While working at my old job, I had a set of tabs open on a Chrome window that more or less never changed. After I was laid off, it felt weird to close that window and lose them. As time went by, I felt more and more like I should, but I felt I needed to mark the event somehow. That it would represent a turning point I needed to write about.
Today, just shy of a full year later, I finally close that window.
I have good news, that will in no way be bad!
I have a job.
This is, undeniably, incredibly good news that I’m excited to share. But it presents me with something of an existential question – what is the purpose of this, ostensibly an unemployment blog, in a post-unemployment world?
Part of why it’s been so long since I’ve been here last (aside from, you know, the new job) is that I’ve been trying to figure that out. I’ve been just as drawn to writing here as before – if I didn’t know quite what I wanted to say, well, I knew I still had something to say, at least. I know I felt busy though as I was adjusting to the new changes in my day, and I think on some level I might have felt a little guilty, too.
Join me as I talk a little about this exciting news and muse on what this blog is really all about.
What the voice of should often seems like – but hear him out, he could be making a good point
Nobody likes to be told what they should do. In fact, the word is often condemned as unfair to use at best, or downright harmful at worst. “Should” stifles more natural or personally beneficial inspiration, replacing it with the judgment of the “shoud”er. Kinda harsh, right? Who says who gets to judge people? Who says who gets to judge you?
“Should” in this sense can be a dangerous word to try and grapple with. While we could take this off in a debate on moral relativism, I’d rather focus more on the duality of “shoulds” that I’ve been thinking about in recent weeks. One “should” is indeed harmful, but the other I’ve actually found very helpful to keep in mind.
I know it’s here somewhere…
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?
Passion and Work have long been thorny issues for me. As in, passion for your work – where to get it, and how necessary it is. Even while fully employed this was a big question for me, and certainly it’s all the more so now that I’m unemployed and spending vast sums of time looking for new work. Work and passion are two things I rarely feel like I have at the same time.
I suppose that’s to be expected – when I’m passionate about my work, it shouldn’t feel like work. But how on earth do you search for passion in a job search engine? There’s no checkbox for that. You have to guess. You have to leap.
Today, before setting out on a walk to collect some thoughts, I read the latest article on MMM. It’s a retrospective from a person named Ethan who’d been in a rough financial position, got himself together and worked hard, and was rewarded with lots of promotions and money. Taking nothing away from his accomplishment, I found myself wishing he’d written a long post right in the middle of things, right when he got his first good job and “forced himself to believe” he was going to succeed if he worked hard. Sometimes stories like that seem to take on a classic rags-to-riches theme, with the lead character changing his or her life by sheer will power and determination. I love reading them, but there’s an emotional struggle that is left out of the narrative. In my experience anyway, sheer will power, while vital, often won’t get me through an emotional block by itself.
As you can see from the tag-cloud over on the right, one of the topics I’ve written about a few times here is routines. How the word can recall monotony and discipline, how even when I acknowledge their usefulness I’m not always good at getting them to stick, how distractions come up. Routines and I are not natural friends, it would seem.
But a routine can be a helpful productivity tool – as I’ve been navigating the numerous uncertainties of life as an unemployed person, I’m beginning to think it may be an essential one. I’ve been thinking lately about trying to reframe the way I think about this issue that will agree with me on a deep, easy, intuitive level.
Routines of Freedom are good. Routines of Oppression are bad.
Perhaps not the biggest revelation out there, but it acknowledges the powerful truth that a routine is neither good nor bad by itself. It’s merely a tool. And right now in my life, I have a downright opportunity to embrace the relative freedom I have with my time to make my routine awesome.
Over time, I have come to learn there are things I can do that make me feel pretty good, like reading a book, going for a walk, writing, cleaning parts of the house, cooking, or even just kicking ass at an obligation I have, like the freelance editing I do.
There are also things I can do that make me feel bad, like mindless procrastination or oversleeping – basically failing to spend my time doing things in the above list. Some parts of the work I did for my old job would have fallen into this category as well.
When I look back at my posts, I can see I’ve written about ways to remove some of the wasteful drains on my life, whether it’s on my time or my budget. I don’t have as much on ways to add value back in. For some reason, the former is a much easier idea for me to tackle, but ultimately, I don’t think it’s nearly as effective.