5 Things I’ve learned in unemployment
List blogs are hot, and, unfortunately, so is unemployment. I figured it was about time to sit down and write up my “what I did on my summer vacation” (we went to the Vineyard, I met a sea captain, I milked an Alpaca!), but instead break it down into digestible hits.
1.) The news is damn depressing
Funny how stories about unemployment figures, the jobless rate and the stagnant pace of growth in the economy are background noise (albeit sad background noise, like a Sarah McLaughlin album) when you have a job. Now that I’m a free agent (my preferred term thank you), all that news seems to do is sucker punch you. That’s the best case scenario, worst case is it depresses the hell out of you, making the job hunt that much harder. As a reader of news I know you can’t easily stop those stories no more than you can stop the causes behind them, but still, NYT, could you take it easy on the fun-loving headlines using phrases like “jobless have only desperation?”
2.) You’ve got a lot of time with your thoughts
And depending on how much you like yourself, that could be a good thing…or not. Over a long enough period of time your brain can turn into that annoying roommate who never gets off the couch and leaves a thimble-full of milk left in the fridge. When your days consist of looking for work, evaluating (and re-evaluating) your worth and making a case for your potential, that’s just opening the gates to some self-debasement. At the same time, you’ve got ample opportunities for your mind to wander and discover that repressed ADD inside you. This is problematic only because when you should be looking for a gig you end up losing hours contemplating things like “whatever happened to that Mustang Steve McQueen drove in Bullitt.” (Answer: It is believed to be hiding in a barn somewhere in the Ohio River Valley.)
3.) Finding that “book in you” is a lot harder than you think
So you’ve got all this time with your thoughts, right? And you’ve had interest (or maybe even experience Mr. Former Newsman) writing? You should get to work on that “book in you.” Who knew that time + passable grammar = your first novel! Writing is never easy, whether you’re getting paid for it or not, and adding a little desperation to the mix can just as soon hurt as help. Again, you’ve got a lot of time with your own thoughts, which can mean good ideas for short stories or non-fiction can shot down quickly or lost entirely in the wake of a Mythbusters marathon. Under the most ideal circumstances writing a book can be hard, and I’m not sure what those are outside of beachfront property, a case of rum, no cell reception and a laptop. Wait, that’s not a bad idea…
4.) The labor department leaves a lot to be desired
Ah yes, the government teat. I count myself as lucky that I am not in hopeless need for unemployment benefits, but I am happy that I have them to augment what meager savings I have. Problem is, getting that precious check is not as easy as you’d like to believe. You’ve got to have all your financials in order (keep those pay stubs folks), navigate which parts of your income count towards unemployment and undergo an interview to make sure you really deserve that check.
Anyone who says being on unemployment is a disincentive to working has clearly never had to wade through a phone menu only to be told to call back later.
5.) You have to think of the future
Do I want to be a journalist forever? Do I really have a book in me (someday)? Should I work for Yelp? What about going into academia? Maybe it’s time to get entrepreneurial? Is opening a bar really feasible? Where do I want to live? Being unemployed at 30 is like standing on a divide between who you were and what you could become. It’s potential, and it can be brutal. You start to think about what you want out of the next decade, what kind of timetable you need to be on, where do you want to live, and, whether it’s time to have kids or not. But here’s the best part: How often in your life to actually get to step back and make the decisions that shape who you are?