Monday mornings are ungracious—the biting call of an alarm tears us away from a weekend dream and gears us into the routine of labor. Holidays, vacations, personal time—each noted in our calendars with smiley faces and exclamation points—are the nap times and recess periods throughout the decades of adulthood. That is, until the time comes when your Monday morning lacks an alarm, or when the clock rings but you rise and have no destination. For much of the newly unemployed, retirement is no longer a choice, no longer an anticipated graduation out of career, and into grandparenthood and cross country road trips. Rather, downsizing has forced retirement onto the Baby Boom generation, leaving them disconnected from their profession and their utility.
I can’t predict the lifeline of our recession any better than the current Bachelorette can predict how many months after the finale she’ll break up with the love of her life, therefore I don’t meditate on why companies are dismissing the elder portion of their work force. Nonetheless, it’s upon us, that moment when your parent has been let go just short of sixty-five, ill cast for the role of pension collector. Let loose before they planned, and still valuable to society, the older faction of the unemployed is not emotionally or financially ready to disappear from the water cooler. Disbanded, beyond middle age, they are the Baby Boomers who are sputtering out of circulation. I think of them less as a generation, like their Baby Boom labeling, instead as a movement I call the UnLinked.
My mom is obsessed with me. She calls me often and with frequency comes the likelihood of reaching me at inopportune moments (i.e. when I’m squatting in the restroom of my favorite Dominican restaurant), times when I’m not available to get into the dramatics of family, American Idol castoffs, and cat shenanigans. I love talking to—scratch that—I love listening to my mom on the phone, but we’re both single city ladies with a social life, errands, and work, therefore the conversations are held hostage to our busy schedules. At least that was the case, until this spring when my mom’s boss asked her not to come to work the next day, not ever again to be blunt, and she was calling me more than I knew how to pacify.
“Let go” is the blameless name for firing these days. Those little words communicate to my mother’s friends and family that the firm appreciated her work but for an unknown, yet suspected, list of reasons, they no longer could sustain her employment. At sixty-three, she’s online applying for unemployment, and wonders how to fill her days. She’s unsure if the next step is looking for another position or a new calling, something creative, challenging, and fresh. She’s twenty-two again, navigating where she fits within the workforce and unbound by dependents.
The world of possibility on this side of her journey is plagued by rejection—from the unexpected dismissal—and wisdom that makes it less exciting to start anew, at the bottom, re-prove herself. So far, new employment has not presented itself to my mom. Her nights are sleepless from the mismanaged energy that traditionally had been exerted from six a.m. until six p.m. (and later during overtime season). Her days allow for walks, lunching with friends, contemplation. I assuage her anxiety and shame, remind her that it’s not the worst place to be in life. She knows. She embraces the change. And she calls, a lot.
When you have, it’s hard to relate to the have nots. When “not” refers to a job and career path, and the opposing figure is your parent, life turns upside down. Our parents aren’t superheroes, we figured that out long before crisis mode set in. In times like these, we add onto that realization that who and what they are isn’t permanent. We can reduce the blame and confusion by offering them insight into how we weather through the current work conditions and encourage their revival. Boom once more, Mom! The best is yet to come.