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Revanche on the secret joy of unemployment

Today we have a guest post by Revanche, proprietor of one of my favorite PF blogs, A Gai Shan Life. Enjoy!

VH asked me how I’m dealing with unemployment now that I’m well in, and I had to think about it.

Most notably, believe it or not, is the fact that I was laid off almost six months ago and my head has not yet exploded.

It should have, considering the degree to which I obsessed over every possible detail of pending unemployment in the months prior to L-day (all the gory details of which you can find blogged between the dates of July 2008 and June 2009). But it didn’t.

In all my planning and calculating, plotting and planning, résumé-building and interview scheduling, I utterly underestimated the sheer freedom that comes with unemployment.

Not the freedom of just staying at home all day in my pajamas, if I please. [Don’t ask me if that’s ever happened, please. Let me have some dignity.] The kind of nearly spiritual freedom, relief really, that comes of knowing that my time shackled to that job out of a sense of responsibility to provide for my family, to do the right thing, to be grateful for the job I had in this economy, was over. Out of a job though I am, I’m also free of the company and of the kind of people who believed in lying, cheating and scamming. Not my kind of folk.

Flying utterly in the face of my workaholic tendencies, I’ve discovered an odd and unnatural secret of unemployment: if you have some financial security, it can actually be refreshing. Who knew?

Whether or not you know me, that sounds like crazy talk.

I assure you, I haven’t lost my mind. I hate not having a steady, full-fledged income, I hate not contributing to my retirement accounts, I hate that I haven’t deposited money into my savings accounts in massive chunks in oh-so-long. And this time has been filled with working on projects, seeking out challenging employment opportunities and interviewing.

I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t admit that I’ve also discovered the wonders of having the time to travel (New York, San Francisco, San Diego), travel (New York), and travel (Hawaii). I haven’t ever had this kind of freedom to hit the road, I could not have jumped in the car and gone to a friend in need while fully employed, and I haven’t ever been able to take classes without wedging it into 12-hour workdays (before, during or after college). These things are important to me, and without this breather, I doubt that my life plan would ever have allowed for discovering new cities, or the commitment to taking care of ill or grieving friends. And with certain health issues, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve realized I’m allowed to rest instead of forcing myself to face another 18-hour-day despite my body’s pleas for surcease.

The cost of this freedom, all the deprivations of earlier years, was completely worth it. That’s easy to say now because 1) I don’t feel them anymore, and 2) I’m practically living in the lap of luxury now thanks to how I lived before. What’s that saying, “Live like no one else will, so you can live like no one else can”? That little truism is absolutely true. It wasn’t easy being sensible about every penny I spent, and I can’t discount the unemployment income and subsidized COBRA, which have both gone a long way in stretching out my savings as well. But I’m able to look for the next best career step, pay my bills, stay out of debt, and still do good things. That is well worth the extra six to twelve months spent in the next best thing to Dante’s Inferno.

So how am I doing? Right now, though VH occasionally twits me 😉 about stacking up enough cash to be the envy of fellow unemployeds, I’m nervous about the future. I’d be a fool not to be—in this economy? With these pseudo-if-not-real hiring freezes? Since last week, I’ve seen three more friends lose their jobs and another floundering to keep his business open. Times remain very tough, economic indicators notwithstanding.

Still, I’m not allowing fear to paralyze me. I’m working hard to find my next new path and get well, and I’m also trying to stay in the moment and enjoy a little of what I’ve earned. We’ll see how I fare in the next six months as benefits start to run out. I certainly hope to have landed a job by that time.

12 thoughts on “Revanche on the secret joy of unemployment”

  1. This is truly inspiring. What a wonderful change from all the stories in the mainstream press about people who blazed through their severance pay and are in a state of panic and depression. Frugality wins once more!

  2. Yay! Another fun-employed person! Careful about talking bad about your former employer btw. Writing they are a “lying, cheating and scamming” bunch may be picked up by your ex-manager or colleagues, and it just makes you sound a little bitter.

    Other than that, have fun living the good life and collecting unemployment! I’m still working and will be going on a 3 week vacation to Whistler this winter myself! 🙂

  3. Tis I see where you have been traveling to. 😉

    Great post. I wish I had the freedom to stay unemployed right now. If that happened to me, right now, we’d have to make some serious cut backs to stay afloat.

    I hope you do find the next great career path. And if my inkling of that next path is right, I hope that it truly works out for you.

    BTW, I love how you tie the Ramsey saying into the post. Nice touch.

  4. I had my tasted of unemployment back in ’08. It wasn’t fun at all. I left my job (which I really liked) because we had to move 2800 miles from sunny L.A. to muggy Maryland.

    Anyway, the job hunt process was quite an adventure. Three months into it, I was dangerously on the verge of slacking so I had to step it up. I went old school and knocked on doors whether or not they had a Help Wanted sign at the door.

