“40, Unemployed, and Lucky?”

September 01 2015

Hi, my name is Ben. I’m recently turned 40, unemployed...and lucky.

The “lucky” part might be sarcasm. That is, being my age, in my out-of-work predicament, one would think the label would almost have to be used sarcastically.

See, my father used to call me “lucky,” and I never liked nor understood it. As I sit here today, I suppose I haven’t quite decided yet...but I’m open to possibility. Maybe getting my name called for the Listserve was luck by definition.

-Let me back up a bit to explain...

Just a few years ago I had a full-on career working in Corporate America. I’d been in my role for ten years, and was making pretty good money. I wasn’t passionate - at all - about what I was doing, but so what? Most people don’t like their jobs, right? I always just took it day-by-day; watching the clock until I could go home, watching the days until the weekend. Hey, at least I had a job “in this economy.”

Then began a bit of a “cycle.” Company layoffs.

The first time I was only out of work for about four months. The second time, it was well over a year. And while those days, weeks, months continue to add-up, you begin to question yourself -- a lot. Confidence sinks. You quickly learn that you have to find a way to fill that inner void somehow.

For me, my camera came to the rescue. While I’d never had the time to truly learn and practice with it, now suddenly all I had was time. And I had a beautiful city park - Forest Park, St. Louis - which I could walk to on foot. It forced me to be minimalistic. And it got me out of the house.

Soon, people began to tell me I was good at it. I just knew that I was feeling good *about* it, and that was the part I really needed.

A few months ago I once again found myself out of work. This time was very different as it was a rather bad situation, working under a vicious boss. Truthfully...it was a bit like escaping from an emotional prison.

Perhaps in the strangest form, it may have been luck.

Ironically, a friend had arranged a meeting for me that same week with a small local shop to see some of my photos. To my surprise, they were very enthusiastic and wanted to sell some of them as postcards and see where it went. The money wasn’t much at all, but it was the first time I realized (or believed) that my photos had value. For the first time, I didn’t feel like an “imposter” in the photography world.

I’m still struggling to find my way today. I’m considering Real Estate photography as a way to earn some actual money and stay afloat. It’s a scary time, but at least for the moment I’m not wishing my hours away anymore. And I’ve embraced valuing my days more than my annual income statement.

Maybe in the end I will realize I was “lucky” after all.

Maybe in the end, it’s all just relative.


I’d love to hear from anyone who endured and either changed careers entirely or came out the other side for the better. Or anyone out of work who could just use an ear.
If you could use a Writer/Editor, it’s my other passion, and I’m all ears.
If you enjoy photography, please find me on Instagram: @bscherliss (or Google my name to find my Squarespace photography page).

Benjamin Scherliss
[email protected]
St. Louis, MO

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