May 27, 2014

The Many Changing (and Unexpected) Emotions of Unemployment

I used to joke about losing my job and how it’d be better than being stuck in an office all day long. There had to be more. I didn’t work in the healthiest environment, so surely anything would be better than that, right? I’d have unemployment and severance so I would be fine. I really had myself convinced that my type-A, need-to-be-doing-something-at-all-times personality would relish the time off. More than that, that I would be able to take the time off, sit back, and enjoy the summer. Well, here are the things I’ve found after one month of “freedom.”
  • I really do need to be doing something at all times. Within the first two weeks of losing my job, I had landed a part-time temp job, and started learning how to build websites. Granted, I was using template sites, but my knowledge of HTML, CSS, layout, and website things in general went from zero to 60. It’s the moments when I am still that… 
  • I am terrified. There are a couple of emotions that rise to the top and I can’t really distinguish which is the most overpowering. But fear is a big one. Yes, I have always been good with money and have savings. That is a great thing. But what I don’t know is how long I will need to sustain myself without a steady income. How long will I need to pull from savings to pay rent? How long will it take me to find work? Will I find work? I’ve always been a planner and having so much up in the air is downright terrifying. 
  • There are many ways to earn a living and they don't all involve sitting in an office. I've had some fun experiences in the past few weeks which have really been eye-opening. I may love the stability of working 9-5, but it's not the only way to be. I am still trying to figure out if I have the stomach for inconsistency. (If you know me you're thinking, probably not Jen, probably not.)
  • Stress can cause cold sores. I guess this is common knowledge for a lot of people, but I have never in my life had a cold sore. When my doctor friend responded to my text of, “What the fuck is on my face?” with, “Looks like herpes,” I was half ready to jump through the phone and ask my boyfriend what the hell?! But she explained that no, no, it’s just a cold sore. Super. With no health insurance, that little beauty took a solid 15 days to go away. I have friends who say they get them all the time. Dear God. 
  • The government stole my severance. Well, it pretty much got taxed like a bonus since it was paid in one lump sum. So about 45% of that money I never saw, which really doesn’t leave a lot. I finally understand all the stories you hear about people saying, “Eight years of my life and this is how I am treated? This is what I get?” It’s hard to see a value put on your time. Especially when that value is not a lot. 
  • I am sad. No, I didn’t love sitting in traffic for upwards of four hours a day and then spending the bulk of my life underneath fluorescence. But it allowed me to bring something to the table. This emotion took awhile to hit me, but not working has left me feeling lost, confused, and of very little value. What am I adding? The ego has kicked in big time and it is not a happy camper. This is probably the worst of the unexpected outcomes.
  • Unemployment can suspend your money for weeks at a time. When I am stressed or upset, I don’t process information well. That led to me filling out my unemployment forms wrong. Which led to them sending me a letter saying they’re not sure I will qualify and they will talk to me about it in three weeks. In the meantime they’d be holding all my benefits. And the part-time job I had, well that project is over. All of that is awesome when you have to pay $400 a month in insurance premiums. Which leads me to… 
  • The Affordable Care Act is not affordable. Not in New Jersey anyway. I still can’t wrap my head around how $400 is considered affordable when living on unemployment and supporting yourself completely alone. Granted, the month of May when I was in between work insurance and my own has been a stress ball until itself, so I am glad to be covered, but without money coming in, it’s hard to see how I can continue to pay for rent, food, and insurance. 
  • There is happiness, but it’s definitely hiding under the layers of stress, fear, and panic. The prospect of defining my own future is exciting. And there are moments when it seems like the world is exactly as it should be and things are awesome. But there are also moments when I have no reason what so ever to put on pants. I guess that’d be a plus in some people’s books. 
  • It’s a roller coaster. I’m a woman so I know what it is to be moody. But the past few weeks I’ve been amazed at the breadth of emotions I’ve had and the frequency at which I cycle through them. I’m beyond grateful for my friends who listen, talk me down, and just overall deal with, and help, me through this time. And that definitely goes on the plus list… 
  • I have some amazing friends. It really is through the hard times in life that you find who is really going to stand by your side and help you. I’m honestly blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life right now. I just want to hug them all—all of the time. 
  • I am going to be super fit. The last time I had this much time to go to the gym and yoga was when I was 22, not working, and living in California. At least then I had someone paying rent. My diet may have gotten worse because, let’s face it, crap food is way more affordable than health food, but I am working out everyday, most days twice. 
So basically, pick any one of the emotions above and I could be feeling them at any given moment, sometimes two at a time. It’s exhausting. I try to breathe and meditate and tell myself that I need to enjoy this time off, this time to myself, because it won’t be like this forever. In the meantime, I’ve launched a yoga project, have attended webinars, went to a yoga talk, attended free yoga events, built several websites, designed business cards, written articles, but today, for instance, I’m having a hard time putting on pants.


Unknown said...

Very well written!

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Carolyn Schultz said...

I can feel and understand absolutely everything that you have so beautifully articulated. Takes me back to where I was almost a year ago. I won't tell you that with time it gets better, but with time you gradually adjust to the differences between then and now, and that is better than the way it was before, if that makes sense. The cold sores will occur less, the insurance rates will still suck, just wait until you get into the taxes (Lord...), but your life will be more your own than it was before, and that is better than being owned by a heartless corporation.

Keep blogging. Your words transcend.