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Dealing with long term unemployment...how did you do it?

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Dealing with long term unemployment...how did you do it?

Old 12-01-20, 06:55 PM
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Dealing with long term unemployment...how did you do it?

So, I had been working since I was 16. Once I got my AAS in CAD Technology I began a streak of almost 30 consecutive years without a break (not including vacations). I always left my previous job for a better opportunity and had never been let go for any reason (and I've only had 5 jobs in my career, all in the same industry). That all changed in July when I was put on furlough, which 3 months later turned into an official lay off. I'm a Mechanical Designer/Drafter and have spent nearly the entirety of my career in the oil and gas industry and have always weathered the downturns of that industry. Unfortunately, with the oil economy barely recovering from the last downturn the one two punch of Covid-19 and the pissing contest between Saudi and Russian oil interests I suddenly became expendable.

Although I knew we were in trouble as we let go several of out lower payed shop guys I was still shocked to say the least. I was hands down the most experienced in my small engineering group (the company only had 27 employees) and had never had any issues and was responsible for the design and development of two new systems while there. But, according to the owner (who hired me and who was the one who delivered the news) it was a numbers deal and dumping my salary was what they determined was the next step in trying to stay afloat. The next week, the rest of the remaining employees were give 20% salary cuts. Even knowing that, it still bugs me I was let go while an already retired guy and a new hire who had been there a month were kept.

For someone like me who loved what I was doing and loves going to work, this has been a real struggle. My wife and I are fine financially (we carry minimal debt and can be fine on her salary alone) and I am still drawing unemployment but when you lose a six figure income it's still a system shock. I'm having a tough time not being able to provide like I was used to doing my whole professional life. I nearly broke down in a Walmart when we were looking for a specific item that we needed and didn't end up getting because it cost too much. Something that I wouldn't even given a second thought too a few months prior. The only bright spot is that my nephew and his wife are both in the Army and both are on rotation to Germany for the next 8 months so my wife and I are taking care of their 2 year old daughter. This has been a godsend for me, because she keeps me busy. But, there are still times when I get down and start to feel hopeless/helpless. Doesn't help that I've been applying for work since the second day of my furlough and have had no luck (it's been 5 months). Under normal circumstances, I could have caught on with one of the other companies in our specialized sector of the industry, but all of them are down as well. I'm trying every job that has some part of my skillset that can be used to no avail. My unemployment runs out at the end of January (unless I am granted an extension due to Covid related job loss, of which I am considered) and I'm already dreading how that might affect me. It's not really a money issue, thankfully, just a feeling of being lost and not being able to contribute in a way that I am used too.

So, who else has had to deal with a long spell of unemployment? What did you do to cope?
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Old 12-01-20, 07:33 PM
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Re: Dealing with long term unemployment...how did you do it?

Hey, I'm almost just like you, except my passion and my career is teaching, which I've been doing very successfully for 30 years. I was given the furlough hammer in July as well, told "at least January", and now it's not looking like January will allow me to resume my job and my joy, in person teaching of science to undergrad and grad students. Also in very comfortable finanacial shape, I don't need my job for the money, I need my job to be productive and feel like I'm making a positive contribution to society, ie, not mooching or accepting a free handout. I feel LOST like you at not being able to contribute, and it's affected my psyche and soiled my outlook. And, yes it's pissed me off, that through the grievious errors and lack of understanding of others, my unemployment is now seemingly "for the duration."

I cope by trying to keep as busy as I can learning things, doing things, but NOT whiling away time by "going out" just to go out, as some sort of ridiculous "freedom" issue so many seem caught up on in this age of COVID.

Going out / changing scenery is important, but so is doing it responsibly, which I'm adhering to.

My outlook is better than it was 3 months ago, since we have several vaccines on the horizon and hopefully a reduction in cases after the Winter germ-fest that's yet to come. I've denied myself much -- no congregating, no seeing family, no stupid things like dining out in restaurants or being in large crowds without a *very good* reason. I feel totally shafted, but dammit, I want my job back as soon as humanly possible, and if I and others stick to these restrictions, that time shall come to pass.
Old 12-01-20, 07:56 PM
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Re: Dealing with long term unemployment...how did you do it?

I opted for early retirement. So far, I'm loving it. A big part of the reason for that is that I didn't realize how much work was making me ill. Staying at home every day is a lot better than what I've been doing for the past 29 years. And when things open up, I'll go places on my own schedule instead of scheduling my vacations around other people.
Old 12-01-20, 08:39 PM
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Re: Dealing with long term unemployment...how did you do it?

