From Employment to Unemployment to Meaning — Ch 8: Unemployment is Not a Bad Word

Our belief systems can distort perceptions. We are cultivated from youth to work, to produce, to get good grades, be the best, make a difference, be responsible, get a good job, get a better paying job, make more money, buy a house, a bigger house and fancier car, and on and on.

Because of our beliefs we chase the dream of these bigger, better, grander things — possessions, wealth and luxury.

But do we really need these things? Most Americans are stuck in the middle of possessions, wealth and luxury. Most Americans are aimless in somewhere-central-not-poor-not-rich land. Today, for the mid-liners, there is less and less chance of emergence, greater chance of sinking, and increasing opportunity to live in frustration.

I’m a mid-liner for sure. Three college degrees, lifea fourth in progress and my used-to-be six-figure income landed me squarely in the medial flatlands. Should that be medial quicksand?

It is quite easy for the employed to get the wrong impression of the “unemployed.” It is quite easy for the unemployed to see “unemployment” as a bad word. But it is not. This state can have benefits. Be grateful for the U-time to:

1. Identify and re-create your own truth. Truth is truth, yes. But to the individual, his/her way of seeing, retaining and interpreting the events and experiences constitutes his/her truth. Hold your truth but purge that which will stew blame and bitterness. For me there is none of the latter. I made my choices and I stand by them.

2. Separate oneself from intellectual and psychological shock over the “How did I get here?” thoughts. That’s a choice as well. Choose to embrace this new and evolving you.

3. Remember who one was and say “thank you” to self and experience. The experiences which lead to my departure decision were (and still are) all purposeful. They shaped and cultured me. They got me to today, to see beyond.

4. Converse meaningfully with opportunity and say “No thank you” when prospects come along that you know you will hate. Be grateful for the interest but refuse to show any love for or infatuation with it. Don’t fool yourself.

5. Clear up the mountain of things to do on your desk, so you do not operate from a place of hoarders’ syndrome. Collection, stashes and accumulations cloud vision. But over long work hours, family responsibilities, school, and more give rise to that pile. Who can do good work in a messy environment? Not me.

6. Stay organized and not waste a second of the day. Each second is precious. Do what you need to do and then use the remaining time to indulge in one’s passions, a training program, online courses, or even just cooking dinner. Last night my sons had curried shrimp and potato over rice. Tonight they requested chicken soup. That’s chicken, yucca, potato, corn, carrots, bok choi soup, peppery hot and stove hot like any good soup should be.

7. Raise your chin. “I hear you, Mr. Brown.” Look North or at least look ahead. This is not the time to bemoan the past or drown in waves of self-pity. Contemplate the positives. I know this can be difficult. For many years, I only remembered the ugly in my childhood narrative, but as I searched, and forgave, and let go, I became increasingly filled with the pleasant, the happy and the joyful memories, which then structured my future differently.

8. Dream of and pursue the future you desire.

And so, even on this Monday of week four, as I made calls, read mail, searched for work, submitted applications, completed a resume update, and tried to make sense of permutations and combinations (I got 58% on my week 5 assignment), I relished the fact that that oft dreaded word, “Unemployment,” is not a bad word.