The Unbearable Banishment: What I learned while unemployed

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What I learned while unemployed

I lost my job at J.P. Morgan back in December, which was a blessing in disguise if ever there was one. Since that time, I’ve worked a series of consulting/freelance projects and have, by and large, remained gainfully employed. Mrs. Wife and I have always made a point to live below our means, so money hasn’t been a huge problem. Mrs. Wife, to her credit, doesn’t give a shit about material things. We don’t need much to get by.

I seem to be on the threshold of a job offer. I’m probably speaking too soon but even if this one doesn’t work out, the economy is on the mend and I suspect a hire offer isn’t that far into my future. Until then, there seems to be plenty of freelance work floating around.

This has caused me to reflect on the time between projects when I didn’t have work. I’ve had two or three week periods where nothing much was happening. I, as I’m sure all of you, have always suspected that not working would be a pretty sweet deal. I like what I do for a living and I don’t mind working. But what I didn’t realize, and now know, is that not working is FUCKING AWESOME to the 10th power, especially if you have New York at your doorstep.

I know lots and lots of stay-at-home mothers who insist that raising kids is a full time job and that they are, de facto, “working.” I respect that. I prefer Mrs. Wife stay home and take care of The Daughters. I believe they’re happier for it. Raising kids is a lot of hard work but, I’m sorry, it’s way more satisfying than the grind of commuting 2x per day, sitting at the same desk under the same florescent lights, Monday through Friday and being surrounded by people who, by and large, you wouldn’t choose to associate with. Not working is the BEST. But the pay is terrible.

Here are some things I learned while unemployed.

I learned that if you visit any of the art museums in Manhattan during the week and get there just as they’re opening, you can have the whole place to yourself. Especially the Met. The Met is so vast that it disperses the crowd pretty well. The galleries are gloriously empty and you don’t have people walking in front of you while you’re studying a painting. Same goes for the art galleries in Chelsea.

I learned that during the day, the gym is empty. Nobody postures and preens. Nobody is texting or cruising for tail. All the equipment is available. Get in, do your thing and get out.

I learned that sleeping in is overrated.

I learned that there’s an entire subculture in New York City of people who don’t work and don’t seem to have money problems. Central Park is full of people out enjoying themselves in the midday sun and I’m not counting the tourists. You can tell the visitors from the locals. I don’t know how they do it! Who are these people who are able to jog around the reservoir at 3:00 in the afternoon?

I learned how to paint the interior of a house. I never knew! Seriously! The painting is a drag but the end results are pretty satisfying.

I learned that having breakfast with 3-Year Old Daughter and being home when 8-Year Old Daughter gets home from school to help with her homework is a worthwhile expenditure of my time.

I also learned how to do this. And, no, that’s not me. I’m good until about 2:15 in. That’s when I eat this guy’s dust.


Blogger Pueblo girl said...

And the cynic in me says that's why governments worry about unemployment. Nothing to do with suffering and hardship, they're scared witless by the thought of people discovering that not working is best.

Still, advance congratulations on the possible job.

April 20, 2010 at 1:15 PM  
Blogger Barlinnie said...

As long as your head is above water, and your arse is high and dry enough out of the rain...

April 20, 2010 at 1:54 PM  
Blogger Ellie said...

I can find plenty to keep me busy; sadly, no one will pay me for any of that stuff. Work. Ug.

April 20, 2010 at 3:06 PM  
Blogger Poindexter said...

A-frigging-men! If i had the financial means, I would SO not be leaving my house at 6:30am for a daily commute and wondering how I'm ever going to have enough time to get my oil changed.

Hope this opportunity comes through & I've enjoyed your bits of wisdom and reflection along the way too.

April 20, 2010 at 3:34 PM  
Blogger savannah said...

y'all are indeed a fortunate man, sugar! xoxoxox

April 20, 2010 at 3:35 PM  
Anonymous annie said...

I discovered the "fucking awesome" secret myself way back when I was on leave from my teaching position for a few months. It made going back ... hard.

The biggest things is that you discover that working to live is really, really what all but a tiny percentage of us do and the idea of "career" was made up to to placate us.

I find now that I want to do something that matters with my time and that most jobs don't fall too deeply into that category.

April 20, 2010 at 4:27 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

PG: That WOULD lead to a severe drop off of tax revenue. You might have a point there.

Jimmy: It pays to shun luxury. It's hard to maintain in lean times and it won't make you happy, anyway.

Ellie: That's the rub. None of the things I like to do are money-making ventures.

Point: Thanks for your good wishes. This is the kind of knowledge I probably could have done without.

Savannah: Every morning I meditate and remind myself of that.

Annie: Very few of us escape this fate. It's part of the human condition. The best we can do is learn to live with it. Your survival instinct kicks in.

April 20, 2010 at 5:38 PM  
Blogger mapstew said...

02:35 November 5th 2007.

That's when I finally threw the towel in and decided to live off what I could make, doing what I love doing. Like yerself and the Mrs., we don't need luxury, an occasional treat now and then, a holiday saved for and enjoyed, and my family eating food prepared by me around the table together most days. Nice. :¬)

April 20, 2010 at 8:08 PM  
Blogger Cat said...

