When you count the four million people who have stopped looking for work in the past five years, America's unemployment rate today stands at well over 10%. Every week, we're bringing you true stories from the unemployed. This is what's happening out there.

Unemployed parents

My parents have always been employed. Their entire lives, with exception of my mother giving birth to her three children, they have had consistent jobs and then careers and made sure to impart upon us kids that hard work equals prosperity, and that nobody is entitled to anything, . It surely seemed that way. My parents both served in the Army (ret.) and were polite, caring, reasonable and college educated; my father a Political Science major (and computer tech minor) and my mother was an RN. We were raised solidly middle class in a small but thriving college town on the East Coast with a fair amount of jobs and all three of us kids went to college. Life was pretty awesome.

At some point around 1999, right as I - the oldest - headed off to an expensive private college in DC, my father began dabbling in day trading stock on the internet. I don't exactly know what he was doing, as he is a decidedly old-fashioned man when it comes to talking about money and bills (he refuses), but he was making enough money that he could quit his long time IT Dept. Manager job at a local factory and focus solely on trading. He made enough money between '99 and '01 that they could afford to take us on a couple somewhat extravagant vacations to the Virgin Islands and the Bahamas. Things were looking better than ever.

Then, right around the beginning of 2002, the stock market began to tumble. I was in my junior year at school, which was previously being paid mostly out of pocket by my father (go to community college, kids!). However, at the start of 2002, as the hole in the bottom of his money bucket started to get larger, he was forced to take out some extremely large loans (in his name) to continue to pay for me to finish school. He was so prideful he never told me any of this until years later. Thankfully, I had been working since I was 14 and on the side throughout most of college, so I was able to support most of my living expenses on my own (thanks, hard-working family values!), which somewhat lessened his burden.

When I graduated in 2003, my Dad started looking for work again. He didn't say why, though my Mom did because she was worried and needed to talk to someone about it: he had lost over $2M in investments, and they were basically going to go broke if he didn't find a full-time job again. At this time, my dad was around 53 years old. It was almost IMPOSSIBLE for him to find a job. My mom supported the family for almost a year before he ended up working at a car dealership - the only place willing to hire a 53 year old man who had just taken 4 years off work, essentially. His coworker was an obnoxious 20 year old kid who was on my younger brother's hockey team. Dad came home every day exhausted and angry (and clearly demeaned at having to work with that kid he knew). He worked at the car dealership, which didn't pay for shit, for probably over a year until he found IT work again, farther away from home and for less money than his previous IT management position. In that time, my parents had to refinance the house to pay their bills and the pile of school loans for each of us that Dad didn't want to burden us with. It was sometime during this period where I caught my Dad silently weeping alone in the kitchen. This man does not cry. It is the single saddest moment of my entire life thus far.

At this time, my maternal grandmother, in her early 80's, began to need in-home care. She'd been living alone up the street from my parents after a broken-hip-falling-spell and a minor stroke, and was fine for ages, but recently started to act strange and call my mom because she would forget where she put her pills or her glasses. She would forget to eat. Not being able to afford to pay for in-home care, my mom was trying to balance her full time, night-shift RN job with taking care of grandma during the day and eventually the emotional and physical stress started to wear her out. She began feeling weak and inexplicably dropping things at work. Blood tests revealed she'd developed some kind of horrible immunodisorder where your body thinks your muscles are infected or inflamed and starts eating them away. Shortly after, she was let go of her nursing job of 25 years because she was "too slow". Mom thinks it was because they found out about her illness, which she was trying to keep secret till it got treated for fear of losing her job.

Now unemployed mom began caring for her mother full-time, which was horribly, emotionally painful for her, I now realize. Watching your mother deteriorate into someone who doesn't recognize you and repeats themselves over and over is just awful. Having to do it while you're struggling with bills and a mystery disease you have to be on chemotherapy and steroids for is a nightmare. By the time my grandmother finally passed away (and not in a peaceful way either), my mother was a shell of the woman she used to be. Bloated from steroids, she would put on a happy face like she was resilient, but I would sometimes call the house and could tell she had been crying. I caught her crying secretly in her room once when I was home to visit. I want to cry thinking about this right now.

