What I learned in my year of unemployment

DFN: Refreshing perspective regarding unemployment; if you look at it (just right), unemployment is an opportunity, to do something, to change something that you may have wanted to change / do, but, just not had the time. Time, is now one thing you have. I’ve called it a gift, the ‘gift of unemployment’.

What I learned in my year of unemployment
Dec. 23 2009 – 9:59 am

Lisa Takeuchi Cullen
Wasabi Mama

Unemployment is not a vacation. Got that? (Image by cocoate.com via Flickr)

In 2009, I was unemployed.

A year ago, I volunteered to skip ship. I’ll skip the blah-blahs (I’ve never been unemployed before…I never thought…I can’t believe…) and go right to five things I’ve learned in my year of furlough.

1. Man, time flies. Even in unemployment. For those of you just about to hit the sidewalks, I’m sorry to break it to you: the clock does not slow down while you’re looking for your next gig. Your hair does not stop graying; your furnace does not decide to cut you a break and stay in operation; your kids do not remain happy with the toys they already have. Our 24/7 world keeps booking along at the same breakneck pace, and you have to run your ass off just as you always have. In other words,

2. Unemployment is not a vacation. Those of us lucky enough to get a nice severance might initially look at buy-outs or lay-offs as what those Mad Ave types maddeningly call a Reset Button. And for those of us intent on changing careers, it can indeed be a reprieve — an opportunity. But even if you wanted to, you can’t sit around and catch up on a year’s worth of People magazine. You see, unemployment is inherently anxiety-making. If you find yourself sleeping till 11 and foregoing showers and totally up on the “General Hospital” story line, you’re not relaxed. You’re depressed.

3. Launching a new career is really freaking hard. Not that I thought it’d be a piece of cake. But I’m a journalist and author trying to make the leap into fiction. You’d think I’d be somewhat equipped. Turns out it’s not like when you’re 21 and the world is an oyster. Thing is, the older you get, choices and their consequences compound. If I actually land that TV job and have to move out to L.A., what about my husband’s career? If I take this lucrative freelance stint in my old line of work, will I have time to work on my novel today before the babysitter leaves? What the fuck am I doing, really? What if I fail?

4. Misery loves me some company. My next door neighbor is a government inspector. Or she was. She was laid off last year. Another neighbor can’t find work as a music teacher. I can’t count the number of journalist friends who shoved off, like me, or were shoved out. And you know what? It feels good. Not in a schadenfreude-y way. More like a thank-God-I’m-not-alone way.

5. This too shall pass. Maybe not this month. Maybe not even in six months. But at some point in my life, I expect to earn an income again. So, too, will you, statistically speaking. Do what you need to in the meantime: bone up on new skills; spend time with the kids; practice meditating in warm places. You — and I — will survive.


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