To be or not to be

That is the question: am I retired or not? I lost my last full-time job over four years ago. Considering myself to be unemployed, I immediately began a concerted job search. I focused on employment because I consider my management skills to be my greatest vocational strength. But at the same time, I also sought contract work to generate some income while seeking employment. If I could build up enough contracts to pay the bills, I was open to becoming permanently self-employed.

Things started out strong. I was getting lots of interest in my résumé and I locked down far more interviews than anyone else I knew seeking employment. I also got a semi-regular part-time job and even some contracts to bring in some income while I was looking for a regular pay check. This work activity helped me to keep my professional chops up. I was also studying for a vocational certificate in Internet marketing. Although I was not working full-time in a permanent role, I was definitely not retired.

The first couple years after losing my job continued like this. I felt like most of my job interviews went real well. Quite a few employers had invited me back for second and even third interviews for some of the positions, making me feel confident I would be extended a job offer. I had also earned the certificate by the end of the second year of my job search, giving me another avenue of employment to pursue. No one had extended me an offer for full-time permanent employment in the first couple years of my job search but I felt like an offer was sure to be forthcoming as long as I kept interviewing at the strong pace I was keeping. I was unemployed but sometimes felt more like I was just under-employed.

After a couple of years had passed since my previous full-time employment, the job interviews began slowing down. I had loosened my standards on the jobs I pursued, willing to take a non-management position in either elearning instructional design or Internet marketing. But I still lined up fewer and fewer interviews. Even my most regular contract work had been taken over by internal employees when the company I had been contracting for was acquired by a larger corporation. But I kept diligently looking for full-time employment and still managed to periodically schedule interviews for some seemingly promising recruitments.

Last month, I hit the four-year mark since losing my last full-time job. By that time, I had interviewed multiple times at a few companies I had been targeting. In a couple of cases, I had even interviewed for the same position that I had interviewed for earlier after it had been vacated again. When I never received a job offer for many positions I was ideally qualified for, I began to think maybe I was facing what I didn’t want to believe I would face from hiring managers—discrimination against me because of my disability, even though it doesn’t impact my performance in the kind of knowledge work I do (my track record of success proves this).

I’ve finally lost the motivation to keep up the search for full-time employment. My efforts seem to be all in vain, so I have tired of making them. Nonetheless, although the bulk of my time is now taken up with leisure activities, I would still much prefer to be working. I find the type of work I do to be more gratifying than my leisure activities. But if I’m not employed and not looking for work, I don’t think I can continue to consider myself unemployed. Although I’m too young to be, it has reached the point that I should start considering myself to be retired.