It was now somewhere around 2008 and I had been living in NYC - employed, but struggling - for a number of years and my mom began looking for work again. To this day, she is STILL unemployed. Nobody will hire a 60 year old nurse with 25 years of experience. She just never hears back and they never return her calls, even after she's had an interview with them. She has tried EVERYTHING, applied for every single healthcare job in a 60 mile radius and the only one she got was a temporary traveling nurse gig in Florida. She keeps blaming herself, thinking maybe she was an awful nurse (SO not true; patients wrote the hospital to shower her with praise), or is terrible at interviews or just a bad person who deserves to have this happen to her. I swear to god, if I had the money, I'd hire a lawyer to file a class action suit against every single organization that runs the hospitals or companies she's applied to. I guarantee she is being discriminated against because she's "too old". They want someone young and cheap.

I have been able to take over payment of most of my student loans, but Dad still refuses to let me pay the largest of them all. His reasoning now is that when he dies (probably soon: smoker, non-exerciser, greasy meat eater, now heavy drinker), the debt will all die with him. Speaking of my father, he was laid off from his IT job two months ago with three months severance. My mother's medicine to control her illness costs over $3700 a month and I don't know how they will pay. She was on unemployment for several years and her benefits just ran out last month. The doctor has said that if she stops taking these medications, she will probably die. My mother started hoarding (though not to the extent you see on TV) after my grandmother died and I truly believe is psychologically on the verge of snapping every day. If my father unexpectedly dies, you WILL see me on that show. Even now I almost hate visiting, because between the denial and depression and closets full of shit and piles of empty pill bottles, I just feel helpless, useless and overwhelmed.

My dad now spends his days applying for jobs until somewhere around 3pm and then drinking plastic bottle vodka until he passes out on the couch at 6pm. Sometimes when I call, he's slurring his words so badly I can't understand what he's saying. I can't even bring myself to think about their situation most of the time because it brings tears to my eyes. He almost burned down the house one day when he was drunk and trying to make himself dinner. They are still too young for Medicare and have no savings to retire with. They will work until they literally die...or die for other reasons before they ever find a job. Now I'm not sure which.

Neither of them have started applying for retail jobs yet, though I said they need to suck up their pride and get ANY money coming in that they can. The town is too small, they worry about "what the neighbors will say" when they are spotted bagging groceries scooping ice cream. I tell them "Who the fuck cares!?!?" and to sell their house (that we grew up in) and move away, but they wouldn't make a profit and the house needs a zillion repairs they can't afford to make. I fear they will truly have to hit bottom before they start applying for literally any and all jobs available. I believe their refusal to apply for random part-time jobs is actually because they are in denial of how bad their situation is, or how bad it could get very quickly. They keep thinking, "it just doesn't make sense that someone with all this experience and education should have to run a cash register or fold clothes. There HAVE TO BE SKILLED JOBS FOR US SOMEWHERE!!" Reading all these other stories, I'm worried that they are very, very wrong.

I truly have no idea what they are going to do. It breaks my heart to see two people who have been perfect parents (and Americans, god dammit) in this situation. I know my Dad thinks he is an abject failure. I don't believe in god, but I would pray every fucking day if someone will give them a job so they don't have to spend the last years of their lives in poverty wondering how they will make ends meet. People who want to cut public assistance programs are assholes who have obviously never had to want or worry about anything in their lives. I have already convinced my parents to apply for food stamps and any assistance they can, and they have. I can't imagine how people with families and three minimum-wage jobs manage to survive when I worry my own - not nearly as bad off - won't.

