Unemployment Has Made Me a Better Person
After I quit my job a couple months ago, several changes kicked in:
- I had all the time in the world to think about whatever I wanted.
- I dreaded what people would think of me.
- Our income as a couple got slashed by more than half. For the first time in my life, I no longer had health insurance.
Before I quit, I absolutely and definitely needed some time off. I was exhausted.
For months, I had been jealous of the characters in Jane Austen novels whose lives are so slow that they can visit people for several months at a time.
In my head, I was making wild calculations about how much longer I would have to suffer at work. How much longer before I could take a couple months of maternity leave? I was counting the years and months until our mortgage will be paid off. In my mind, paying off the mortgage meant freedom from suffering at work.
After I quit, I was afraid of judgments.
I dreaded going to grocery stores in the middle of the day. People would *know* that I was unemployed. They would stare. They would judge. I didn’t want them to think poorly of me.
I felt guilty because my husband is still working. After he kisses me goodbye in bed in the morning, I usually roll over and sleep for another hour or three. However much sleep I need that day.
I felt like a failure for not being “gainfully employed”.
I felt pressure to find a new job as quickly as possible. I was already interviewing back at my old company about a month later. And again the month after that. In hindsight, I’m really glad those opportunities didn’t work out. I needed more time off. Going back to that same company would be a mistake.
Part of me dreaded family get-togethers. My family tends to elevate high achievers. Only in recent years has my family learned that people who are struggling in life aren’t necessarily “failures”. We’ve become more accepting of people who are going through hard times in life. There’s a season for everything.
But there’s still an element of judging: I’m a healthy, smart adult who is qualified for well-paying software engineering jobs. Why am I not earning money?
There were definite upsides to spending lots of time at home.
Unemployed life meant different clothes. More comfortable clothing. I didn’t have to look like I fit into the tech world anymore. I could walk barefoot all day. Or wear my favorite colorful rubber boots. Nobody would care. Nobody else mattered.
I immediately started spending most of the week career prototyping. I spent lots of hours working on YouTube videos. I was determined to make the most of this opportunity to explore alternative lives.
I read several books. Spent lots of time outside, enjoying the sunshine. I drove into town on mini-adventures at times. I spent many, many hours journaling and capturing my thoughts.
Gradually, I relaxed.
Gradually, I noticed that people weren’t nearly as judgmental as I thought they must be.
Gradually, my husband and I found out that our finances are just fine, even without me working.
The pressure came off. I could relax even more. My thoughts became clearer.
On Halloween, I went to Lowe’s to buy some daffodil bulbs. In the middle of a workday. I no longer thought about what people would think. Really, people tend to just accept you for who you are. Nobody will judge you for walking into the store in the middle of the day.
While I was looking at daffodil prices, a random lady helpfully tapped me on the back. She told me to try Walmart instead. There are giant bags of bulbs for $1, she said. And then she quickly kept on walking.
A couple months ago, that lady might not have walked up to me at all. Earlier this year, I would have been very focused on radiating a vibe that screams “Go away! Leave me ALONE!”
I held off on buying daffodils, and looked at other plants instead. A sales lady dressed as a witch was busily printing discounted price tags for another couple. Most plants were going for $1 or $5. Score! I filled up my cart. I asked if I could have discounts too. The sales lady printed new price tags for the plants I wanted. She wanted all plants gone.
On the way to the car, a plant fell off of my cart without me noticing. A young man walked all the way to my car to bring it to me. This was super nice of him.
An old man commented about how much work all those plants were going to be. He looked down at my colorful rubber boots and said “But you’re wearing the right shoes for the job!”
I continued to Walmart. Indeed, there were incredibly cheap daffodil bulbs there. I double-checked the pricing with a sales clerk who was walking by. He confirmed: even the $10 bags were now $1. Double score!
All these casual conversations during my shopping trip might not have happened a couple months ago. I probably would have been too uptight to talk to any of these people. Fear could have prevented me from asking the sales lady at Lowe’s for discounts. I would have missed out on these deals.
A day later, I was busily planting the previous day’s haul. I was working in plain sight of my neighbors.
I’m no longer worried that they might be talking about my employment status behind my back. They’re more likely to be excited to see somebody still working in the garden in November. Or they might not be taking notice of me at all.
Over the last couple months, I’ve experienced several waves of increasing relaxation.
After a month or two, I thought I was ready to go back to work. I thought I could handle it. In hindsight, I’m very glad I’ve continued to be unemployed. I’ve had much more time to learn important life lessons.
Unemployed life has made me a better person. I’m much more relaxed. I have peace in my heart. I know things will be OK.