I also had a high paying job in IT and was out of work for almost a year and a half (2013-2014). I did collect unemployment, but did do IT consulting gigs that were decent enough for a 2-3 day a month gig.

That said, we cut lots of "extras" like XM radio, etc. We like you, could have made it just on my wifes salary, but the extra consulting money certainly helped.

The biggest takeaway, wasn't the reduction in overall income, it was my wife saying that the consulting gigs I did kept me busy and I was also looking for a great job, the whole time. Which she was fine with, because while it took 18 months, but I got a great, low stress gig.

Old 12-02-20, 07:06 AM
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Re: Dealing with long term unemployment...how did you do it?

My wife thinks I'm being a little too nuts on how stingy I've gotten with money and tries to get me to splurge here and there. I've actually grown the amount I kept as a safety net should something like this ever happen, but it does feel good to spend "normally" here and there. I'm trying to do the odd side job, but when you live in an area that is dominated by oil and gas, there are a lot of people like myself all trying to do the same thing and the opportunities for that are few and far between (I've only managed one job so far).

My biggest problem, really, is that I've always been pretty independent and very proud of what I've been able to accomplish pretty much on my own (my wife didn't come into the picture until we were both almost 40). So having to lean so heavily on someone else financially is hard for me.
Old 12-02-20, 07:27 AM
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Re: Dealing with long term unemployment...how did you do it?

This is when hobbies are super valuable. You can't be too far from retirement if you've been working for 30+ years. What are your plans when that time comes?
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Old 12-02-20, 08:58 AM
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Re: Dealing with long term unemployment...how did you do it?

Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
This is when hobbies are super valuable. You can't be too far from retirement if you've been working for 30+ years. What are your plans when that time comes?
Way to far off, at least for me, at 50. Unfortunately for me, most of my hobbies require some sort of money. Airsoft, building models/legos, travel. I've finished all the model and lego kits I had laying around and did participate in one airsoft event that was paid for before I was let go (this can be a pretty expensive hobby with Milsim events). The other big thing that we do as a couple is travel/them parks. When we both retired we planned to travel a lot more.

My only "free" hobby is music (I play guitar, drums and sing) and I've been turning to that a lot lately. I finally conquered Don't Stop Believing on drums, lol (a deceptively tough song to play correctly).
Old 12-02-20, 09:23 AM
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Re: Dealing with long term unemployment...how did you do it?

I can think of a way to ease your discomfort about finances. Check out one of those online retirement calculators. If you stopped working now, your wife kept her job another decade, and you set your expenses to a "fun" level, would you be able to last until you were 100? Then start playing with the parameters.

Airsoft and Lego don't sound all that expensive. It's not like your hobby is restoring and flying antique airplanes.
Old 12-02-20, 09:43 AM
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Re: Dealing with long term unemployment...how did you do it?

Originally Posted by Nick Danger View Post
I can think of a way to ease your discomfort about finances. Check out one of those online retirement calculators. If you stopped working now, your wife kept her job another decade, and you set your expenses to a "fun" level, would you be able to last until you were 100? Then start playing with the parameters.

Airsoft and Lego don't sound all that expensive. It's not like your hobby is restoring and flying antique airplanes.
I'll have to look at that (retirement calculator). Airsoft is a crazy rabbit hole that started with a $99 gun from Academy to now having guns that range from $300-$600. Luckily I have all the gear/guns I need, but the events themselves are pretty pricey and involve travel. Lego, of course, have long been overpriced. But, at least I've found a couple of places at a local flea market where I can get model kits cheaper than retail. I'm working on the Ecto 1A right now.

The negativity mostly hits me when I'm by myself and let my mind wander. But, the more I talk about it, the easier it gets. It's part of why I started this thread. It helps, and maybe it will help someone else.
Old 12-02-20, 10:38 AM
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Re: Dealing with long term unemployment...how did you do it?

Our employers are similar. I work for a global engineering company that concentrates on the energy industry, building power plants, water plants, infrastructure, etc. Our Renewables division is what's really taken off the last few years. Recently the CEO announced that we won't be working any new coal projects anywhere, which is a big step in the right direction. As a career administrative professional, I'm in steerage (editing and creating documents), so not really worried about losing my job after 13 years (although who knows).

If I were you, I'd start volunteering. It will give you a reason to get up, dressed, and out of the house. It will allow you to seek out other areas you may excel in. And it will expose you to people who may be able to connect you with your next chapter.

