09/27/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Mar 01, 2012

Unemployment: An Awful Waste Of Time

UPDATE 3/1/2012: Brian Gagnon emailed HuffPost to say that after nearly four years of unemployment, he landed a production job similar to the one he lost in 2008.

"It pays less than my previous full time job (a lot less) and the hours are abysmal, but it is a job nonetheless," Gagnon said. "I'm just glad I'm starting to turn stuff around."


Unemployment can be lonely and frustrating. No fellow commuters, no coworkers. Lots of people don't know where they went wrong -- because they didn't actually do anything wrong. Fourteen million Americans are currently jobless.

Brian Gagnon of Fort Worth, Texas, wrote to say he agreed with an Aug. 17 item that said "people are relieved when they see that they're not alone in the world of joblessness."

"I don't think misery actually loves company," Gagnon wrote, "but there is some comfort knowing that other competent and productive folks are experiencing the hollow ache in the pits of their stomachs the same as me."

Gagnon wrote that he lost his job from the local CBS affiliate station in March 2008 in a mass layoff. He suspected that the company would have been glad to get rid of him because he cost the company "a bundle" in health insurance, on account of his wife's auto-immune disease. He got a decent severance and COBRA benefits. He noted that a few weeks later, CBS CEO Les Moonves was awarded a multimillion dollar bonus. "But I'm not bitter or anything," Gagnon added.

No, he's bored.

"Everyday I sit at this computer trolling job sites and I'm more than kind of sick of it," he wrote. "I'll apply for everything that I think I can do but now I'm also running into the age thing. I'm 54 and most businesses look at me and think I'm too expensive. I know it's a cliché to say they can hire a 25 year old cheaper than me and for that I apologize, but there is a kernel of truth to it."

The worst part about long-term unemployment, Gagnon said, is that it feels like such a waste of time.

"You get into a malaise of 'I'm comfortable not doing anything,' and that's not how you're wired," he said in a phone interview. "There's still a part of me that [feels like] every afternoon I should be getting ready to go to work. I've always said that the day I care about who wins on The Price is Right, just shoot me."

Gagnon mentioned that he once briefly pursued an MBA and had Dick Armey as an economics professor. He said he took two things from his class.

"The first was that I no longer wanted to be in school," he said. "The second was something he said in class. It was to the effect that a fair measure of someone's worth to society was the value of that individual's paycheck. I kind of think that is how a lot of unemployed people feel. No paycheck, no worth."

Gagnon doesn't really let it get to him. Though he is one of nearly 1.5 million people whose unemployment benefits will expire at the end of the year, he remains confident that he and his wife will be fine. They live frugally and they'll keep their house. She's got a job, and is studying to become a paralegal. Gagnon mentioned that she's got a 3.904 GPA, and that he's proud of her.

"We don't do a lot, but we get by," he said.

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