call I ever made!
I don't know if my knock at the door makes any difference to the 8 to 10 people on my route. I don't know if they look forward to their hot meal. I don't know if they close the door and walk away thinking their day just got brighter.
I do know that the people on my route make a difference to me, that I look forward to seeing them each week, even miss them when I'm off or they stop using the service. I know that my day gets brighter every time I step out of the car and walk to their doors.
Marie and I talk about how her family's deep roots in the community are intertwined with my husband's family roots, and she often mentions someone I know from my reporting days at the Daily Ledger. Edsel's smile is wider than his arms can reach; the sparkle in his eyes burns a bright spot into my day. Mary Jo's favorite color is red; I know that from all the times she's complimented the jewel red color of my car. Don likes to tease me about the meals, often asking if I brought steak that day, and his brother Jim welcomes me into their home as if I'm carrying filet mignon on gold-plated service.
Unemployment is a journey, and my destination isn't yet identified. Along the way, though, I'm learning that providing a meal, sharing a story, getting a smile or just chatting about things like favorite colors can be very, very rewarding.