I know how lucky I am.
I may not have won the $656 million lottery last month, but I’m not surprised given that I didn’t buy a ticket. Those lottery folks tend to only give the winnings to people who hold a winning ticket. (Yeah, read the fine print. It surprised me, too.)
It doesn’t matter, though, because I wouldn’t have won anyway. By the time they chose the winning numbers, I had used up all my luck.
I drew down the first bit of it 14 years ago on a clear April Saturday when Karen vowed to spend the rest of her life with me. I made another withdrawal a few years later when Celeste came screaming into our lives, followed by her younger brother Gavin a few years after that.
I can’t imagine being much luckier, but I recently found a sliver of luck, perhaps from the shadow of a four-leaf clover, the smell of a wishbone, or an echo of the luck of the Irish.
Nah, it’s not the Irish. It’s the Dutch, for without those folks from the Netherlands I would still be unemployed. But yesterday I started work as the senior editor for the Dutch Embassy in Washington, D.C. to help share its core messages to an American audience.
Who knew such a job even existed? I didn’t, at least not until I saw an ad for it on LinkedIn. I carefully read over the skills they were looking for, and could honestly say I was well qualified for nine of the 10, so I took a shot.
They contacted me for an interview, and I must have done well because a day or two later they gave me a writing test and scheduled a second interview.
Then I waited.
And waited, or so it seemed. In reality, I didn’t wait long to hear if they wanted to offer me a job, but one day to the unemployed seems like a month.
I told myself during that time that I should continue applying for other jobs in case this one didn’t work out, but I couldn’t find the enthusiasm amid the forest of anxiousness in which I found myself.
I tried writing blog posts and working on my book about fatherlessness, but my mind wandered back to the interviews and the writing assignment to pick every nit I could find.
I had to do something mindless, so I played with Gavin’s Lego sets. No lie, I took his Lego Star Wars sets that were broken apart and strewn about in various places, and I rebuilt them. I even separated the blocks by color to make the smaller pieces easier to find.
The hours melted away like a snowman in June, but I found it relaxing to focus on something that did not require much mental energy instead of the consequences of long-term unemployment.
Then my phone rang one evening as I was preparing for baseball practice as the coach of Gavin’s team. Through the airwaves and cell towers I heard the good news: a job offer.
I hung up and thanked God for the good fortune. I may not have won the lottery, but I felt lucky nonetheless to have found a job in today’s tough market.
I’m lucky to have family that supported me during this time, people who never questioned my decision to voluntarily leave the company I worked for, for nearly 20 years.
I’m lucky to have friends and colleagues who reached out to me for lunch, forwarded job openings, said a kind word to a hiring manager, or offered a full reference for me.
I’m lucky my job search did not take long.
During my 10 or so weeks of unemployment, I met many people who measured their joblessness in months or years, not weeks. They all maintained a brave front, but I understood the fear and uncertainty they felt below their calm veneer.
While I tasted that fear, many of them have been forced to feast on it as though it were some sadistic scene out of a Tim Burton movie.
I heard stories of hiring managers receiving hundreds of resumes for one opening. No doubt some of the people applying for work were not qualified, and were merely throwing a plate of spaghetti at the wall to see if a noodle would stick.
But many of them were qualified and some hold degrees I did not know existed, let alone could ever understand, so I know how lucky I am.
The luck was not in my ability to write or the experience I earned during my 19 years in the news business — I thank God for the former and take responsibility for the latter — but in beating the odds of attracting the attention of the hiring managers at the Dutch embassy.
I was merely one in a crowd to receive an invitation for an interview, and figure I proved myself once I had an audience. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have a job today.
Still, I acknowledge feeling a little survivor’s guilt for having won the job, but I’ll say a prayer for those folks who did not land my job and wish them only the best.
I hope and pray they all find fulfilling work, and can one day say they are as lucky as I am.