unemployment benefits

In letting my blog lapse into a coma, I seem to have missed a very important anniversary: I have been unemployed for more than a year now! [Insert cheers and confetti.] Among the people I know, I’m sort of the grizzled veteran of joblessness. (Except not grizzled. Still rather fabulous, really.) So many people I know are out of work now, that meeting up with people has turned into “Oh, you’re looking for a job too? How long has it been for you?” and I always have seniority. So, go me.

The thing about long stretches of joblessness is that they contain several phases:

1. Enjoying the novelty of not having to get up and go to work in the morning.

2. Engaging in some old-fashioned, bright-eyed optimism.

3. Facing rejection.

4. Feeling like you might as well just print up a bunch of resumes and then set them on fire because that would do just as much good as mailing them (and you wouldn’t have to pay postage!).

5. Acquiring that sad hollow-eyed slumped-shouldered look.

6. Wearing sweatpants and watching a lot of daytime TV and crying when the bank statement arrives in the mail.

7. Thinking about stabbing people whenever they ask you how the job search is going, but not stabbing to kill or anything, because that would just be mean.

8. Getting a hobby.

9. Realizing that jobs have turned into urban legends — “Hey, I think this place is hiring… I heard that a friend of my cousin’s sister’s boyfriend got an interview there, so you should check it out.”

10. Going back to enjoying not having to get up and go to work in the morning, because you might as well.

If you let it, the entire experience would be enough to make you want to jump off a bridge. And while there are moments of that, certainly, born out of that general feeling of uselessness, the financial concerns and the constant blows to the self-esteem, the important thing to keep in mind is that it’s not personal, it’s just business. It feels personal when you spend hours writing a cover letter that is so amazingly beautiful it ought to make those who read it have to lock themselves in a bathroom stall and weep for a full 10 minutes due to being so completely overwhelmed by how amazing you are, and you get no response whatsoever, not even when you contact them and ask for a response, but to them, it’s not. You’re just a number, not a person thinking “Maybe this will be it.” They probably didn’t read that brilliant cover letter anyway. So, chin up. It’s not you, it’s them.

Well okay, sometimes it is you, but let’s not focus on that. The fact remains that no matter how many applications they get, and how unqualified any of us may be for something, these HR people could at the very least send us a note saying “No, I’m not hiring you, so fuck off,” in an entirely more diplomatic way than that, instead of just leaving people hanging without any sort of response whatsoever, because that, friends, is their job.

Anyway, in order to accentuate the positive in all of this, I’d like to provide those among us who may be hobbling through the unemployed life with a list of reasons why it’s not so bad. Everything changes, this too shall pass, blah blah etc., so let’s enjoy this for what it is, shall we? Here we go:

1. You’re not beholden to the 9-5 world anymore
This is perhaps the biggest and most obvious benefit of not having a job. Your time is your own. If you’ve always been a night owl straining to fit yourself into the morning person’s world so that you could show up for work on time every day, you don’t have to do that anymore. If you want, you can stay up until 3 a.m. and sleep until noon. Take the dog for a walk in the middle of the morning. Sit around in your pajamas all day. Do what you want. Your time is your oyster.

2. Not having to deal with workplace issues
Whenever a friend complains to you about what’s going on where they work, you can smile because ha! The phrase “sucks to be you” comes to mind.

3. You can do that stuff you never had time to do before
If you were waiting until you retired to finally read À la recherche du temps perdu, guess what? You can do it now! You’re kind of retired now, right? I mean, yes, without the pension and nobody gave you a gold watch when you lost your job, but still. If someone had given you a gold watch, you’d just have sold it because you’re broke, man. Wait, I’m focusing on the positive. You have time for stuff. If you want to spend an entire morning figuring out how to tie a ladder to the ceiling so you can take a picture, go right ahead. You kept waiting for a free weekend to re-caulk the tub? Who needs a free weekend when a Wednesday is all the same to you? Want to learn how to make the perfect pie crust? What’s stopping you? Nothing! Do it! (And then when you do make the perfect pie crust and incorporate pie with that, invite me over. Mmmm, pie.) Learn how to knit. Paint your bedroom. Write that novel you always meant to write. Volunteer. Not to be irritatingly Nike about things, but just do it. People have a misconception about unemployment, thinking that the jobless are just sitting around doing nothing except eating Cheetos all day, and that’s only true if you make it true. Just because nobody’s paying you, it doesn’t mean you can’t do stuff you want to do, and it’s the perfect time for so much. Take advantage of it.

4. Every day is like Saturday
No more working for the weekend. Every day is the weekend. Suck on that, employed people.

5. Pants optional
Enough said.

So that’s a brief list, but it’s all true, and I’m sure there are many more things that could go on this list. Remember: there are worse things in life than not having a job, like having a job you hate. That’s way worse, no matter how much of a paycheck comes along with it. So enjoy the time off, and don’t let it get you down. Things will change, and in the meantime, there’s always an episode of Law & Order for you to watch on TV somewhere.

8 thoughts on “unemployment benefits

  1. It’s been since Febuary for me. I’ve applied and interviewed and I scan the want ads every day. I’ve started writing more. I write two blogs, plus articles for Examiner.com. The writing helps. Creating things helps. My wife helps a lot by making a livng for us both. Thanks, Carol. I stay home a lot, cause it costs money to go anywhere. I’m reading three books at a time and learning new things every day. Still, it sucks and my standards for what constitutes an ideal job get lower every day.

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  2. It is 2:50 a.m. and I am actually reading this. I have been unemployed since June of 2008. I have applied to about 482 jobs so far and out of that, I have gotten response of about 6.
    —hang in there, I am trying.

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  3. “Realizing that jobs have turned into urban legends” – that’s my favorite line of this blog entry!

    Jamelah, as fabulous and ungrizzled as you are, I have no doubt that rich guys are proposing marriage, but don’t rush into anything. I saw this one episode of King of the Hill where Luanne married a rich guy, but he ended up wearing a pig head and chasing her around. Because he was insane or SOMthin. So be careful.

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  4. Is your degree in English? I seem to remember reading that somewhere here. Did the English professors and advisers at your school give you the old ‘Employers are looking for people with English degrees because they have critical thinking skills and an understanding of language that graduates with other majors don’t?’ That’s what mine told me.

    I’d like to add another positive item about joblessness if you don’t mind. If you do, damn, I really didn’t expect that.

    6. How was your day?
    Instead of being a queue for you to vent all of your hatred toward traffic, Tom from accounts payable, and unsticky sticky notes, this question is now a creative exercise. Sure, you could tell people that you spent five hours permanently damaging your eyesight while scrolling through page-after-page of Earn $1,000 a Day Searching on Google and NOW HIRING MOVIE EXTRAS for the off chance that a job listing relevant to you happened to get squished in there. You could tell them that. Or, you could tell them about the ladybug that had a very exciting day exploring the contours of your desk lamp. It’s totally up to you.

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