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Posts Tagged ‘unemployment’

Last week marked my six-month anniversary of being unemployed. Happily, I got a job offer on Monday morning – which also happened to be my sister’s birthday. (Her reaction, when I called to tell her the news: “Happy birthday to me! You got a job!”)

However, the offer was contingent on a successful check of my references, so I waited in limbo for four days while the good folks in HR did what they had to do. And that was almost worse than not getting the offer at all – so paranoid was I that they’d find some small reason to revoke it.

My week of limbo/liberty was blessedly free of hitting the job boards, but full of the other activities which have filled my last six months: a freelance project or two; laundry and dishes; making soup for lunch; walking to the post office and the branch library; playing around on Twitter and blogs; sipping tea at the dining-room table while journaling or writing. And feeling guilty.

No, I don’t feel guilty about doing freelance work, tending my house or even taking a break for a cup of tea. I love my quiet mornings here at the dining-room table, sunshine coming in the windows, my current bouquet (this week it’s daffodils) blooming away. I love being able to stir up a pot of soup or nip down to the branch library for a new novel. And I am so glad I haven’t had to brave the cold during our string of snowstorms (though I am now joining the commuting hordes at my local T station).

Rather, I feel guilty about all the things I haven’t done while searching for a job. Couldn’t I have applied to more jobs, gone to more networking events, worked harder to score more interviews? Should I have taken a part-time job somewhere to make money, or applied for plain old temp work instead of specialized writing temp work, or allowed myself fewer excursions to downtown Boston? I definitely should have spent less time browsing the Web, clicking links and reading my favorite blogs. And couldn’t I, in six months, have completed a full draft of that travel memoir I’m always talking about writing?

I’ve felt guilty about all of the above, and also about spending my days at home, warm and cozy and wearing jeans, while my sweet husband spends his days driving around the South Shore of Boston, seeing clients for therapy, often not getting home until seven or eight o’clock. I’ve felt guilty about not doing more to help him provide for the two of us. I’ve wondered if I were going about this job search the “right” way, if there is a right way. And I’ve felt especially guilty because I’ve actually enjoyed my unemployment.

I didn’t enjoy the financial strain, of course – which has grown worse as we’ve needed to pay for heating oil and slightly higher bills in the winter. Nor did I enjoy the loneliness, the feelings of cabin fever and isolation when the weather grew frigid and I began spending nearly all of my days inside. When the weather was nicer, I could find more excuses to spend afternoons downtown, poking around the shelves at the Brattle or browsing the clothes racks at Second Time Around, or sitting on Boston Common, book and camera and journal in hand. But since winter hit for real, it’s been pretty lonesome around here, despite my love of solitude and the connections available online.

But I have enjoyed some parts of my time off. For one thing, I didn’t have to rush right into an office when we moved here in August; I had time to unpack, to hang pictures, to arrange our apartment and explore our neighborhood. I’ve spent happy hours browsing at the libraries in Quincy and many sun-soaked afternoons on Boston Common. I’ve gotten to know the heart of Boston, which for me lies in the two green spaces in its center, the bustling Beacon Hill area just north of them, and the narrow streets east of the Common filled with some of my favorite Boston spots.

For another, I’ve had time to write – which I craved in Abilene, particularly when my job at ACU grew crazy and deadline-filled. I’ve kept writing for ACU, written dozens of articles for Halogen, blogged more regularly than perhaps ever before, and written some secret things I hope I’ll get to share with you one day. I’ve had lots of time to sit at this table, daydreaming, dressed comfortably and never lacking in sleep or good food or time to do whatever I pleased. Time like this is a gift to a writer, and I’ve tried to appreciate it and use it well, instead of squandering it in useless pursuits or spoiling it by obsessing about money. (Not, I might add, always successfully.)

But most of all I’ve enjoyed the freedom of this time – the complete liberty to structure my days however I want, even if that has included a little too much sleeping in and a bit too much “wasted” time. I’ve loved being in control of the hours of my days, although I’ve spent the vast majority of those hours alone. I’ve hardly had anywhere to be at a certain time for months, except church and a few outings with friends. It’s reminded me so much of my life in Oxford, where my only obligations were classes, church, working for ACU-Oxford and volunteering at Oxfam. I’ve had lots of time – however heavy it’s hung on my hands sometimes – to just be.

Starting this week, all that will change. I’ll get up with my alarm clock, to shower and dress and head downtown to Emerson College, where I’ll spend my days writing and organizing content for the college’s website. I will have co-workers, an office, a lunch break, a commute, and many fewer hours to myself. (And much more money in the bank than I’ve had.) I expect to enjoy most of these things, or learn to adapt to them – though I know there’ll be an adjustment period. Mostly, I’m thrilled to have found a job I think I’ll love, at a place I already admire. (And when the weather turns warm, I can go eat my lunches on Boston Common – happy thought!)

Have any of you ever struggled with guilt during unemployment/a career break/graduate school/another instance of downtime in your life? How did you handle it? I’d love to hear your stories.

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