Not long ago my teenage son and I were arguing and as he walked away he muttered
under his breath ďDad, youíre a jobless, loser.Ē The words were muffled but they
reverberated as though they had been shouted from the highest mountaintop. I didnít say a
word to my son because I didnít quite know exactly how to respond. I was certain that my
sonís words didnít reflect his true feelings toward me but just the same they wounded as
surely as though a knife had been plunged through my heart.
My wife and sons have been justifiably worried about our future since I lost my job in
November. Maybe heís right I thought, after all I am jobless and like many have had my
share of ups and downs during my life and career. A short time later my reverie was
disturbed when my young tormentor approached me and apologized saying ďDad, you may
be jobless but youíre not a loserĒ.
Recently I was unjustly laid off from my job and since then have tried unsuccessfully
to land another full-time job in the nebulous field of community and government relations.
I know that several months is a short time to be unemployed given the current economic
realities nonetheless the prospect of finding another job is a daunting proposition at best.
Since my termination I have followed the path that most traverse when abruptly
faced with unemployment. Revamping the resume, signing up for unemployment benefits,
upgrading the computer, submitting your name to myriad recruiters and harassing
acquaintances whom you have lost touch with to let them know of your availability.
Since the argument with my son I have repeatedly asked myself whether he was right and
wondered if perhaps I am a loser. Thinking back about the career and
life choices I have made, second guessing each decision as though I could make it again.
I have tried to tell myself that I am definitely not a loser but each time my thoughts are
greeted by the same self-doubt that consumes every individual when he finds himself
The feelings of self-doubt and thoughts about whether my son
was right are powerful ones and hard to counter. Still, I keep telling myself that my son is
wrong as he himself later admitted.
I have thought about what it truly means to be a success and how one distinguishes
between being a winner or a loser. My introspection has taken me light years into the past
and I have thought about how much I seem to have achieved in comparison to many of my
boyhood friends. Individuals who unfortunately never had the chance to maximize their
own potential due to extenuating circumstances.
Growing up in the projects in the 50ís and 60ís means that at any given moment you had
the chance to hang around with literally hundreds of kids. As I reflected upon my past I
jotted down the names of the dozen or so kids who came to mind and listed their
accomplishments next to each name. Of that group, I know that at least five of them have
murdered, eight have served time in various prisons, most have abused alcohol and drugs
and some never escaped from the projects.
Thirty five or so years ago my friends and I were my sonís age but at the same time
different in so very, many ways. Some of us were dependent upon welfare, others were
illegitimate, most were living in homes without love, fathers or role models. Many awoke
each morning to alcohol abuse and domestic violence and went to bed each evening
praying that the next day would be better than the last. How I wondered, has each friend
been affected by the unique, personal challenges he faced as a kid and how might his life
have been different if his environment been more stable.
As I reflect on these things I take little comfort in thinking about the tragic lives my
friends have endured compared to my own. However, it causes
me to think about why I was allowed to escape from welfare and the projects, avoid
jail and drug abuse, purchase my own home, attend college and grad school and have a
reasonably successful career. Given my current career situation I suppose one could
conceivably consider me a loser. Then again, perhaps my son was right, I may be jobless
but I have a family who loves me and that makes me a winner in the end.
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