PUSD: Past Unemployment Stress Disorder

In 2008, I had an enjoyable job that didn't pay very well. I remember turning down a much better paying job in 2006 because that employer wasn't as "established" as my employer at the time. In the spring of that year I noted that a number of benefits were being cut and we were being notified after the fact by a little piece of paper placed in our direct deposit envelopes. On Monday, I spoke with several of the other employees and we agreed this was grossly unfair, as our company had seen a revenue increase that year. On Tuesday, my supervisor sent an email on our behalf politely requesting a meeting with management to discuss this matter. On Wednesday, myself and one of the other people cc'd on said email were told that there would be cuts, and Friday would be our last day of employment. As luck would have it, we were the two individuals cc'd on the previous email who weren't under the contract established under previous ownership (one that new ownership was legally bound to honor).
I applied for unemployment and was denied. I fought it, citing lack of work as the reason, only to find that my employer claimed misconduct as the reason for my dismissal. During the proceedings, they cited the letter my supervisor sent and the meeting I attended with the other angered employees as "misappropriation of company resources" since we met in the conference room (even though it was on our lunch hour). I noted that other members present were not terminated and assumed any rational arbitrator would see this as ridiculous and downright petty. I was wrong.
Upon learning that I would not be receiving unemployment, I continued searching for employment. I made a personal goal of sending out 2 resumes a day, and I did. Over the summer of 2008, I applied for 104 jobs. It still gives me a tight feeling in my stomach to remember those days:
I would wake up at 7 to cook my girlfriend breakfast before she went to work, then I would shower, get dressed in casual business attire, walk down to the library to use the internet, search the same 8 job search sites, submit my two resumes for the day, note the jobs available rarely changed from day to day, emailed family and friends, and then went home to wait by the phone for call backs. Sometimes, I would follow up on previous applications. By noon, I had nothing to do, and would often write to keep myself entertained. I did not have cable television, I owned a land line, and I didn't have the internet, as I couldn't afford much during that time. My girlfriend (now wife) often had to cover rent and costs. I remember how much it hurt to see her watch me struggle. On our anniversary that year I made her a card with construction paper I found at the library, because I didn't have any money to buy her anything or even take her to a fast food place. She and I cried when she opened it.
I was an intelligent, 27 year old college graduate with two degrees. Surely, there was more for me out there… but it always seemed to be just outside my grasp.
August 22, 2008 was the day I cannot forget, no matter how much I try. That morning I called a nearby coffee shop to follow up on an application I had sent the weeks prior. They politely informed me that I was "overqualified" and I broke down, begging the lady to give me an opportunity. Not more than a few minutes after I had hung up the phone and the embarrassment was sinking in, I got a call back from another application. It was for a call center. They wanted me to schedule a phone interview for a third shift position, doing collections, three states away, meaning I would have to move away from the woman I had shared 4 years of my life. They told me that it paid $7.25/hr. Desperate, I scheduled the interview. My girlfriend came home on lunch to tell me that she talked to my previous employer, and he said that he would be offering a position in their facilities group (custodian) and he'd be happy to meet with me about the position.
Without saying a word, I stood up, walked out of our apartment, hearing her cry as I shut the door. It was raining, but I didn't really notice. Almost a mile away, soaking wet, I heard a car pull up behind me and shift into park. I turned around, got in the car, and my girlfriend and I sat there crying for I don't know how long. The only thing I remember saying was, "I can't think of anything I've done wrong."
But that was it. I hadn't done anything wrong. I got screwed, and that's what made it harder and harder to get out of bed each morning; knowing that, no matter what I did, there was no divine retribution that would reward my efforts. All I could do is wait to get lucky.
I turned down both of those offers for no other reason than to maintain a small degree of pride, if there was any left. I decided I would rather starve than live on my knees, begging for scraps.
That fall I finally found employment, in the form of four poorly paying part time jobs with no benefits. I got up weekday mornings, filled in as a secretary at a lawyer's office for the morning shift, left to work at a youth center two towns over, changed into my "blacks" to tend bar at a local club in the bathroom of the youth center, and on Saturdays and Sundays I would go door to door, campaigning on behalf of a political candidate*, then go back to tending bar both nights. For 5 months, I only had one day off: Christmas Day. By the spring of 2009, I was exhausted and feeling no better off than I had when I was unemployed. Still, the money was needed to keep up, and I was able to propose to my faithful and beautiful girlfriend using my deceased relative's engagement ring (bequeathed to me by the rest of the family). I learned a lot during this time, specifically at the youth center. I worked daily with children that didn't deserve what they suffered every day. Perhaps that's why they respected and listened to me better than the other adults. I seemed to be the only one who realized it wasn't their fault they needed a place to go to get fed each day. They were born into these circumstances, and chances were, it wasn't going to ever get better for them. They would probably end up in the same place their parents were, with kids needing the same things. It made me realize how lucky I had been, despite the amount of shit I had had shoveled upon me.
Fact was, despite 60-70 hour weeks, I was barely scraping by. If I hadn't already paid off my car, minimized my costs, or if I had gotten sick or injured, I would have been finished and left with thousands of dollars in insurmountable debt. I was working harder than most people I knew, and barely treading water. In the "land of opportunity", no less.
In June of that year, I received a job offer for a full time contract position at a big company. The only reason I was considered was because the recruiter remembered I had a "creative" resume. And the company said they were looking for someone who could think "outside of the box". The job was $10/hr, but it was full time and it had benefits. I needed it.
I took the job, and I've worked my tail off since. They eventually hired me as an employee, and I made enough to pay for a wedding. Now, I make enough so my wife can stay home with our beautiful daughter. I don't even want to think about where I'd be if that recruiter hadn't remembered my resume, or what happened to the other resumes that ended up in the "save for later" pile.
Still, I suffer from PUSD. I sock away tons of money, I'm scared to spend any of it, and every time my boss calls me to meet with her, I shake uncontrollably, thinking [irrationally] that she is going to fire me. I always fear the worst, and despite everyone telling me that I have potential to "climb the ladder", I work myself into extreme fatigue, worrying that someday the other shoe will drop. I've never gotten over that feeling of powerlessness.
I've also never forgotten that experience of working at the youth center. Often, when I see my daughter, I think of those poor kids. I pray she never has to go through a single day of what they've had to endure, and that's what keeps me pushing to succeed. Still, I recognize that no matter what I do, we now live in a world that can knock you down, even if you didn't do anything wrong. I can only hope this will change, but I'm not holding my breath.
If I can offer any advice to people going through something similar, it's this: Find that one thing that you won't sacrifice or give up for any reason, and hang onto it and hold it dear. Whether it's a significant other, family, or a dream, it doesn't matter. Always have something that is yours and no one can take away or buy from you. If, at the end of the day, you've still got it, you have something to get you through tomorrow, no matter what happens.
*The only reason I worked for this candidate, is because he paid $0.50/hr more than the other guy. Consider the wider implications of that for a moment.

