On Being Voluntarily Unemployed

Where to begin? Even the title of this post sounds like a mega downer, or at least an opinion piece from the New York Times (disclaimer: this is not going to be even close to comparable to the latter). I knew going in to this self-chosen stage of my life (quitting my steady job with good pay and benefits and moving to a city on the other side of the country with no employment prospects or a place to live) that there would be struggles and challenges, and there are. However, there has also been a healthy dose of positivity and growth, which I wasn't necessarily expecting, at least not this early in the process. I've done a lot of thinking in all of my down time since my last day of work in August, and now I'm looking to pick those thoughts out of the folds of my messy brain (ew) and lay them out neatly in a list to see if I can make any sense of them. Care to join?

First, a mental palate cleanser:

Ah, fall. Something I don't get to experience this year.

All right. So. Unemployment.

Rachel's Thoughts On Choosing To Be Unemployed, Generalized

1. You don't realize how much money you have (had) until it stops replenishing your bank account every two weeks. I knew I was giving up an income, but not a day has gone by that I haven't thought about something I was purchasing and calculated the damage it would do based on when my next paycheck it was coming...only to realize that I currently don't have another paycheck coming. It's a habit I didn't even know I had. I know this will be good for my penny pinching abilities, but for the first time in my life, I actually need money for necessities like, say, furniture. And hangers. And shelving. Oh, to have shelving...

2. Regardless of the fact that you don't have chairs for your kitchen table or a place besides the middle of the living room floor to put your books, you still find a way to spend your money on food and drinks at tasty eating establishments. I feel that many of my problems are coming down to bad habits. In Minneapolis I was all, "Seven dollors? Whatevs, I'll be getting seven dollars plus another thousand in a week!". Here, I'm like "Hey, we applied for ten jobs today! They might not call us back, but we deserve a treat, right?". Multiplied by three-ish times a week. (Side note: in my defense, we have been making more meals than we used to.  Last night I actually whipped up some GRILLED peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which is one of the "recipes" that has been sitting on my Pinterest, waiting to be attempted. That's right, I actually did something I pinned on Pinterest! See, Mom, I'm being productive! Little hint about this: burning peanut butter does not a pleasant smell make. Also, I added cinnamon, which my guinea pig, Toby, agreed was a good life choice.)

3. As great as not having to go to work sounds, being unemployed is actually kind of boring. Don't get me wrong, I love the fact that I can go to bed with the knowledge that an alarm won't wake me up in the morning. And I do feel incredibly well-rested for the first time in years. But I've come to a somewhat thrilling conclusion: I need to feel productive. All of those hours I spent on the futon after work watching Hulu videos and eating cheese weren't a sign of laziness after all! They were a sign that after full days of doing nothing but sitting and typing about numbers and grain and cargo, I was so drained that my brain had turned to mush and creativity had ceased to exist in my entire being! This is promising, my friends. Craving productivity is something I'm not sure I've ever felt before except for brief moments in the middle of the summer during high school, and even then it could have just been hormones. Does this mean that I might actually enjoy having a - dare I say it - busy work schedule, as long as it's something I enjoy doing? More to come on that front as the future unfolds.

4. You finally realize what it is all those people wandering around the city streets on a work day were doing while you sat at your desk and stared out the wind-I mean, typed a lot. They were unemployed! Duh.

5. You don't have to work at a desk or go to an office to have a job. This one is more from my experience in Los Angeles so far (though I know it's possible anywhere). People actually do creative things for a living! That's obviously something I already knew, but you guys, people here are actually doing it! When I say "people", I mean most of the people that I've met and heard about. Office jobs exist in LA, of course. But the ratio of desks to studios/sets/projects and adventures is much smaller here. Do you have any idea what this means? It means that even I could maybe, someday, after paying my dues and working my way up from the bottom and all of that, have a job where I wake up in the morning, have a cup of tea, and sit down in my home office to write or edit or take photos. Even the entry level office job that I interviewed for earlier this week involves doing maintenance and running errands, which means I wouldn't be sitting at a desk all the time. Mind-blowing.

6. You can go to the beach whenever you want (if you live by the ocean). 

7. You pay more attention to the fact that there's a recession happening. So this is why it's such a big deal not to have a job and not be living at home any more and not have your parents paying for stuff! It kinda sucks. So stop arguing, Congress, and get something done already so that people can feed their families (that's me being politically active)!

8. Along those lines, you praise the sweet baby Jesus that you haven't brought any mini-Rachels into the world yet. I'm not dissin' on the people my age who have kids. I love kids; I'm excited to have them someday, and if you're ready to have children, that is absolutely fantastic. But this whole experience would have been a lot scarier (and wouldn't have even happened in the first place) if I had popped one (or more) out already.

9. You realize how excited you are to have a home someday. I guess this doesn't totally have to do with being unemployed, but if you get a job, do it well, and start earning enough money, you would have a house and the funds to buy things to furnish it, dang it! Apartments in the middle of the city are great, but houses in quiet neighborhoods are even greater. Does this mean I'm growing up?

10. If you are me, you are grateful to be voluntarily unemployed because it means that you're taking a risk and pursuing your dreams. If I wasn't doing this, I would still be sitting at a desk doing something I don't enjoy. I was waiting in traffic after my interview the other day, worrying about whether or not I would get the job, and it dawned on me that I would rather be in a car in LA stressing out about the possibility of getting even an entry level job at a production company that makes movie trailers and the opening credits for films than calling a ship line located in LA from my desk in Minneapolis asking them why one container had split off a million-container booking when they're both on the same vessel going to the same place?! You will only get that last part if you work in the international export/import business. Long story short: yay for being voluntarily unemployed, as long as you're actively trying to find yourself and do something you love. And as long as you don't run out of money in the meantime.

Things I'm diggin' right now:

:: Thought Catalog. This is for all of the twenty-somethings out there, since most of the content is by twenty-somethings. Some are whiny, but others hit the nail right on the head.

:: Why aging is awesome.

:: I don't surf, and I don't like cold water, but look, so pretty!

:: The Moment of Happiness (a daily quotation email I get from Gretchen Rubin, who wrote that book about happiness I told you about last month) from September 5th: "The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time." - Bertrand Russell

And now, some photos of what my autumn looks like (taken from the balcony above my apartment building's laundry room):

See, there are some dead leaves and stuff going on in there! Very autumnal.