American Unemployment from Jan 2008 through May 2010 © by simminch

I got an email from one of my students today. An excellent student, she’s had trouble finding work and she reached out to me. I thought I’d take the response I sent to her and place it here (names removed of course), as a lot of people are in these circumstances:

Hey XXXX. YYYY must have prompted you to seek me out. Good to hear from you.

It’s not your fault. You’re likely going to spend a lot of time beating yourself up, like many of us are. It isn’t your fault. You like many of us are being victimized by a much larger process, the contents of which I’ve talked about over and over again in my classes. But while political action is called for you need a set of practices to deal with this day to day. I suggest four:

1. Treat “finding your thing” as a job. With a beginning at the same time everyday, a lunch break somewhere in the middle, and a definite end.

You want to take the act of “finding a thing” with that “thing” being a job, a passion, or a passionate job, very seriously. Treating it like a job will ensure that you maintain the discipline you need to get through this period. It also ensures that at some point in time during the day you will “come home”. This reduces your likelihood of breaking down mentally or physically.

2. Surround yourself with people who affirm you and can when necessary be lovingly critical.

Although I don’t really have much love for those who profess you’ve the ability to change your life simply by having a “positive mindset”, I do believe that you’ve got to be around people who can lift you up instead of sticking daggers in your side. Be wary oif people who are always critical of you, who consistently diminish your work and your value, who consistently blame you either explicitly or implicitly for your circumstances. You want to have people around you who instead are working as you are, who understand your power and your value, and can “pull you up by your coattails” but can truly do so in the spirit of love.

Relatedly you want to remain in touch with these people.

Of the four things I tell you this is the hardest. Because this may mean not contacting your family, it may mean changing friends you’ve had for a long time, it may mean weaning yourself off of your roommates. But for your mental health you have to. If you don’t have these people around you and can’t get them, seek regular counseling of some sort.

3. Keep a journal.

With the internet comes a variety of ways to store memories. You can blog, you can take pictures, you can make videos, you can save audio. Do this. Not only does it ease your mental health, not only does it build discipline, and your story telling ability, it creates a record for posterity. Something you, and perhaps later on your children, can look back on.

4. Work politically.

To the extent you’ve got other time I’d suggest working on some political issue connected to this. This will help put you in touch with other people in similar circumstances, will give you something to work on that will bner

There’s other stuff, but people don’t tend to remember anything after more than a few points. Suffice it to say that even though I haven’t heard from you in a while, I believe in you and your capacity. You remain one of my favorite students, and if you need anything you know how to get in touch with me.