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.