This piece was written for Egypt Independent's final weekly print edition, which was banned from going to press. We offer you our 50th and final edition here.
"Sharara,” or jinx, was the only word my husband managed to utter as he plunged into a fit of giggles when I told him they were closing down Egypt Independent. He continued the household joke of me being an imminent danger to Egyptian newspapers.
Considering it was my second workplace to be shut down in just a few months, he may be right.
But no, it wasn’t me. Both times, it was clearly a case of bad management.
To make a long and lackluster story short, I had spent 18 years at a financial daily. I learned a lot on the job, being an economy journalist.
I had knowledge and experience of so many new things at the time. Remember the 1990s and after — the time for privatization, open market policies, major national projects, the Internet and information technology, content providing, and convergence.
So many things were going on and I was lucky that I was able to try my hand at all of this. Above all, I had the opportunity to meet many of the good people I know now.
It was good while it lasted.
I can’t tell exactly when the curve started to dip down. Maybe it was when all my friends started to leave for other jobs with better salaries and better benefits. But, when I had the chance to follow suit, I found I was expecting my second baby.
During the past five years, the management at the newspaper had deteriorated, and, just because I wasn’t bringing in any advertisements, they ceased paying my salary. The funny thing is that it was the same place where I’d learned that part of the ethics of the job was to separate editorial from advertising. But that has also changed.
And, finally they shut down the English weekly insert where I worked. I had seen it coming so I’d started sending my resume everywhere I could. I had so many interviews in the past three years that I lost count.
Believe me, job hunting involves a good deal of rejection and can drain the confidence of even the best-qualified applicants. I came to the conclusion that I was clearly too old and overqualified for many of the jobs, which all seeemed to require fresh graduates.
I also fell under the preconceived idea that being a female entailed making my children a priority over my work.
It was just so embarrassing that after all those years of experience, I couldn’t secure a job. It sapped my morale.
However, finally, I landed a job — a dream job, actually. Where else would I find a job doing what I like the most? The boss was nice and appreciative. Colleagues were pleasant. I felt grateful for the opportunity, but now it is gone. Alas, I am just too old for this.
Maybe, as one friend advised, I should revel in the fact that I’m unemployed and start having fun — exploring my options, writing a book, discovering what I really want in life. But I’m not the kind of person who gets up late in the morning and drifts aimlessly through the day.
I loved my job. It gave me a sense of identity, self-respect and a feeling of control over my life.
I keep telling myself that tough times don’t last, but tough people do, except that I just can’t help feeling bitter and a little angry. I am probably in stage two of the three stages of unemployment: shock, then depression and then, finally, adjustment.
Noha Moustafa is a writer at Egypt Independent.