Unemployed Again

Unemployed Again

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fifty years old, and Unemployed

My 50th birthday party this year was everything that I could have secretly hoped for. It was a day-long event in which I was loved, pampered, honored, and treated like a Queen. I realize that many women who turn 50 want to skulk away in the shadows, hoping the dreaded day might pass without much fanfare. But although I approached the day with a certain sadness, I knew I wanted it to be a proud celebration. I wanted to be 50 and proud. And I wanted to be treated like a Queen, because on that day, I felt like one.
From breakfast in bed, to a compimentary shopping spree for a new outfit, to having my hair AND make-up done professionally, I slid into the day with as much personal confidence as a woman of my age could hope for. I was even given false eyelashes by the make-up artist, something I had only previously worn on Halloween.
I looked in the mirror, and felt pretty. I could certainly see the slight crevices and shadows of age in my face--but I also saw my youthful exhuberance--a trait I am almost known for. At least for that one day, I was determined not to focus on my flaws. Today wasn't a day for self-hatred.
I never had children--let alone grandchildren--so I have always felt somewhat "in the dark" about the passing of time. I didn't have the usual reference points that most of my friends had, to remind them every day that they were middle-aged. No children to call me "Mom," and certainly no one out there to call me "Grandma." Imagine! I couldn't.
I still had the joy and energy I had at 17--perhaps even more so. And what made my delusion even more fierce is that I had reunited with my High School boyfriend at our 25th High School reunion. Peter still looks practically as young as he did when we went to the prom together at the age of 17--so our relationship has only furthered my warped sense of time. And I have kept my home decor almost the same as I did when I was a very young woman. I feel the same inside.
So when I stared at my face in the mirror moments before I was whisked away to the pre-party VIP cocktail party on my 50th birthday, I was happy with the reflection that met me. I looked youthful. And I was off to have my first martini of the evening....with my friends and family--who had come from far and wide to honor me and my special day.
The cocktail party was held at my brother's "mansion" as we call it, because he went deep into debt to build a most impressive castle on the coast. The entire top floor of his house is a bar--with an airport theme. I don't think many people have the means to make an entire floor into a party room...with a long lavish bar and bar stools...and accompanying cocktail tables. Not to mention the view of the ocean. It's stunning. But this event was only the precursor to the real party that was to follow.
I was whisked away again, to a winery. I may have thought I had many friends and family at the cocktail party, but this second party was filled with even more revelers. Old friends from High School. X-husbands and X-boyfriends. Childhood friends. It was overwhelming.
I was almost in a daze as I greeted each face, one after another, each face more shocking than the last. In a flurry, I was handed momento after momento; friends stuffing old pictures in my hands, letters I'd written to them as children, slice after slice of my past, bittersweet, like a rhubarb pie.
My 8th grade boyfriend was there. He handed me a card that contained pictures of me as a little girl. And in the card he wrote, "They say you never forget your first love. And you were certainly that for me."
My X-best friend of 1st grade handed me a poem I had written when I was only 6 years old. It talked about pain and suffering. It talked with a depth of knowledge that I normally don't associate with 6 year olds. And it was me. Me talking back to me, as if in a time warp, 44 years later. I felt tears spring to my eyes. There she was, the little poet. The little poet who was sure she'd be the next Poet Laureate. The little girl who always knew she'd earn a living as a writer. The little girl who had gone on to write her entire life--poetry, short stories, articles, and three novels known as the "tomes." But who would never earn a living that way.
What had happened to me? Well, I knew what had happened. I could trace every choice I ever made with my mind's eye, and knew why I ended up where I did. Because through a series of choices--choices that seemed necessary at the time, I became an Accountant.
An accountant!
Every stranger that I meet, when I tell them what I do, they stare back at me with shock and surprise. "YOU?" they tend to squeal. Because I am a far cry from the stereotypical accountant. I am hardly boring; I am a loud and boisterous Italian, that speaks my mind almost too easily. I am neither shy or retiring; and I am certainly far from a loner. In fact, I have so many friends that people think I run around always in a pack. I am not the bespectacled studious type, bunched over columns and columns of numbers, happy to have something in front of me that makes sense. Because I love things that don't make sense.
What happened to me?
And if my career choice wasn't bad enough, losing my job made it even worse. I had been "let go" (a term that gives me the shudders) on December 16th, 2008--at the start of the worst recession in American History since the Great Depression.
At least before I could boast of a decent salary, benefits, stature, and the rest of the perks that go with a life-long career. But now my job was gone, and god damn it...I couldn't find another one.
I was unemployed.
I was 50.
I had never become the writer that I knew I would be.
And I wondered what had happened to all of my dreams.
I continued to greet face after face at my party, and my thoughts became more and more jumbled. I almost felt as if I were in a daze. Everyone there was a culmination of everything I had become. But I no longer knew who that was.
So I have begun this blog to find out. And with your help, perhaps I will.


