Time moves strangely when you are unemployed. It feels like a recent episode of Doctor Who, "The Girl Who Waited," in which Amy Pond winds up shunted into a separate time stream, where many years go by for her while she waits for the Doctor to rescue her. Of course, from my perspective, I'm not just sitting around waiting -- I'm applying for lots of jobs, talking to recruiters, revising my résumé and portfolio materials, and considering some crazier options. But the outside world seems like it is traveling in a different time stream. By the time an employer responds with a job offer, will I still be here, ready to take it? In this time stream my savings are diminishing with unnerving speed, and the process of getting set up with food assistance is going by very slowly. It's been six weeks since we first applied. Unemployment compensation and my tax refunds ensure that the mortgage is paid up for the next few months, but the process is really dragging. When I get to feeling too stressed out, I hit the gym, or work on some music.
One of my friends reminded me early on that unemployment is often a marathon, not a dash. I'm familiar with the process -- I've lost jobs before, when a business collapsed or shrank. And the truth is I've never really had much difficulty finding a job in the past. Recruiters have been encouraging -- there actually does seem to be a sort of resurgence, at least a small one, in Michigan manufacturing, and the embedded software jobs that go along with it. But we're talking elsewhere in the state -- Grand Rapids (now partially underwater), and the Holland area, and the axis around Detroit. So I'm thinking very hard about our life here in Saginaw.
When we moved here three years ago this house seemed like an unbelievable opportunity for us. A big lot, large enough not just to make a big garden but to make a community garden, sharing space with our neighbors. A home large enough to give our kids room to run around and make noise, or find quiet spots to themselves. Separate suites of rooms for my home office and homeschooling -- even a room I could dedicate as a recording studio. Room for all our books to actually sit on shelves instead of in boxes! Well, we need to get more shelves, but the space is here. After ten years in a crowded apartment it has been a godsend for a family with kids. But we very well may have to leave.
This was my grandfather's story. He was moved constantly for work -- he was a chemist for Welch's grape juice. Every time, he had to uproot his family. They were a family with only two children, but it must have been incredibly stressful. He himself suffered heart attacks at a relatively young age. After 3 years here, we've just gotten to the point where our children are thinking of this place as their home, and Sam has stopped asking when we are going to go home. The idea of moving everyone, and everything, again, is heartbreaking to me. We haven't even fully unpacked. There are a bunch of boxes still filled with stuff. Some of the things I've been missing are no doubt in there. I just recently came across a box of CDs, and unpacked it, and realized I had bought duplicates of a bunch of CDs that I was missing. We still have a small storage unit full of stuff back in Ann Arbor. Three years.
But yet, this place is strangely expensive. I don't like the climate, even after growing up in Erie, Pennsylvania and living in Wooster, Ohio and Ann Arbor, Michigan. It cold 3/4 of the year, and it's very damp, so it feels even colder. There's a big mosquito problem in summer. Our heating bills are ridiculous, and the house needs a lot of work -- insulation, windows, refurbishing fireplaces. The neighborhood continues to deteriorate. Houses sit empty. Three of our kids tested positive for lead exposure. Our metal trash can was stolen -- apparently people steal them to sell for scrap. The rocks we set up as borders to one of our garden beds were stolen. I'm still pondering that. Saginaw, Michigan -- a place where people will steal your trash can and your rocks. And so I keep asking myself what kind of life we are building here, and whether I'm just stuck in the "sunk cost" fallacy -- feeling like we've put so much into it, that we're bound to get something back, so we should put in more. But the truth might be that it's time to cut our losses. And then the questions become "where," "when," and "how" -- do we get out? Because I'd like us to go to something, some work, some place, that is worth going to. I don't want to have to move again.