The feature writer

In 2005 I was the star feature writer for a newspaper in Florida. They were sending me to New Orleans to cover Hurricane Katrina when I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The paper gave the assignment to another reporter and I grumbled but went on with my cancer surgery and treatment. Unfortunately, the surgeon paralyzed my right vocal cord and I could not speak for almost a year. I had to go on short-term disability and get speech therapy. My voice returned, raspy and weak, and in December 2006 the newspaper called to offer me a much lower position in an outlying bureau. I was flattered that they would call me back to work before I declared an interest. I said yes because I loved being a reporter, no matter where. And I figured my talent and seniority would help me regain my rightful place in the newsroom should I desire that in the future.

But it became clear the move was just a way to get me off the disability rolls so they could then fire and/or get me to quit. I suffered through six months of hell before finally being written up for insubordination for calling my editor "big guy." He also claimed my voice "scared" him. My damaged voice that I felt lucky to even have!

I was sent home and told not to call or talk to anyone from the paper. I thought I had been fired but the next day the editor called to tell me I was being suspended for two days without pay.

After 21 years at that newspaper, that was the last straw. I quit. That's when it got interesting.

I was a highly recognizable name in this market and thought I'd have no trouble getting another media job. But after a dozen interviews and no bites, someone at the paper cued me in to the fact that my old nasty editor was smearing my name all over town. I kept trying, and would have impressive interviews where I felt for sure I'd landed the job, and then returned home to just hear crickets.

That's when I snapped. I've tried to kill myself three times now. Does it matter that I'm an educated 49-year-old mother of three with 21 years of high performance at one job? No, it does not. At some point the damage my old employer was doing to my reputation transferred into my damaging my own reputation. One can only take so much humiliation and lowering of one's self-esteem before one snaps.

I'll never forget the insurance company where I interviewed to be a copywriter. The interviewer caught me off guard when she said "Would you have a problem transitioning to a job like this after an exciting newspaper career?" I looked at her for a few moments and then answered truthfully "Yes" and walked out. I could hear the laughter and snickering as I left.

After going without health insurance for five years and nearly dying of a myxedema coma caused by not having a thyroid and not being on thyroid medication, I'm now on Social Security disability. I stay at home all day with my three dogs.

I'll be 50 this year but might as well be 80. Thanks to the collapse of the newspaper industry I realize I will never have my old job back. Thanks to my declining health as a result of my unemployment and mental and physical damage, I'll probably never have another job.