Please note that I'm advising this because you're not in a position where you HAVE to make money NOW to survive. In a way you've been given a break by the universe. You have some wiggle room and don't have to hurry into something else just to keep the money flowing. I wish you the best of luck.
Old 12-02-20, 11:31 AM
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Re: Dealing with long term unemployment...how did you do it?

Different circumstances, I was just trying to start my career in Game development - first job went under after a few yrs, and I went on unemployment for a year. (I had opened my account six months earlier because I thought I was going to be let go, so when my six months of checks ended, I got to re-up right away) I moved back home, job searched, did some freelance work that came...but otherwise it was a tough year.(ended up being a yr and three months) I would break down and cry when giving my parents an update on the job search. I did land some interviews, which I would've taken had they offered the job, but than the perfect one came along - and I've been doing it 15+yrs. (now from home!)

I'd still recommend to try and treat your job search or portfolio development as your job, you don't want to fall behind or get too rusty on things. Stay productive with your days, get out of the house when you can.(although a lot less options these days)

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Old 12-02-20, 12:42 PM
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Re: Dealing with long term unemployment...how did you do it?

I really like Vibs' idea about volunteering. I think if I were in a position were I was looking, but food was still on the table easily, I would keep looking and volunteer some of my time at either my local animal shelter, the zoo or something with animals, or maybe volunteer at a place like Feeding America or Habitat for Humanity. You meet people and you never know if that off the beaten path networking wouldn't help land a job, plus for me the things I mentioned are passions of mine and it would be fulfilling to lend my time to those causes.
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Old 12-02-20, 12:48 PM
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Re: Dealing with long term unemployment...how did you do it?

Good suggestion on volunteering. I do keep sharp on my skillset at home since I have all my 3D/2D modeling software and use it for small personal projects. I modeled and 3D printed a phone case the other day just to see if I could.
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Old 12-02-20, 12:58 PM
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Re: Dealing with long term unemployment...how did you do it?

One thing about the energy sector is that it has high highs and low lows. I think by the end of 2021 that you will find something OP.
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Old 12-02-20, 01:30 PM
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Re: Dealing with long term unemployment...how did you do it?

One other suggestion about volunteering. Would your skills translate to any charity/non-profit so you could donate your expertise and use that on your resume in between jobs and also keep your skillset fresh?
Old 12-02-20, 04:04 PM
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Re: Dealing with long term unemployment...how did you do it?

Originally Posted by SmackDaddy View Post
Unfortunately for me, most of my hobbies require some sort of money. Airsoft, building models/legos, travel. I've finished all the model and lego kits I had laying around and did participate in one airsoft event that was paid for before I was let go (this can be a pretty expensive hobby with Milsim events).
Can you find a way to make your hobbies help pay for themselves? For example, selling your old Lego kits you don't need anymore, or flipping sets you find good deals on? One of my hobbies is collecting vintage toys, and I've always financed it by buying toy lots and flipping the stuff I don't care about. I've spent thousands on my collection, but it's almost completely paid for itself, I've never used my paycheck to pay for any of it. Plus selling the extra stuff would help keep you busy, I'm not sure if this would work for your hobby but it has helped me over the past 20 years or so, so I thought I'd throw that out there.
Old 12-02-20, 04:38 PM
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Re: Dealing with long term unemployment...how did you do it?

Ways I've made money from hobbies.
I build model kits and have had people pay me to build and paint a kit for them.
As a collector I have all the equipment to transfer VHS to DVD. Also record from television to DVD. Word got around and people would pay me to transfer their home movie tapes to DVD.

I've also been let go because my salary was too high and I was replaced with someone they could pay less.
Old 12-05-20, 09:41 AM
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Re: Dealing with long term unemployment...how did you do it?

Some good advice in here on how to keep busy or find income and I would echo those, but I want to go in another direction: find your identity.

I've been through a couple of bouts of unemployment in my life. Fortunately I was never in an "on the brink" financial position (well, no more than any other day), but the biggest thing I struggled with was my identity and it sounds as if you may be the same. When we do something for an employer for a LONG time, it becomes a part of who we are. When we meet a new person, one of our first questions is typically "What do you do?" We don't think about it, we just know what we've done -- we tend to define ourselves by a job title rather than our skills.

My first time around it really hit me hard emotionally. It took some time, but I eventually started "rebuilding me" by looking at "what do I want to do" instead of "what do I have to do." I also had to change my view of those questions: "what do I want to do for me" versus "what do I have to do for somebody else."

