Feb 10, 2009

Looking at Positives While Being Unemployed

It's never a picnic being unemployed, but as I go through it I do see some positive sides in being this "in-between" place. It's interesting because these positives are something that I would have never gotten if I didn't lose my job. They say that sometimes you have to let go of something in order to get another thing: It's so true.

The first, and most important, positive effect that I saw and felt by being unemployed was my improved health. I knew I had some health issues caused by stress at work, but I honestly had no idea how bad it was. It seems that I had completely forgotten how it feels to have a well-functioning healthy body while I had my last job. Now that my body is starting to function the way it's supposed to, I'm just amazed how much difference it makes. I'm so lucky to find out how beaten up my body was by being unemployed, rather than, say, being taken into the hospital. I just need to remember not to put myself in that type of stressful environment again.

The second major positive effect was more available time to do things that I would have never been able to allocate my time to do while working full-time. Perhaps the fact that the unemployment rate is high and there are not many opportunities that match your background is also providing extra time as well (otherwise I'd feel that I have to spend all my waking time submitting my resume until I run out jobs to apply for). But whatever the reason is, I'm doing two things that I wasn't able to allocate my time before: thinking through how I want to live my life and spending time learning new things that are not directly related to work. Taking time to think through life has been very important and significant exercise for me (as you see that this blog is dedicated to that process and progress!). And being able to pick up any topic that I feel like and exploring it further has broaden my knowledge and perspective so much that it's also been invaluable. When I was working, the only books that I read were novels because I was too exhausted to read anything technical or complicated. I read to relax and rest my brain. But I hardly ever read novels nowadays because I don't need to.

And the last major positive effect is that it allowed me to put work and money into perspective. When I was working, I was doing so more or less under the notion that I pursue my career because there was monetary reward as I advanced, and I needed that monetary reward as much as possible and as soon as possible because I couldn't stand keep pursuing my career. This was a closed loop and a rat race that I didn't know how to get out of. Now that I'm actually off that rat race, that notion cleared out and I see that 1) if I had a work that fulfilled me, money becomes secondary issue only to get the minimum that I need to live off, and 2) my living cost isn't that high (especially when you are in better health). I had probably known all this in theory, but again, I probably couldn't have accepted it without feeling like a loser. Being unemployed allowed me to accept this.

Things happen for reasons, and I guess I must be exactly where I should be now.


  1. Well said, i found your link on the WSJ. I was let go in late Nov '08, and unfortunately or fortunately, I took the holidays to sulk. During that time, I realized the rat race was demoralizing (I had been making a decent six figure salary for a while, but it never actually made me happy). While I hope to make a good salary again someday, I have kept busy by re-enrolling in graduate school classes, joined two volunteer advisory boards and started exercising more in preparation for an autumn marathon. I hope to learn basic piano, something I've talked about but never took the plunge. My wife has been very encouraging of my alternative activities while seeking work. I've also connected with a few old friends that are also unemployed and I have truly enjoyed their company and learned some useful things from how they handle the fear and uncertainty. Anyways, thank you for your blog and best of luck. I'm certain there will be some good days and bad days ahead, but in the long term it will help us realize how lucky we are and not define ourselves by our career or lack thereof...

  2. I’m happy that you are taking this opportunity to do things that you’d always wanted to do but couldn’t. It’s nice to hear what others are doing (and I prefer to hear others doing positive stuff, too…), it encourages me. School, advisory boards (two!), and training for marathon! You are doing a lot of good stuff. They say that sometimes taking a longer route is the quickest way to reach where you want to be. Who knows, you might get your next big gig through your connection at the advisory board. Best of luck to you, too. As you said, there are good days and bad days, and it seems that staying on the good side gets harder as the time goes by. But we will come out stronger and better.