I went from being a thriving and vital human being to a bitter recluse who rants on Facebook. My husband divorced me because he was sick of it. My children have graduated and fled because they're sick of it. I think my dogs are even sick of it.

You know the worst part? I blame myself for everything.

And yet is that fair? I was at the confluence of powerful forces — cancer, economic collapse, dick editor, greedy newspaper — and just got caught in the riptide. That's an awful metaphor. See what I've been reduced to? ;)

I often wonder what would have happened if I had just stayed on disability until I had healed completely and then been able to choose to return to work in a suitable job with no hidden agendas.

But I'll never know. You know my fondest wish? That I don't last until 80 because that means THIRTY MORE YEARS of this miserable existence.

A Letter to Billionaires

Hello Hamilton,

This is a letter I wrote to send to millionaire and billionaires addresses hoping that there may be someone out there that would care enough or have a big enough heart to help. I found their addresses easily on the internet. This is my 100% truthful, though a little lengthy, real story. I believe it is right in line with your stories of unemployment and hard times.

Dear Mr. ___________,

Today is my 50th birthday. I never thought on my 50th birthday I would be sitting in an old tool shed as my home, all alone with no one to talk to or share my feelings or extraordinary life with. Never would I have anticipated that with all the good things I have done in life that it would have turned out this way.

I have not left this 10x15 foot shed I now call home for more than 2 months. I have not talked to another human being in over 2 months, nor have I felt the touch or hug from another person in over 3 years.

My mind feels like it is slowly getting hazier with each passing day. I am stuck in this nightmare with no way to pull myself out. There seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. Each passing day things seem to be getting darker and harder to reach. I still have so much to contribute to this world. If only someone could see that in me, and help me restore my faith in humanity.

All my life I have tried to be good to those less fortunate. I have donated to all kinds of charities, the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, many churches, the local food pantry. I have volunteered for all kinds of organizations and gone out of my way to always help others less fortunate. I have even met homeless people and allowed them to stay in my home, gave them money and encouragement, until they could get on their feet. I'm the person that bought the whole office lunch the day before payday because I knew many people had no money left for lunch until they got paid...

I have never asked even one person in life for any charity or help. I have always done it on my own, never even taking out a loan from a bank. Nor have I ever borrowed a dime from anyone or have ever asked for a shoulder to cry on. I was always the one to give the money and the shoulder to help others. But now I have not physically had more than $5.00 to my name in over a year.

To help understand my situation, let me give a little background on my extraordinary life.

In 1921, at the age of 5 days, my mother Norma Elizabeth Anderson, was found on a Chicago L-Train platform. After 6 months at an adoption home, she was adopted by a childless couple. At age 15 her father was killed right in front of her by a car as he was crossing the street. At age 22 her mother passed away from pneumonia. At her mothers' funeral her aunt told her she was adopted. My father James Andrew Williams, got cancer when I was 10 years old. He suffered for years passing away when I was 21. After his death I watched over and took care of my mother. Twelve years ago she started losing her memory and was diagnosed with Dementia. I took care of her the best I could, but when she no longer knew who I was and couldn't be left alone, the only option I felt was best for her was a nursing home. This really hurt me because I promised her I would always take care of her. She was my best friend all my life. This was a very hard time for me, but I got through it and pushed on, just trying to find my place in the world.

I graduated school early, left my parents at 16 years old, and since then have worked very hard for people all my life. Unfortunately I was making them money and only making enough for myself to get by. My mother always said I was a "jack of all trades", because I taught myself a little about a lot of things. I was always known as the person to go to if you needed to know about or how to do something.

I have had depression problems all my life, possibly caused as I have read, by sexual abuse by a neighbor for 10 years, from 5 to 15 years old. Or possibly by the mental torture and physical abuse I was put through all my life because of being different. Mentally times have been tough but I always put my head down and pushed on, never using it as an excuse...

The limousine company (where I was working) had a location in Rochester, where the married owners lived, and Minneapolis. After about 5 years and several millions of dollars of sales I had made for them, the owners asked me to move to Minneapolis to "watch over" their other location as they had been "remotely" running the office from Rochester for years. Anytime they tried to staff the location they always got paranoid they were being ripped off and fired the staff at that office. This had happened 5 times since I started there, so I was very weary to leave my home in Rochester and move by myself to Minneapolis. But I needed the promised raise in pay and free rent for a year. (When I moved to Rochester I got involved with a guy. By the time I kicked him out, he had bled me of $50,000.00 by getting on my computer and entrance into my passwords and info, and cashed in an IRA I had. All the money I had left after my divorce.)

