Wednesday, February 3, 2010

This Puddle's a Doozy

What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered? It really could happen. Just ask an unemployed person.

When you don't have a boss to report to or clients to please, your life begins to feel meaningless. You could try to be productive by searching want ads and sending your resume out into the black hole that is the Internet. But usually that just results in feeling like an alienated failure.

Each passing day gets to feel exactly the same, the only distinguishable difference being a greater sense of restlessness and frustration. So, you could exacerbate the situation by sleeping in and then spend the rest of the day mixing beer and wine on the couch. Or, you can treat unemployment like a unique opportunity that only 10% of Americans are currently allowed to experience.

For inspiration on what to do, watch Groundhog Day. Phil Connors had a similar dilemma. When he realized he was forced to repeat Febuary 2nd over and over again, he took full advantage the wrong way – eating junk food, robbing banks and driving on train tracks. It was all fun, but it wasn't helping him graduate to Feb 3rd.

Bummed out and bored, he took the advice of Rita, his sweet vermouth on the rocks (with a twist) drinking love interest. She advised him to stop wasting time on things that could bring him pleasure in the now and begin to use each, (umm new?) day as an opportunity to improve himself. What I admire about Phil is that he took Rita's advice to the next level, using the repeating day to help the people around him as well.

Alas, in the real world you can only have fun or wallow in misery for so long. Eventually unemployment runs out and you're going to have to get a job. So after the initial shock phase of your lay off is over, it's important to start doing something productive with your time other than job hunting.

I'm writing this right now because I have a confession to make. I've been in unemployment denial. I refuse to accept the situation I may have gotten myself into (pleeease pull through for me Beeb, please!). Until this morning when I woke up early to take a spin class, I have been incredibly unproductive. Cleaning my room out Monday and filling two laundry bags full of clothes for poor Africans has been the only thing that I have done. Those bags are still sitting in my living room, much to the dismay of my roommate.

Wanna guess what unremunerative things I have actually been up to for the past few days? Have I been doing crossword puzzles while my friend bar tends? Bing! Have I been stalking you on Facebook? Bing! Have I been watching old Lost episodes nonstop? Bing again!

None of these things have been of help to me or anybody else in the world. Unless I want to start blogging for darkufo, there is no reason for me to waste 8 hours a day researching my theories about Lost. But seriously though, why was Jack's neck bleeding?

I promise to put down the remote, shut my laptop and take these bags to Times Square today in addition to a few other bags my charitable friends have been kind enough to donate. On the train to Times Square I'm going to review some Spanish Flash cards. 19th century French poetry isn't my thing, but I consider becoming bilingual to be one of the best things I can do right now to improve myself.

I'm not in a rush to learn how to perform back surgery anytime soon (sorry Locke) but I can google places to refresh my CPR skills at for free. There are a ton of things you can take part in that will take your mind off an unsuccessful or stressful job hunt. Just think about what you can do - finding free cooking classes, attending free lectures or volunteering at an animal shelter - to feel like you have done something today. Make a list and actually follow through with it so you are ready to tackle something new tomorrow. This goes for people with jobs too.

People do place too much emphasis on their careers. And unemployment can seem like a long winter in that career - "bleak and dark and bereft of hope." But there is always something you can do to make your world a better place come spring. It would be nice if we could all live in the mountains at high altitude. But that's not where I see myself in five years. How about you?

*Dedicating this blog to Jen in honor of our Punxsutawney escapade through the frozen Pennsylvanian tundra. Oh, and Amy for letting me sit there drinking beer samples and seltzer while doing sudoku and crossword puzzles.

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