The Unemployment Chronicles: Part One

Recently, for various reasons, I chose to leave the stable, corporate world of 9-to-5dom. Yes, I know this may come as a surprise to many of you since I haven’t written about it until now, but know that decision was also made for some very good reasons. Regardless, the outcome is the same – for the last month and a half I’ve done what I haven’t done since I was 11: basically, been unemployed.

That’s not to say that I’ve been sitting idly by; quite the contrary. I’ve taken on various writing and consulting gigs in an effort to fill this seemingly endless expanse of free time while I’ve been trying to figure out just what I want to do with my life. And throughout this process – which is ongoing, may I add – I’ve learned a few things along the way. Such as:

  1. Assumption One: With all my free time, I’ll be able to make significant healthy changes in my life.
    You know, like working out every day. Reality: total times I worked out in the last 45 days? Once. A long walk with Lila to get an embossing iron. (Wow, my mundaneness is just so…mundane.) Vicious  cycle, this unemployment purgatory, as I found myself basically both craving and subsequently resenting "having" to do anything, even if it was something I knew that was good for both body and soul, like exercising. (We’ll NOT discuss the number of beers consumed…)
  2. Assumption Two: Working for myself would help unleash my creativity.
    You guessed it, FALSE. As evidenced by the number of posts on this site since November 1st, you can see that I’ve found the opposite to be true. I’ve found myself devoid of motivation, of creative juices, and in many ways I’ve felt like I’ve lost my "voice." I think that I often saw this website as my own little refuge; faced with an onslaught of work ‘tasks’ I used writing here as my solace, my proverbial calm in the storm. It was a balance to corporate drudgery. Yet remove those responsibilities and writing soon seemed like the drudgery itself. Also, I didn’t want to wax poetic about my newfound "freedom" while I was trying to figure out my actual feelings about it, negative or otherwise. So, for once, I just clammed up. Posted a lot of photos. Some songs for your listening pleasure. As for writing, well, that only occurred in my head and in my journal. (Probably a shame, since some of the experiences I’ve had as a full-time unemployed person have been priceless. You know like the fact that I’ve been denied – TWICE – for health insurance because of my heartburn. BlueCross of California, if I PROMISE to take my Tums, will you change your mind?)
  3. Realization One: I don’t enjoy working for myself.
    This one has been
    especially hard to fathom since I long believed this was my ultimate
    work goal. As in: "Get married, have kids, be a freelance writer." Only
    I’m NOT married, the menagerie – while frustrating at times – can’t
    compare to raising children, and – the most surprising realization – I
    don’t particularly enjoy freelance writing. (Too varied of subject
    matter, not enough in-depth knowledge gained, in case you were
    wondering my reasoning.) Which, once I realized this, sends me back to
    square one. Hi, I’m 30, and I don’t know what I want to be when I grow
    up. Ironic, I suppose, in that whole "life is but a series of really
    pathetic jokes" sort of way.
  4. Realization Two: Getting a lot of sleep does NOT relieve tiredness.
    frustrating. I figured that sleeping in (not normally one of my strong
    suits) and napping if and when I pleased, would be the best. I’d be
    refreshed! Dynamic! Have that glowing skin that comes to those calm,
    zen-like people that uphold healthiness next to Godliness. Wrong again.
    Glowing skin is saved for post-coital situations and vegans only. My
    naps? Unfulfilling. And even though I didn’t HAVE to get up at a
    particular time most days, I did, and only went back to bed to fight
    that feeling of endless, looming hours ahead with still no certain
    direction. Oh, and your friends get really pissy when you log off of IM
    to go take a nap at noon.
  5. Realization Three: I like working, but only for someone else.
    I’ve always had a good work ethic, and have been proud of both my efforts and results. The fact that I LIKE working didn’t surprise me, but the fact that I like being someone’s employee DID. I’m a hard-working, motivated person who can both take and give direction. I like managing teams, and learning from good managers. Hell, I’ve even learned from CRAPPY managers – seeing what NOT to do, how NOT to treat people is also valuable in its own right. But as I found myself "professionally" sitting in my revamped home office (correct posture and all), I found that I was, well, bored. Lila, for all her talents, doesn’t hold her side of the conversation very well. IM only goes so far. And – let’s be honest – it’s FAR too easy to wear the same sweatpants and t-shirt day after day when you have no incentive not to. (As Daisy suggested for the title of this realization: "My hygiene started to suffer.") And after a few weeks – maybe even a few days – of working alone at home or at a cafe, I found myself actually missing cube-land, reminiscent about the daily grind. I started resenting all of this time – never even traveling, save for an unexpected trip back to Ohio for my Grandmother’s funeral – and really started longing for (dare I say it?) a routine. Stability. Because, frankly, I think that’s where I feel most secure, as uncool as it is to admit it.

