While I’m sustaining today the (dubious) accomplishment of having posted at least every month since I started this blog, the obvious truth is that it’s been a while. Even my food budget posts have been absent since April, although near the start of this month I did collect the data together for May and June with the idea of catching up (the new plan is a 3-month-budget post in the near future that includes July). In any case, if this blog is to be in any way a record of my thoughts and actions during my experience with unemployment, I clearly have some blanks to fill in. I’m not sure, exactly, that’s what this blog is for – but let’s go with that for now, at least. I think the original struggle to keep this blog more related to “tips” and “successful stories” was more limiting than I’d hoped. There’s only so much of that type of content to go around.
Anyway, let’s begin. I’m here in part because I’ve experienced a wave of inspiration this week, after what can fairly be described as a multi-month period where I felt it lacking. I was kind of down, I lost interest in cooking and tracking my finances carefully, I didn’t read many of the other bloggers who originally helped inspire me and obviously all but stopped posting here. I gave in to a vice I very much already identified as a unenjoyable time-suck and let it soak up hours. I’d roughly mark the time of things falling apart a little as beginning in late-May, when the little groove I was trying to get going fell off the rails. Ironically, one of the reasons I think that happened was a series of interviews (a good thing!) packed tightly around a spate of travel (a fun thing!), but for whatever reason, it threw me a little and I didn’t really recover until recently.
Not that I wasn’t getting myself by. After striking out for pretty much the first three months of my unemployment, starting in May a snowball started rolling, and on top of those interviews (didn’t go anywhere) I’ve currently got interviews at four other organizations that are either in process or still open as I await word. And when I collected the May and June food budget data, things were surprisingly decent despite the lack of micromanagement (sure hope that’s sustainable). Those months weren’t a loss, but at times I was simply dragging myself from one day to the next, always feeling like I wasn’t getting enough done.
So what changed?
Sometimes, when I’m feeling like I’ve recently rebounded from a down period in my life, I’m almost afraid to examine why. If I name the source, rather than empowering it and enabling me to strengthen it, I fear I will instead rob it of its magic. This is partially a product of wrestling a lot with an issue, and not feeling like I’ve quite gotten control of it yet – hence the help is more effective if it’s magical rather than something I have to have agency over. But really, agency, or control, is the name of the game, so let’s name things.
The issue, at its core, is time management. It’s wasting time because of fear about what I should do with that time. I should act on my passions, but when you don’t know what your passion is that can mean feeling stuck. As a defense mechanism of some sort, I’ve become a little too good at watching time vanish doing things (like playing phone games) that should be enjoyable, but aren’t, because I’m not trying to enjoy them, I’m just using them to captivate my brain for a bit until the next thing I truly have to do pops up. So I move forward in some ways (see: interviews) but emotionally it’s a holding pattern.
Well, recently I took a little vacation, spending a weekend with a bunch of friends in a rental home on the coast owned by a buddy’s parents, which wasn’t being rented that weekend and had been given over to our use. Most years we go there once or twice; it’s a familiar place I’ve been going to since at least college. Two things happened there that picked me right up:
1) I was away from my time-suck routine. I had my phone, but rarely used it (even if I wanted to the service was awful), and my other deterimental habits just weren’t a part of my day here. That’s one of the refreshing things about any vacation – a break from the usual.
2) Time was super-important. If I sat around doing nothing much, I was directly taking time away from doing something more fun with my friends, in a setting with a definite end-time. Essentially, I was accountable to my friends for my time. Not all vacations are like this (solitude and serenity are nice once in a while), but I can say with absolute certainty that I loved this feeling. I have had quite enough solitude in the last six months – perhaps more drastically than I realized (even in coffeeshops).
I’ve tried to carry these two points forward as much as I can. I want to change my relationship with my phone, and with other self-destructive tools I’ve become so handy with. I haven’t opened a game in days, although there are one or two I actually enjoyed and kind of miss, and may go back to when I have spare time. But I want to change my relationship with time too, and that means doing with it the things I most want to in the order in which I most want to do them. Even if I want to procrastinate the top priority, that means procrastinating efficiently by checking off another goal rather than jumping into the “anxiously waste time” routine – so far, I simply haven’t had actual spare time to play a game. Which sort of makes sense – there’s a lot to do. Neglected projects to dust off, posts to write. Just letting these goals enter into my would-be idle time results in what feels like incredible productivity. I hope one day, maybe soon, I can game intentionally and it can be relaxing again, but that day is not today.
And so I’m back here, reading other good blogs again (I should really add some links to my sidebar), not to mention just plain reading more in general, avoiding the destructive time-sucks, checking off goals, kicking ass and chewing bubble gum… and now I’m all out of gum.