  1. I read your blog and wondered at what point in your life will you say to yourself, "hey,wait a mintue"
    all of these things I have chosen, experienced or not experienced...they start to add up to the makings of an extraordinary life.
    Of course you are still in the midst of making this extraordinary life but still, you are on the path you should be on.
    I laughed to myself when you almost apologized for being an accountant. I see that solitary kind of work as being the one place where you could perhaps turn off all of that creativity and energy and just do something ordinary. Some people can do that easily, some cannot. For those who cannot it is vital to find a place where they feel safe and comfortable doing nothing more than to perform a task that has a beginning, middle, and end no guess work. The numbers are the numbers if you know what I mean.
    You are an unconventional,kind, creative, silly woman with a most interesting past, a wonderful "here and now" and a limitless future. ENJOY IT ALL

  2. Well, Rambling Kat, or should it be Cat?, that was a refresing review or your b-day: Gave me goosebumps when I got to the part about the poem you wrote at six. Very nice, very touching. You are a special gal. Of the 100s of people I connect with every day on my silly box, you're the one I always look forward to reading. That you are a good writer helps, but it's the things you write about--your life---that attacts me. You are what Steve Martin referred to when he would say: "We are a couple of wild and crazy guys." Except, of course, you are one wild and crazy gal.

    And 50 is for many a time for rejoicing. Thirty is the hardest birthday; it's when childhood is obviously over. Though for us boys we manage to cling to it sometimes forever, but for most we refuse to grow up for at least another decade.

    Happy 50th Cathy, looking forward to seeing you at the reunion.

  3. Delightful to read...and I say, YUM, more please.

  4. If I were to describe Cathy Voisard I would not use any terms such as accountant. What comes to mind at the moment is INQUISITIVE LOVER OF PEOPLE AND LIFE.

    To Renee's "more please" , as they say in parliament "Hear Hear"

    The original form of this expression was hear him, which was usually repeated. This imperative was used to call attention to a speaker's words, and naturally developed the sense of a broad expression of favor. This is how it is still used today, the Oxford English Dictionary noted around the turn of the century that hear, hear "is now the regular form of cheering in the House of Commons, and expresses, admiration." XOXO

  5. Thank you all, you're very kind. Well, I have two under my belt, now it's time for number 3. Thanks all so much.

  6. Hi Cathy. I think you may be a kindred spirit! I am a 31-year old, boisterous creative-type who has always wanted to be a writer. After getting degrees in history and music in undergrad, I made the horrendous (and in hindsight utterly idiotic) mistake of going to. . LAW SCHOOL! Everyone thinks I am the most unlawyerly lawyer they have ever met.

    A year and a half ago, my body more or less rebelled against the practice of law. After four years of long hours and high stress at one of NYC's top firms, I ended up in the hospital with a four-month long migraine (largely thanks to my work on a Sydney deal that required me to be on conference calls at 2, 3, 4 a.m. each night).

    It was not the first time my work had landed me in the hospital. It was, however, the last straw. After getting home, I located a job with much better hours and a flexible schedule so I could pursue my dream of writing screenplays and young adult novels. I gave notice at my job and happily waltzed out of my 43rd-floor office and its view of Midtown Manhattan.

    Unfortunately, my transition to writing did not go as smoothly as planned. The economy went into a nose-dive right after I left the firm, before my new job started. My new employer pushed off my start date several times and ultimately told me that they didn't have work for me after all. Next, the Department of Labor told me I couldn't get unemployment benies b/c I had left my old firm voluntarily.

    I managed to float myself for over a year by running through all of my savings and temping for a tiny fraction of what I used to make.

    But now the gigue is up. My current contract attorney job has ended and there is nothing on the horizon. I find myself unemployed, penniless, and with no place to go except my parents' apartment in Dallas. My parents are wonderful people, but after Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Dallas feels a bit like a death sentence.

    I have spent so much of the past year trying to survive that I've been lucky to write 5 pages a week. But now I will have the gift of empty days in a city of strangers. It is exciting. It is terrifying. And it is here: sink-or-swim time. I absolutely MUST produce and sell something soon.

    If you ever want to vent to (or swap pages with) a fellow unemployed, recovering corporate-type-in-transition-to-becoming-an-authoress, feel free to write a comment here and we can figure out how to connect. Sending lots of good thoughts your way!


  7. Hi Jessie!
    Thanks for your thoughtful answer. My email is at the bottom of this blog...faffage@aol.com. You can email me...put kindred spririt as the subject line!
    Hope you have a merry holiday despite your hardships,

  8. Cathy,
    I am so happy to "meet" you. I found you on She Writes, and reading this first post on your blog has me hooked. I'm in a very similar boat as you, finding myself unemployed at 40 (and still unemployed at 42!). Not having a job has forced me to define myself in new ways, beyond what I do professionally. It hasn't always been easy, I used to be "important". I've come to realize though that my work didn't make me important, it's who I am and what I have to offer this world that makes me valuable, although I am still trying to figure out exactly what that is.

    I am looking forward to following you.


Me in Kindergarten

Me in Kindergarten