In a nutshell, I’ve been living many people’s dream: working very little, accountable only to myself (and the limits of my bank account.) My sacrifices were seemingly minimal: I still go out to eat too much, still have a stocked wine fridge, and yes, you’re still getting your Christmas gift after the Great iPhone Debacle™ (story forthcoming) resolved itself most swimmingly.

But there certainly HAVE been sacrifices, in terms of my self-worth, my motivation, my realization that my life’s goal wasn’t one that interested me anymore. That, despite the blow to my self-motivated ego, I am happier working for – and with – others. That I thrive from their creativity, feeding off our interaction. That, after 5 years of higher education and 8+ years in the workforce, I still don’t really know what it is I want to do. It’s one thing to be 30 and single, yet another to be 30, single, and unemployed. Both of those I can (somewhat) handle. But to be 30, single, unemployed, and questioning my entire career aspirations, well, that’s just scary as hell.

As Albert Toffler said: "The future always comes too fast, and in the wrong order." Well, future, I’m here, ready and willing to take on whatever is next. But please, can my "next" come complete with a window view?

6 thoughts on “The Unemployment Chronicles: Part One

  1. Love this post. I recently went the same route and it’s great to see someone else having some of the realizations I am having. Although I can say I do like working for myself and am trying to get my own business off the ground.
    Again, this post reminded me why it’s ok to be doing what you, I & others have did/done.

  2. Unfortunately, waiting till you figure out what you want to be when you grow up is just not an option for most people. I’m at least ten years older than you, have a stable job that bores me, and still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up.
    If I grow up.
    By which time becoming an astronaut or a fireman will probably be out of the question.

  3. I’m in the same boat, though I haven’t left the umbrella of higher education yet. I’m an English major – but what do I want to do? No idea. I love to write and that is all I know. I plan to just try the hell out of everything and eventually, I’ll get what I want. My advice to you is to do the same.

  4. And to think I thought I was the only one…
    I think it takes bigger guts not to try and work for one’s self, but to realize (and admit) that one doesn’t want to work for one’s self.
    Eerie timing on the post though. 🙂

  5. i kept thinking everyone knew what they were doing and what they wanted in life which utterly made me feel crap cause i felt so lost and clueless amongst them.
    maybe everyone just acts confident and assured, but i definately dont know what i want, i dont even know the life i’ve build is the life i’ve dreamt of or someone else dreamt it for me, i dont even know if it was my wife, the kids, or me who wanted this life im living?
    yep, i definately have my problems too, but thankyou for making me feel like im not the only one.

  6. this is the first google hit for “unemployed and 30.” nice. you should plaster this page with ads.
    since this was written in 2007 the poster must be 32 or 33 right now. i’ll look for an update after i post this (more meta this way). for anyone who’s wondering, being single, unemployed, almost 30 and directionless is scary. I’m not sure if it’s the good kind that drives you to richer things or the bad kind that just scares you. the thing that worries me most is just being nothing in the metaphysical sense. no identity, purpose, drive, motivation, nothing. i am trying to tell myself that after losing my job, girlfriend etc. it’s okay to feel lost for a little while. and of course the haunting question is how long is “a little while?”
    one thing i have found though is that all the worry is the same. there is something consoling in that sometimes–that all the different kinds of worry you can experience are really the same thing. i’m not sure why that’s consoling. i think because it makes it easier to manage.

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