Labor Day is set aside to honor the working men and women who built this country with their brains, their brawn, their ingenuity, and the sweat from their brow.
It is a time to recognize those workers and their accomplishments, grand and not so grand.
But I really don’t know how to feel about Labor Day.
The past few Labor Days have been different for me and many more Americans. There are 14.9 million Americans who are not working, who are not laborers. For the past 18 months I have been among the unemployed. Is Labor Day a holiday for those of us who have no work at which to labor?
Sadly and unfortunately, this day is not for them. The only thing a long weekend does for one of those 14.9 Americans is take away one more day for searching for a job.
I have written about my own personal struggle to find work since I was laid off 18 months ago – the frustration of few jobs and even fewer interviews, innumerable rejections, the agonizing struggle simply to pay the bills, the demoralization.
Those who know me have been kind and supportive. The reaction from others has been mixed. Some are going through the same struggles and have voiced support. Others take on a tone that much of my struggles are of my own doing.
I take comfort in the former because from the beginning of this journey I knew that I was not alone and that being laid off was not my fault. I ignore – mostly – the latter because they don’t know me and don’t know what I’ve done.
Like most American children of the time, there were chores at home and a first “job” mowing lawns. It wasn’t a big operation, mind you, just me and a lawnmower. No need for business cards.
A few years later – I must have been 16 or 17 at the time – I was hired to work at a local sawmill pulling green chain. Pulling green chain means pulling and sorting green lumber of all dimension and length as it is sent out of a sawmill on a chain conveyor system. Mind you, pulling green chain comes before the lumber has been dried in a kiln. The lumber contains a very high water content and is several times heavier than it will be once it has been dry kilned. It is hard work, trust me.
I was a carpenter’s assistant the summer before heading off to college. Once there, I sold athletic shoes part time and went to school full time.
The following year, I took on two more part-time jobs. I was working three part-time jobs and going to classes full time.
Later, after I had transferred to school in California, I worked part time busing tables for a time and at a fast-food restaurant. I also was a member of a firefighting crew for three summers rising from crew member/sawyer-swamper to crew leader by my third season. I also received a stipend for working as the editor of the campus newspaper.
In other words, I’m used to working.
There was about a month after graduation before I found my first professional journalism job – editor of a small weekly on California’s North Coast. For the next two decades I worked hard to do the best job possible and continued to advance my career.
Granted, it was a career in the newspaper business.
Unfortunately, newspaper executives failed to see soon enough the Internet for what it could be – a portal to vast profits and ever-expanding readership.
But that’s for another rant.
I continue to be hard working – from the beginning I made finding a job my job – and in the past 18 months have sent out hundreds of resume packages and filled out countless online applications. No one who has launched anonymous criticism of my past published commentary would have done more or done it better.
The problem, of course, is that my hard work is not being compensated. I am not receiving currency for my efforts. I am not receiving the satisfaction of a job well done and much appreciated.
I really don’t know how to feel about Labor Day.
But I know I will continue moving forward. Each day, another step forward; each day, a chance for a brighter future.
And by next Labor Day, I will be working again and looking forward to a three-day weekend to rest from the week’s labors. Next year Labor Day will be a holiday for me.