Hobbies are great. They can be a fantastic way to "work on you" and a great motivator to get from one day to the next. However, use those to your advantage, not just to fill time. Through both of my "long-term" bouts with unemployment, I came out on the other side with a career change (or a path to a career change). It wasn't necessarily that I was looking for that change before, but it worked out that way.

My first move was leaving retail and people management for public relations. I did some volunteer work with a few local non-profits and wound up helping them with their public relations, customer service, and organizational development. I even landed a couple of low-paying consulting gigs just to help pay the bills. This led to me going into public relations work and eventually going back to school and earning a Masters in Organizational Behavior.

After 15-years in public relations (in the energy sector, ironically) I found myself out on the street again. I went through some "bad-thoughts" and "down times" but I will be honest -- the moment I was let go, my stress level decreased exponentially. I was borderline happy. I didn't realize how stressed and unhappy I was. I still consider myself a PR-person (it is the skill that defines me, not the employer), but I have made a move over to teaching (and working on another Master's degree), something that has been a passion of mine for most of my life. Being unceremoniously cast out gave me the motivation and opportunity to do something I had been wanting to do whereas doing what I was doing was actually holding me back.

To sum all that up: DO WHAT YOU HAVE ALWAYS WANTED TO DO! Use your skills and hobbies to lead you down new paths, maybe even ones you had never considered before. Use this time to explore. Do NOT sit around and sulk (I know, I've been there, it is much easier said than done). You have lost something, not everything. When you lose something, what do you do? You replace it. You upgrade. You get something newer and shinier. Do that with you: make yourself new and shiny! Find a new and happier you!

If you ever want to talk, swap war stories, or need someone to pitch ideas to, let me know. Especially in situations like this, it can be easier to talk to "a stranger" than somebody you are close to.
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Old 12-05-20, 08:18 PM
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Re: Dealing with long term unemployment...how did you do it?

My big issue, I have been doing what I always wanted. From an early age I remember watching The Brady Bunch and thinking what Mike did was so cool (the drawing part of being an Architect). Took two years of drafting in high school and never looked back. If I were fresh out of school with no experience or in the 2-5 years range there are jobs available hand over fist It's hard to communicate to employers that at this point in my career the money is less important than the job itself, I just want to be working and contributing to something. The only time I ever really had to look for work was my first "in career" job. After that, jobs came looking for me and the interview process was usually a formality which hasn't helped when I do happen to get an actual interview (so far all but one have been a zoom call).

Now, if we're talking pie in the sky "always wanted to do" that would be music.

Thanks to this thread, I've started to look at what volunteer opportunities are available in my area. While it's unlikely I will find something that needs my specific career skillset, I'm hoping I can find something fulfilling.

Last edited by SmackDaddy; 12-05-20 at 09:33 PM.
Old 12-06-20, 11:35 AM
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Re: Dealing with long term unemployment...how did you do it?

One other thing I did during my unemployment, was start some additional education. Like hobbies, it was a way to better myself. And next Christmas I will have taken 8 years to get a Bachelors Degree, that I never would have, if I wasn't unemployed and started it.
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Old 12-06-20, 12:17 PM
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Re: Dealing with long term unemployment...how did you do it?

Originally Posted by SmackDaddy View Post
My big issue, I have been doing what I always wanted. From an early age I remember watching The Brady Bunch and thinking what Mike did was so cool (the drawing part of being an Architect). Took two years of drafting in high school and never looked back. If I were fresh out of school with no experience or in the 2-5 years range there are jobs available hand over fist It's hard to communicate to employers that at this point in my career the money is less important than the job itself, I just want to be working and contributing to something. The only time I ever really had to look for work was my first "in career" job. After that, jobs came looking for me and the interview process was usually a formality which hasn't helped when I do happen to get an actual interview (so far all but one have been a zoom call).

Now, if we're talking pie in the sky "always wanted to do" that would be music.

Thanks to this thread, I've started to look at what volunteer opportunities are available in my area. While it's unlikely I will find something that needs my specific career skillset, I'm hoping I can find something fulfilling.
It is good that you are doing something that you love. There are ways to build on that though. I loved working in PR and I thought I loved the job I had ... until I didn't have it and I realized just how unhappy that company had been making me. I still love the work and would happily do it somewhere else or, even better, freelance/consulting work.

Looks at ways to do what you love, but maybe do it a little differently. The good news is, you can take some chances and risks right now!
Old 01-22-21, 08:39 AM
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Re: Dealing with long term unemployment...how did you do it?

