It’s been over three months since I was laid-off from KGO Radio, and over time, like the stages of grief, my feelings toward unemployment have changed. At first, I was shocked, elated, free, thrilled to take a break from the daily grind and reclaim my life. Then, I went to Thailand, and experienced a new culture, new landscape, new pace, new activities that challenged me. But then, I came back from the high of vacation to a new low – the feeling that unemployment can be challenging, lonely, and sometimes, sad.
It’s strange being unemployed in a world where everyone works. People are rushing around to their solitary day jobs, making money to put in their own pockets to create their own oasis within this massive crush of people. Their own home, their own car, their own family, their own food and vacations and amenities and this and that. I feel without a full-time job, I don’t really have anything to contribute, and it feels strange.
Living on a sailboat that I leave early every morning due to lack of amenities adds another challenge to this situation, as has not having a car. I decided to leave my car up in Portland after driving a load of my stuff up to my Mom’s garage, so have been navigating the bus system to get from coffee shop to library to gym to my voiceover job in Oakland. Some days, I walk up to five miles with a heavy backpack to make the connections between buses, BART trains and destinations. I know that when I do get my car back, I’ll feel very thankful for it, and will never take it for granted.
Life in the unemployed world feels a bit like being a sailboat on the open sea, sure of my bearing but not knowing exactly where I’ll land. It’s given me a lot of time to think and reflect on where I want to live, what I want to do with my time. I’ve discovered being a freelance writer is challenging and that I miss radio news. I’ve discovered it isn’t easy to focus the mind to accomplish goals. I’ve learned that while living on a sailboat is a fun adventure, it’s not necessarily easy to live without internet, a bathroom and a kitchen.
Not working has had an effect on me. It’s easy to feel a little useless when my day is spent wandering around Marin County, hanging out at transit centers. But through this, I’ve tried to stay positive. I schedule lunches with friends and exercise heartily and do freelance writing, plus a couple voiceover gigs per week. I figure out new dinners to make on the sailboat, where all I have to cook with is JetBoil burner and a solitary pan. I sit on the stern and read in the evening sun with a glass of wine. So, life isn’t bad, it’s just a little boring. Society isn’t really structured to live in while unemployed.
Whenever I am working full time, I wish I had more time. I wish more of my mind was my own, to write, to be creative. When I’m unemployed, I wish I had more structure. So, the world between working and not working is a strange Catch 22, and I have to learn how to capture the moment.
I can understand how some people could get depressed while unemployed. It takes a conscious effort to get up and out, to plan fun activities, to get stuff done and feel accomplished. I’m thankful to have a strong social support system around me, or I’d be feeling even more lost. I do know, that soon, I’ll have chartered a course again, and know my exact destination.