    I described it in brief on my blog.

    It was far more effective than going to, say, Apple One or registering with Monster.

    I got interviewed in the first week of my campaign and got hired within a month.

  5. Is it just me, or do I read a lot of denial in this post? Yes, I see the positives of free time, but I also see the excuses that Revanche uses to try and make up for her unemployment “Dante’s Inferno, evil colleagues.”

    I hope your unemployment benefits get extended, b/c 6 months seems like a long time, but maybe not that long in this climate. I thought the benefits were 10-12 months?

    It’s OK to be unemployed. But, try and get out of the denial process. Cry inward and outward if you must. Just make sure you focus on your areas of improvement if you want a job. It’s competitive out there, and tons of people are competing.

    Best to you.

  6. @frugal scholar: I’m only going to call it a win long after I make it through. Right now, I remain cautiously optimistic.

    @Tiger Upper Cut: Just noting that particular incident was their planning to defraud the gov’t, and also trading tips for tax fraud, among other things. That’s all. And no aspersions on you whatsoever, but as mentioned above to frugal scholar: I’m only cautiously optimistic, I don’t have the nerve to call it Funemployment yet. 🙂

    @MoneyFunk: Told you you’d figure it out eventually. 😉

    @Tim: Without getting into extreme detail, I’m unemployed because according to independent audit, the office was being run into the ground financially and materially by my bosses. For convenience’s sake, they shut us down completely. The report stated that I was the employee keeping the operations afloat in the face of extreme adversity, but they couldn’t save me and can the others without facing possible lawsuits.

    I’m not certain if being grateful for the silver lining to the dark cloud is what you meant by denial? If it sounded like that, let me clarify: I wouldn’t have left that job without another one lined up had the head office not decided to quickly close operations entirely, just because of the people I dealt with.

    VH’s stories about her employers are not much different from my employer’s habits, but I choose not to dwell on or share those stories now that I’m out. Best to move along and take a positive view so as not to poison the waters for the next job.

    And it seems that our state’s standard for unemployment is 6 months with possible extensions, we’ll see how that shakes out. I’m not going to count on any extensions as I’d rather be prepared for the worst case scenario as I continue the hunt and interview process.

  7. BTW Revanche, make sure you recognize your own flaws. It’s easy to blame exogenous variables as to why you were let go. i.e some people who are poor, blame the world, instead of their lack of work ethic, education, etc as an example.

    I’m not saying you weren’t a stellar employee, what Im saying is that nobody is perfect, and you need to recognize your ow flaws. Are you too sensitive and take things too personally? Do you need to work on managing up? Could you have been more innovative? Could you have build a bigger support network within your firm in different offices?

    Just food for thought as you go into the next year.

  8. Why is everybody so snippy? Revance do what’s best for you. Obviously you are a planner. I envy you. DH and I hope to be mortgage free within the next three years as we want out of the rat race. We got smart late, but better late than never.

    Best wishes from Best Bun.

  9. BTW Revanche, in your last paragraph, why would you have fear? You have $100,000 in investments/cash and liquid assets. What’s there to fear but fear itself? I’d keep on traveling and having fun if I were you.

    Are you married or have a boyfriend by any chance? If so, perhaps you can convince him to take a sabatical. If not, you have all the time in the world to find one. It’ll be fun!

  10. @VH sorry to hijack your blog on this post!!

    @mario g. Apologies for not responding to you the first round, I scrolled too much while writing my response! There’s pretty much nothing fun about the job hunt itself, but it certainly is educational!

    @Tim: I wouldn’t say I’d have no problems in the New Year, I hope not, but I take nothing for granted these days. As for your point about self-examination — most certainly. I know where my weaknesses are, mostly, and have asked former colleagues for evaluations of my management style.

    There’s always something to learn and improve.

    @Best Bun: Thanks for the good wishes 🙂 I wish you all the best in your journey to paying off the mortgage.

    @Tiger Upper Cut: What have I to fear? The fear of depleting all my resources before I get another job. Of having to start over or get into debt before things get better. For example, I interviewed with more than one company who stated that I was their strongest candidate, but the state of the economy forced them to cut back many positions and they couldn’t take on new staff. That’s being repeated over and over in many unemployed friends’ or acquaintances’ experiences.

    I see you checked my net worth 😉 but if you skim my About page (I know it’s lengthy), you’ll see that I have a family to support, so I’m worried about them if anything happens to me or if I go unemployed for a long time. I can’t *ever* let my sick mother be put out on the street.

    So it can’t be all about me – unfortunately, in my family, I’m the last line of defense. I have to think about them just as much as myself, and if I fail or “fail” I have no one to fall back on. I’m fiscally conservative/cautious, and my experiences tend to support that position. It’s not to say I won’t make the best of my time now, just to answer the part where it seems like I have plenty of money so no worries. That money will run out, and as Best Bun’s noticed, I’m a planner.

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