Losing it

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How many times in one lifetime is it appropriate to reinvent yourself? Girls in the movies tend to save major life changes for after breakups. Or for when their mom goes out of town, the babysitter dies, and they need money for pizza.

I can't say the movie girls are all that removed from reality.

After a particularly memorable breakup, I decided that my body was a canvas – tattoos were the art form of choice. I was in my twenties for the bulk of my body art phase. "Slap 'em on, boys!" I must have said. In hindsight, it's clear that I gave the artists no further direction. The permanent ink on my arms and legs are a part of no grand design.

I got lost again in my earlier thirties, and it’s not until now that I’ve really been able to talk about what happened. I got fired — from a job I’d held for less than a year and for reasons that were never quite clear to me. In a meeting, my (ex) boss said letting me go had nothing to do with my job performance, which, intentionally or not, made my sudden departure feel all the more personal.

I did what I’m sure most of you would have done: I cried, I filed for unemployment, I ate raw brownie mix, I sent out dozens of resumes, I wiped brownie mix off my face, I went to interviews and I put my checking account on life-support. (Then I borrowed supplemental brownie mix from friend.) Also, vodka.

And by the end of my third week of unemployment, more trouble: I'd not been prepared for creeping feelings of inadequacy to grow into truly nightmarish proportions. They walked around the house, those feelings, and they stretched out my favorite pair of jeans.

I'd thought that after a few weeks, several companies would identify the need to find and overpay a lady of my qualifications. Like, maybe annual stockholders meetings would feature a slideshow describing a communications major who is comfortable making snarky comments on subjects she's not entirely educated on. Look no further, potential employers – I can DO that!

Unfortunately, that's not something people are looking for, apparently. Not at financially-sound companies, not at corporate events, not even at dinner parties — I would have enjoyed those, you know, to balance out the brownie mix.

Still more worrisome than my dearth of qualifications (nearly), was the realization that actually receiving my unemployment benefits would be a very trying process. I'd never had to file for them before, but I understand I've paid into them with every check I've ever made. (Remember the J.G. Wentworth commercial with strangers sticking their heads out of windows and shrieking, “It’s my money and I need it now!”? That’s how I felt.)

I grudgingly concede the need to sort through unemployment application and weed out the folks who would take advantage of the system. But at the time, I pictured the Department of Labor and Employment workers as a legion of Scrooge McDucks — just swimming around in silos of money composed of my unemployment funds.

When I finally received my first check, I realized it was silly to imagine anyone swimming around in $300. Or paying rent with it.

But I was talking about reinventions – although, I suppose tattoos (and then purple hair) were more superficial adjustments than they were soulful. I wonder if that's been the problem all along.

I was lucky and able to find another job, actually a much better job, about two months later. But, while grateful for the opportunity to put gas in my car without having to ask my parents to wire over money, I haven't really been able to relax with the new position.

I think it’s kind of like the first time you get your heart broken. It happens once and suddenly every one’s a suspect.

K. Ring, a writer with extensive experience in news and communications, has been bottoming out in various potholes around Colorado Springs for 7 years. She lives in Hillside with a handsome husband and an emotionally erratic dog. You can follow K. on twitter (@SinghRing) or email questions and comments to RingKKS@gmail.com.

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