Well, all good things come to an end, and so do bad. After feeling particularly defeated week before last, I had a second interview with a position that I was easily qualified for and was told they'd be moving quickly and decide that day (it was a Friday) and as had been par for the course I did not get a call back. This coincided with my unemployment benefits running out, so I was really feeling really down for the first time in a while. Even though the position was not going to pay anywhere near what I was making before, it was still paying well and sounded like a really good fit.

Well, after being pretty down that weekend I got a call this past Monday from them with a job offer. So, on Feb. 1st, I will finally end the longest non-working period since I was in high school. To top it off, we actually got a stimulus check in the mail too boot (we did not get one last go 'round). Now I have to get over the nervousness of learning a new discipline (I've been in mechanical design for oil & gas my entire career) where I will be doing layouts for medical equipment installations. The only part I'm going to miss is spending so much time with my 2 year old goddaughter (we are her custodians while my nephew and his wife are on rotation to Germany). But, I think I'll be alright, lol.
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Old 01-22-21, 09:34 AM
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Re: Dealing with long term unemployment...how did you do it?

I missed this thread the first time around, glad you found something and good luck.

I've had two bouts of unemployment, right out of college and right before grad school. In both cases, getting through it meant making a routine of job searching and leisure activities was key for me.

For the first I spent my days applying and interviewing, taking walks and playing GameCube (my graduation gift to myself), and evening doing or watching live theater and ending the night with Star Trek: Voyager. It was a long summer that stretched into fall, that worried me (I was looking for an academics job and wanted to land something by August or September, at least). I remember having a phone interview on the first anniversary of 9/11, that seemed weird at the time, and for that one they flew me out for an in-person interview several states away. I got the job and was off in mid-October, was there three years. During this time, I was pretty much on my own. Some friends were looking for a roommate for the summer so that worked out, but my parents couldn't understand why I didn't have a job lined up or why it was taking so long. Generational disconnect. I was in the generation of that first wave where unemployed graduates were in their parent's basements while they talked about how they paid cash for their car, cash, and house, all that junk. It was hard, but the above routine helped me get through it.

The second stretch was after that job. I'd decided i liked it but was pretty lonely and itching to go to grad school. My boss asked me to do a bold move, submit my resignation letter in January with a June end date before I'd secured a school. Apps due in January, most don't respond until at least March or later so it's tough to look for a job. I got school notices, selected one, left in June, and ended up in my parent's basement for the summer. I spent some time in the new city school would be in and found nothing, so I decided to look in a bigger city and commute. Found a nice apartment right away, set it to start just before school. Jobs were tough, though, and again a lot of head scratching from my parents (Can't you just network?), but I looked every day like clockwork. Looked for a job, took walks, drove around, went to the movies, spent time with family, but on a schedule. Found a few side gigs that added up to give me flexibility to do grad school, plus had student loans, that got me through school. From there, always found jobs in my field right away and for that I'm grateful. Again, this bout was hard, but having a routine helped for me.

One of the best pieces of advice I'd ever received was a job is part of you, but not your identity. We need to stop the whole "What do you do?" intro question. Unemployment, underemployment, or bad employment is everywhere, and when we tie up the worth of a person to what they do, it wears on people emotionally, create bad life/work boundaries, and reduces everything else about them.
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Old 01-22-21, 12:03 PM
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Re: Dealing with long term unemployment...how did you do it?

One thing I wish I had done, is post about it here or some of the other forms I frequent. It always felt better to say things out loud ( or type them). The first couple of months, I didn't really talk to anyone about it other than my wife, but I found the more I just set it out loud the more I was able to deal with it.
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Old 01-26-21, 05:16 PM
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Re: Dealing with long term unemployment...how did you do it?

I'm not going to lie...I'm on Unemployment right now (since Nov 2020 - when my Census Bureau job was over), and loving it. My house is paid off, so all I really have is just my monthly utility bills and groceries to take care of. I'm getting pretty decent money on UE (especially with the extra $300/wk). Plus I sell stuff on-line too and make some decent money to supplement it. With COVID running rampant, I do not mind at all staying home! I have plenty to do around the house to keep me busy, even if its just a day laid out on the couch watching taped shows off of the DVR or DVDs, I'm just lazy and not in a big-time hurry (right now) to find another job. Besides the fact there isn't much out there right now and most of them are being swarmed with applicants anyway since a lot of folks are UE here in my part of TX.
The following 2 users liked this post by mickey65:
Abob Teff (01-26-21), Vibiana (01-30-21)

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