“Congratulations on your unemployment”
I was walking my dog, Clover, in the middle of the afternoon yesterday (something you can do when you’re unemployed), when a neighbor stopped to pet her, and we got to talking. “Do you work from home?”, my neighbor asked. “Well,” I hesitated, because for so many years I did work from home, running my own business. But then last year, I took a full-time job, and then this year, they eliminated my position, so — no, right now, I wasn’t working from home. I was job searching from home.
“Well, actually, I was recently laid off,” I said.
“Congratulations!,” she replied.
I’m sorry — what?
Did you just congratulate me for being unemployed?!
She must have seen my facial expression (I’m so not subtle), so she back-pedaled a bit: “Oh, wait — is that a good thing?”
And I realized that while I certainly didn’t see it as a good thing when it happened — yes, yes it WAS a good thing. And that was surprising.
Two things are true at the same time
Before I elucidate the so-called perks of unemployment, let me say, I am not minimizing the terror of not making money. Despite what the upbeat title of this post and the contents of the list below might suggest, I am not independently wealthy. I need to earn money, and with every month that I don’t have a job, my family has to more seriously consider things like moving to a smaller apartment or leaving Brooklyn altogether (nothing like being unemployed in the most unaffordable city in the country).
So no, I am not living on a cloud of privilege where the money I make is just icing on the cake. It’s the cake.
That old adage about attitude being 99% of life is true. (Wait, is that an old adage, or just something Woody Allen said? Nothing like quoting a child molester. But I digress.)
My unemployment status is a fact. I could dwell on it, focus on it, and make it my whole reality. I could spend my days frantically hitting reload on various job boards and setting up back-to-back coffee dates with people in my supposed network.
If I thought that would magically make me get a job tomorrow, I’d do it, but the thing is — being busy isn’t the same thing as making progress. The older I get, the more I understand that allowing things space and room to breathe is so much more powerful than smothering them with attempts to engineer perfection.
I’m also throwing a lot of spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. Applying for jobs that fit the flow of my resume to date in obvious ways, and a number of jobs that don’t — that would represent tremendous pivots.
And I’m excited by the possibilities.
I’m not so excited that the very real financial realities of my situation go away.
But I’m also making room in my life for more, much more, than the urgency of my finances. In improv speak, we call this “yes, and” — yes, I’m unemployed and fuck I need to make money, AND, here are some positive things this turn of events brought into my life.
With that in mind, here are some of the upsides to unemployment that I’ve discovered.
5 Perks of Unemployment
More time with my family
Turns out, this isn’t just a cliched line for politicians to use when they retreat from scandal. When I was working at my full-time job, Jordan took our daughter to school every morning and picked her up every evening (she goes to aftercare after her school day). Now she and I ride the bus to school together every morning, and I cherish this quality time. Plus, I’m home in the evening when she gets home, usually already cooking dinner, instead of showing up after she and Jordan have already been home for an hour or so. And I had MISSED being home with my husband all day (he works from home, too). I am savoring all the extra time we get together. It is such a luxury.
More creative projects — and FLOW
I’ve written a television pilot and am blogging up a storm. This makes me VERY, VERY HAPPY. What makes me happiest is having the space to achieve a state of flow — something that is so, so hard when you are on a company’s clock.
Devouring all of the books
I’m reading more than I have in YEARS — which is really just a stand-in for saying that I have room to be curious about things. Ahhh. The library and I have become BFFs. I finally read The Alchemist by Paolo Coehlo, and also really enjoyed The Red Book by Deborah Copaken Kagan and The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. On the nonfiction front, I got so much out of Leap: Leaving a Job With No Plan B To Find the Career and Life You Really Want by Tess Vigeland (more on this in a future post) and am currently engrossed in A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage and My Life by Ayalet Waldman (no, I am not personally interested in microdosing, but I’m always super-interested in mental health, and her story fascinates me).
Getting to know myself better
Thanks to my friend Christina, I’m doing a program called Here & Now from the Academy of Intuition, and while its benefits are still unfolding, let me just say that the effects feel truly exceptional. I am learning to ground myself in my body and stay more connected to my true feelings, rather than getting caught up in thoughts. I highly recommend it. It may feel “woo-woo” at first, but I guess just ask yourself — would I rather keep something that feels New Agey at arm’s length and feed my inner skeptic, or take the chance and possibly unlock a much happier way of living?
Day drinking — and other pleasures
I’m writing this very blog post while sitting outside on an absolutely gorgeous spring morning — so much better than being in an office. I’ve taken myself to the movies and met up with friends for a 3pm margarita. Sometimes I do the verboten and actually — gasp —watch TV in the middle of the day. Because WHY NOT? I don’t get brownie points in heaven for suffering more during this time. I’m applying for things. We’re cutting costs. Who says I can’t take advantage of the free time in my life right now to have fun??
Not I, said the fly.
Are you unemployed? What good things may it have unlocked in your life? Or do you think I’m just crazy and privileged for suggesting it’s anything other than awful? I’d love to hear from you.