What It’s Really Like to Not Have a Full-Time Job

It’s weird to be unemployed. I’ll start there. The first day I woke up from my alarm clock and realized I didn’t have anywhere to be was like a Twilight Zone episode. My husband kissed me goodbye to go to his office, and I stood staring at the door as it closed, feeling a panic rise inside my chest.

What was I going to do all day?

I walked over to my sun-filled den of an office, trying to suck up its cheerful energy so I could start this unemployment out productively. But I felt lonely. And thankful for the furry ghost of a dog following me around. Ruby was confused as to why I was still there.

“Me too, Ruby,” I said as I pet her floppy ears, “I’m confused, too.”

I sat down in the black desk chair I had found on the street several years earlier, a gift from the universe. This gift came when I had been renting a room in my old house on Capitol Hill. I had sent out a message to the gods or whatever there is out there that I was stressed about money, even though I had a job at that point. I asked the gods to give me some sort of sign that I was going to be all right—even if I bought some of new things I needed, like an office chair to replace the plastic IKEA junker that I had been writing on for the past six months.

And when I had walked out the front door of my house the next day, a black desk chair perched on the curb, ready to be thrown out. My eyes opened in surprise.

“What?” I said as I looked up at the sky. “No way.”

I approached the chair as if it had some magical forcefield around it, afraid to touch it. But, nope, just a desk chair. In good condition. I laughed and grabbed onto its handles, wheeling it inside my house.

After that, I had felt more certain that everything was going to be OK. That I was doing what I needed to be doing—writing. All else would fall into place.

And now, I have to draw on that same faith while I’m unemployed. In fact, the trick to being unemployed is to find a way to maintain your faith in the world. Because bills continue to come in. Life continues to be difficult. And the stability you once relied on in a full-time job is now gone. Poof.

And yet you survive.

It’s too easy to focus on the negative. Because at the same time, I feel more free than I have in many years. Most days, I wake up excited that I get to control my day. I have been responsible (mostly) about not lying around all afternoon watching TV.

It is odd to be on a different schedule than the rest of society, but at the same time, I care way less about that than I used to. I used to feel like I was doing something wrong by going to Target at 10:30 a.m. on a Tuesday. And it is still a little strange. But it’s also lovely.

I get to sit on my balcony and edit an essay with my dog sleeping next to me. I get to take her for an afternoon walk to the tennis courts and hit around some balls. I get to go to the indoor pool at 2 p.m. if I feel like it.

Not to mention, the gnaw of knowing I was spending 8 hours a day, 5 days a week not fulfilling my destiny also disappeared. Poof.

These experiences are priceless. I would take the hardship for these gifts any day.

Until next time,

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