After pushing me for about a year and promising me the world, I finally agreed to make the move. I thought this would be a good opportunity to get ahead, save some money and get some investments set up again. Well to make my long story shorter, I lasted 6 months in Minneapolis before the hiring of a family member of the owners in Rochester started their paranoia all over again. They found an excuse to get rid of me and did.

I did nothing wrong but the way they fired me I could not collect any unemployment. They didn't even pay me the last 2 weeks, claiming a mistake.

Then the real shocker came two days later when the police came to my door and told me the rent hadn't been paid in 3 months and I had 5 minutes to gather what I wanted and leave!! The owners said they were going to take care of the rent for a year but only paid the first three months then stopped. The apartment managers had sent all the notices to the company owners instead of me so I was completely blindsided by all of this.

Within 10 minutes of the police coming I was standing on the side of the road with my briefcase, laptop, and a suitcase with nowhere to go or no one to even call for help. It was only 30 degrees outside. I was mentally stunned. I finally called one of the limousine cleaning gals. She lived with other people but offered me their garage for shelter. She was however going to be moving in 2 weeks so I couldn't stay long, but she knew some people with vacation property 2 hours north of Minneapolis and asked them if I could stay there until I could get my life together. They agreed but only if I used the storage shed instead of the camper they had on the property because they occasionally came up to relax. I agreed because it was really my only option.

The shed was just four walls with a roof when I arrived here. But after many weeks of looking through old dumps I have found in the area, I have gathered enough materials to make it livable. I have no plumbing; I use an outhouse that is on the property. My kitchen sink is a bucket. My stove is a tank of gas and a burner I found. The property is on a gravel road in the middle of nowhere, 15 miles from the closest town. A neighbor down the road helped me get food stamps and gives me a ride once a month to get food and a stop at the library for books or to use the internet. (That's how I found your website)...

I never thought my life would be over at the age of 50. I always thought I would be able to contribute to society well into my 70's. I still have so many dreams and things to accomplish. But now I feel as though I will make it no longer than a couple weeks. I can't believe this is really happening to me. I wake up each day hoping it is all just a nightmare. But when I wake, I soon realize that it is for real. I just feel stuck in a fog that I can't get out of. I'm starting to go to bed at night praying not to wake the following day, for Him to just take me while I sleep. But that's really not like me. I love life. I love being on this planet; exploring all it has to offer. I ask nor need much for living, just necessities, but now that I have to leave from here I just can't figure out where I can go, or how I can do it. I have no money, I have no car.

Without my license I can't get a car. Being 15 miles from the nearest town, without a car I can't go anywhere to find a job. If I just had the $500 for the State of Illinois or someone that could help me get it straightened out (after 25 years) it would be a great start. Then I could maybe somehow get a car and be able to get a job and start over.

I see and hear about different families being helped on TV, but I rarely have seen just an individual man getting any help. I don't know if men just don't ask or charities only give to groups. Believe me when I say it is very hard to swallow my pride and let people know really what is going on with me. I can only imagine what people that have known me in the past would think of me for writing this letter, but I feel this is my last resort. I just need to put my pride aside and just tell my story. It's either that or lay down and die...

If there is any way you can please help me, be it monetary (any amount would be a great help even $5.00) or just advice, I would be forever grateful, extremely thankful, and would do anything to repay you.

Your graciousness and generosity would never be forgotten. My respect and faith in humanity would be restored and solidified once and for all. You will have saved a life. Mine.

Thank you for your time, understanding, and compassion. Your help, with others happiness in mind, is extremely generous; as I've read, you truly are a remarkable person. May God Bless You.

Hamilton, To this day not even 1 of the 95 people I wrote to even responded. I guess the 75 billionaires I wrote to couldn't afford to help another human being out. It might hurt their shoe, car, or yacht budget!

