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Unemployment Diary: A resolution & a revolution

This week, The Post's Theresa Vargas presents a series of stories about what unemployed people do now that they've lost the structure that a job lends daily life. Theresa asked about a dozen people who had recently lost their jobs to keep diaries detailing how they fill the suddenly empty hours in their days.

We'd like to continue building this portrait of how unemployment changes life by asking those of you who have lost work to give us a sense of the changing flow and tempo of your days and evenings. What do you do now that you haven't done in the past? What can you no longer do? How have your contacts with friends, family, colleagues changed? What's better, what's worse?

You can give us the details on the comment boards below, or make an Unemployment Diary video of your own and post it to us via YouTube.

Meanwhile, we're posting here all week the full diaries of those people who helped us out with the reporting of Theresa's stories.


In her unemployment, Sharon Sen has rediscovered her love of art and music. Photo by Michael Williamson/The Washington Post

Diary of Sharon Sen, who worked as an executive administrative assistant..

Dec 8, 2009 at 8:30 A.M.

Dear Journal,

My name is Sharon Sen and I live in the town of Vienna, VA.

I have had the privilege to support executive directors and partners as an assistant in client service and executive administration for some of the areas leading organizations—including a national trade association, a Fortune 500 company, a Big Four firm—one of the largest organizations world-wide, and leading national business consulting and accounting firm.

Dec 8, 2009 at 2:30 P.M.

When my job left me, I went through the stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, but it was sheer need that brought me to the point of acceptance.

Dec 8, 2009 at 3:00 P.M.

This economic crisis portends a defining moment for each of us. I came to accept that in my own life’s drama, crisis is a more than instability; it is truly a turning point. Resolution in my own mind is the key to my survival, regardless of when we reach that turning point in the global economy.

Dec 9, 2009 at 10:00 A.M.

This is not the end of my work life. And, despite the growing uncertainty with respect to finances and major lifestyle changes, it is a time to reflect and move ahead towards a new beginning—to view this situation as an opportunity for change.

Dec 9, 2009 at 1:30 P.M

I had such pride with aligning myself with the brands built by the companies I have supported, but why not rebuild my own brand—revisit the person I was before I allowed my job to become my identity?

Dec 9, 2009 at 10:00 P.M.

Anxiety, fear, and guilt can and do play a healthy role in our lives as motivators of change but I’ve found that revisiting my past loves—art and music have stirred in me, a new passion to create.

Dec 9, 2009 at 11:00 P.M

I felt a surge of love for myself as I pulled out my “portfolio” of sorts—a few pieces from childhood and as well as those created on through the years. I am currently engaged in creating new art such as photographic works, drawings, watercolor painting, hand building and glazing pottery, have decided on a personal logo and my “base” is feeling new vibes again. A girlfriend and I are planning to rent acoustic guitars next week so we can learn together.

This sounds like fun, right?? It is. Looking for work is work, and not having luck, even when you’ve applied to so many jobs, in so many different ways, can be more than disheartening—especially when you realize they follow up with you at a later date to offer you their services, or are sent a reply that you’re skill sets match a particular job, you reply immediately and receive in turn directly afterward, a message that the position has been filled, or even worse, you receive no response at all.

Dec 10, 2009 1:00 P.M.

Creating a new life while “in the waiting” is joyous passionate living. Honoring ourselves on a deeper level goes a long way towards improving sense of self-worth and direction. It’s discovery. Visiting art spaces and exhibits, seeing free concerts, learning how to relax and meditate with others—can all be done with little to no expense. Health and happiness stem from gratitude for living. I’ve made my list.

I realize now that living passionately is not something I have to “earn”—I can live it everyday, and I plan to incorporate that passion into my next job opportunity.

Dec 10, 2009 10:00 P.M.

I am into improvisational work, an innovator, project-oriented, genuinely warm and interested in people, service as well as future-oriented. I am a natural leader with the ability to manage but do not like to control people. I am logical and rational and highly intuitive. I work back from the end goal. I am able to understand difficult concepts and theories and, simply put, understand the need to develop people.

I feel many are like me, heliotropes by nature and I strongly believe that in order to grow, to flower, that each of us has a responsibility to pull each other up and along as in the principle called, the cohesion of water—molecule by molecule upward towards the sun.

Dec 10, 2009 11:00 P.M.

There’s always a way and always a solution. A resolution. A revolution. A cycle. It’s peace and war. Integrity and a willingness to learn are cornerstones to success in business and in life. Living fully in the present moment, enjoying each second, each breath. Learn to bake bread. Break bread and complete yourself.

Watch the movie, American Beauty or The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and you’ll understand, dear Journal. You will understand.

And thank you for allowing me to write to you. It has been revealing. This journaling experience has taught me that writing is a way to understand yourself, just as I create art to see what I need to see, and, with music, to play what I need to hear.

In keeping with the quote my dad often references…“Life is short, art is long.”

By Theresa Vargas  | December 24, 2009; 10:08 AM ET
Categories:  Diaries, More on the story  
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