You just shush about the great gig us stay-at-home. We don't the general population to know.

April 20, 2010 at 10:02 PM  
Blogger leahsimone said...

Those are great lessons.

I agree with you and I love being home actually--even when I whine about the chores, I really love it. I did the grind, and I prefer being a housefrau with daydreams.

And yeah, what is it with the people hanging out in the middle of the day without a seeming care in the world? It's not like they have kids in tow either, or are doing errands. It's all over my part of Brooklyn too.

April 20, 2010 at 10:35 PM  
Blogger leahsimone said...

On re-reading I realize what you're saying--it's really a hard thing to realize you like being home when you can't be.

But it is good news, if bittersweet, about the possible job!

April 20, 2010 at 10:37 PM  
Blogger Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

Thats my view on travelling, too. Its amazing how there are all these people just trotting around the world on shoe string budgets, people of all ages, who have discovered that there's more to life than sitting in an office. Hey, you can live in an amazing country and sustain your life and flights by fruit picking, you know. I've met 40 year olds who have travelled for years with no intention to go home. Why doesn't everyone do it?

April 21, 2010 at 1:54 AM  
Blogger Ponita in Real Life said...

I could so retire this instant if I had the financial means! But it'll be years before I have enough of a pension, and no one seems willing to sell me a winning lottery ticket, so I work. BUT... I try to make the most of the time I have away from work and do the things that I love. Consequently I have a very busy life. But it's good!

I'll hope for good news re: the job, and congratulate you on the time you've had with your girls and the city in daytime. A lovely experienced to be cherished forever. :-)

April 21, 2010 at 2:13 AM  
Anonymous sid said...

The only thing I learnt from unemployment is how much I despise Dr Phil. When you're not making money there isn't much you can do in CT.

April 21, 2010 at 3:58 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Map: I wish I had the guts to do that. But I'm the kind of person who needs to know there's a steady paycheck coming in.

Cat: You guys are incredibly lucky and I'm a jealous old rooster.

Leah: Being laid off in the midst of a recession is pretty stressful stuff but if it hadn't happened, I would have had all these great days with my family and in the city. Going back to work will be bittersweet, indeed.

Jo: For most people, your bones start to settle, you may acquire a kid or two and before you know it, your movements are severely restricted. It's the typical course of the human experience. Those free spirits you're meeting are the exception.

Ponita: Thanks for your good wishes. I don't know for certain if the job offer will come, but it looks promising. If not that one...then the next.

Sid: THAT'S THE RUB! It's all about the cash. People think money = power but that's not true. Money = FREEDOM.

April 21, 2010 at 7:32 AM  
Blogger Ms Scarlet said...

It's great for those of us who don't have the desire to spend loads of money - but that's the calculation.
You earn as much as you need to get by happily.

April 21, 2010 at 7:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

my life got better when i gave up "career" and started "working". same job, new attitude. i take my vacation days now... for you? getting laid off. for me? divorce, cancer, empty nest - all within about a 3 month period.

and the jimmy page? that rocks. we could jam that one... although you'll have to sing it. i don't scream.

April 21, 2010 at 7:58 AM  
Blogger kyknoord said...

You're a bigger man than I'll ever be. In my heart of hearts, I know I enjoy being a small cog in the big machine.

April 21, 2010 at 12:12 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Scarlet: Spending money won't make you happy. It took me a long time to realize that but it's true. NYC is full of wealthy, miserable people.

Anon: What a harrowing tale! You should open a blog about that stuff. It's cathartic.

Kyknoord: I'm the same way. I like working for an established firm. See my response to Mapstew.

April 21, 2010 at 12:27 PM  
Blogger daisyfae said...

no idea why i came up 'anonymous'. blogger/google fart? what evs... it was me... somethings changed on your site, or with my google accts...

April 21, 2010 at 2:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The question of what I'd do if I could take a year off is one I keep asking myself now and then - more and more frequently with every passing year, sadly... If only I had the financial discipline!

My list is very different from yours, but your writing struck a chord nevertheless. Great post!

April 21, 2010 at 3:41 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Daisy: That was YOU?! Well, in that case, my comment to you was extraordinarily prescient, since you've already started a blog.

Rohan: I took at peak at your profile. You're 27. Do it now. Break away for a year. You won't get another chance and you won't regret it. The longer you wait, the more difficult (impossible) it will become.

April 21, 2010 at 6:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

c'mon, dude. how many guitar-playing mid-career women hit divorce, cancer and empty nest within 3 months?

April 21, 2010 at 10:43 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Daisy: Just one.

April 21, 2010 at 11:12 PM  
Anonymous rubyTwoShoes said...

Awesome post! Welcome to my world, where I may add (at least if you live coastal) that you can go to the beach in the middle of the day and have it almost to yourself.
I really LOVE hearing someone celebrate how wonderful it is to have time!
(this whole topic is a bit of a pet fav of mine...)

April 22, 2010 at 7:47 AM  

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