The would-be lawyer

I graduated from law school on the east coast in May 2010. I studied for the NY bar, living on a bar loan which paid for my bar classes and for my cost of living. As soon as I was done with the bar, I started applying for jobs. I applied for legal assistant jobs, paralegal, contract legal work as well as government jobs. I was applying for anywhere from 15-20 jobs a week. With my money running out, I got a job for a retail company as a temp worker for the holidays. In the mean time, I found out I did not pass the bar, probably because I am horrible at testing. Even if I had passed, it wouldn't have mattered
since I ended up meeting my now fiance right after I finished with the bar. He is a teacher and has many many years in his school system and I couldn't picture making him move and giving up his seniority.

Anyway, I ended up quitting the retail job right before Christmas of 2010 because they wouldn't give me a few days off to spend the holidays with my family, even though my dad was finally home after spending three years working in the middle east with the military. So, again, I started sending out my 15-20 resumes a week. Around this time, I had moved into my future-in-laws house with my fiance to save
money. Around March, I ended up catching some mystery virus that attacked my liver. Thanks to living in Massachusetts, I had the state health insurance which was better than nothing, but I still suspect
that I might have received better care if I had employer provided health insurance. That virus took me out of commission for almost 3 months.

I again resumed sending out resumes, even using friend's connections to apply. Most of the time, I heard nothing back. Once in a great while I would get an interview or have another legal temp agency agree
to meet with me. I was either overqualified for the non-legal jobs, or under qualified for the document review jobs since they wanted someone with document review experience as well as bar membership.
The funny thing is, in 2009, before I graduated, I saw these same document review jobs only require that an applicant have a J.D. In October, I finally decided to apply for another retail job, which I got. This one at least pays better and the work environment is better, but I feel like my dream of having kids isn't possible. It would be very hard to support one child with what me and my fiance make. Plus, child care would cost about what I make at my retail job. In the mean time, 2 people that had tried to help me find a job have been laid off and are having a very hard time finding a job. I'm thankful to both of our families for doing what they can to help me find a job. I am now going to take the Massachusetts bar tomorrow,
however, my nerves are a wreck from knowing I didn't get enough time to study since I still had to work. Even if I were to pass, I know of many lawyers who have had to open their own practice and put in 12 hour days just to survive. That isn't exactly conducive to having a family. And I don't have the time to spare to wait to have a family since I'm already in my mid 30's. I don't have as much hope as I once did.

The barista

After reading the posts on Gawker, mine seems boring in comparison. I'm a college dropout (I couldn't take the culture anymore) with a tech certificate. I knocked around the US before returning back to Washington State, where I lived at home for a while. I'd never been the sort to take money very seriously, and now I had this student loan that needed to be paid off, so I started looking for a job. I had been volunteering at my church's cafe, which lead to a job as a barista at a local coffee stand. It was phenomenal. Within 5 months, I was the manager. Fast forward to summer of 2011. My site (we were owned by, and located at, a popular gas station chain) was in trouble. Our owner was an idiot, who was trying to drive our just-now-recovering business into the ground. I had made a reputation, at that point, of being quite frightening when annoyed, and had sufficiently cowed our site manager into letting me do as I pleased (i.e. actually making a profit). Which lead to me being, ultimately, fired at the end of September. Though, the manager made sure to tell me that he was putting it down as a "lay off". Uh huh.

I relished the first month of unemployment. It was glorious. No more worries about phoning in orders, covering shifts, and what dumbassery was coming down the pipe that day. I read the five Song of Ice and Fire books that October. I hung out with my sister and my friends, since I didn't have to get up at 6am anymore. I got a temp job in a warehouse for a couple months. Then, I was kind of stupid. I had a huge load of family drama descend, and decided that I could put off looking for a job until it was taken care of. And I didn't apply for unemployment. I had received my tax return and was living off that. When I filed for unemployment, I qualified for $149/wk. My bills are around $600/mo. I put off paying them until the very last minute, staggering from month to month. I troll Craigslist several times a day, looking for new postings. Coffee, bartending, transport, staging... Its really who you know. Especially if, like me, you're not a particularly attractive woman. I was camping for a week, and missed checking in for my unemployment. Penalty? Wait another week. To get the same benefits the week after. Its Friday afternoon, at the end of a month where no bills have been paid. I believe that God has an amazing rescue in the works. I just wish He'd hurry up a bit.

Unemployment Stories, Volumes One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, and Eight.

[Thanks to everyone who's written in. You can send your own unemployment stories here. If you'd like to contact anyone you read about here, email me. Image: Jim Cooke.]