It’s been a long and epic struggle, and I’m not proud to say I wasted a great deal of time being absolutely crushed by doubt and self-pity. I’m just now finding some solid ground.
I’ve bounced back and forth between “I want to be location independent!” and, “This is bullshit, I need a real career” for months. It’s been almost a year since I stood at Signal Hill watching for whales with all the promises of summer around me, saying forlornly to my roommate Renee, “I don’t know what I’ll do now.” She looked at me, rolled her eyes and said, “Is your life over?”
Mostly, I’ve learned a lot.
1. If you don’t establish some sort of routine, or get out of the house every now and then, you will eventually end up going out for a casual drink five nights a week. There are days when you’ll look down to find dried cheese encrusted on the leg of your pyjama pants, or chocolate in your belly-button. You’ll go through your closet, surprised by how you’ve barely worn half of these clothes since your office days. These are the days you put on a pair of jeans and a new sweater, comb your hair and add some extra mascara. There’s a difference between vanity and self respect.
2. Men are not impressed when you tell them you’re on a hippie self-discovery trip because you were laid off from your job. Conversely, every 21 year old you encounter will hit on you. When you’re drunk, do not gush about your elaborate business plans to the first guy who seems interested. He’s not; he just wants to get into your pants. He senses your detachment from the real world and you probably reek of panic.
3. You’re given permission to find simple joys in things, like bins filled with chocolate at the grocery store, and giant roadside attractions, and chirping crickets on a beach in Cape Breton. On a budget, you can take a road trip across the province and hike a mountain. For once, you have time to read a book in a week.
4. Your friends will think you are available to get drunk with them at any time, and usually, they’re right. Then the Friday nights when you really need a good night out after being rejected from your 12th “dream” job, you find yourself sitting at home watching South Park and drinking disgusting beer you only bought because it was the cheapest at the liquor store.
5. Freedom is just as terrifying as a lifetime of misery being chained to an office cube.
6. Every possible unexpected expense will pop up in a very short time-frame, and all the credit card debt you’ve paid off will start rising again. You’ll lose your wallet and cell phone within a week, for the first time in your life. It will cost nearly $500 to replace that phone and hours of phone calls talking to the credit bureaus. You’ll cry about it.
7. You will think differently about yourself, doubt yourself, and question every one of your motives. You will get discouraged, consider yourself a loser, reconsider going back to school. Then you will flirt with younger men because despite being only 24 years old, you feel too old to be unemployed, broke, and not sure what the fuck to do next.
8. You will get moments of extreme, insufferable loneliness. You will watch Facebook status updates from friends and colleagues about new job promotions! And new babies! And congratulations everyone is engaged! Then you will make up optimistic status updates to make it seem like oh yeah, you know what you’re doing. This is all part of the plan.
9. You will spend more money on entertainment than on groceries, but you’ll never actually lose weight.
10. You will understand the value of health insurance when you can no longer afford antibiotics or other medication.
11. You learn who your real friends are. They’ll show up at your door with baked spiced pumpkin loaf and pieces of cake and cases of beer. They will offer advice and put you in contact with extraordinary people.
12. Pressure to settle down, get married, and have 300 babies will come from everywhere. Even when you tell your parents you’re making as much money freelancing as you would while working minimum wage, they’ll still encourage you to find a “real” job. Then you’ll pick up part-time work at a shop selling Christmas decorations and write bitter poetry about people who are spending thousands of dollars on Santa statues while all your underwear has holes in them.
13. Pets provide great company while everyone else is at work. Plus they’re usually willing to lend a free hug every now and then. You should foster or dog-sit. You feel less like a floundering wreck when someone else is depending on you.
14. Clean underwear is not considered clean if it’s merely turned inside out. Bring extra underwear on road trips for this reason.
15. You’ll find new hobbies, like knitting baby blankets or doing yoga, and somewhere between it all you’ll realize life is fun. Like really, really fun.
What life lessons have you learned from being unemployed?