Saturday, January 31, 2009

Permanent Vacation

As of yesterday, I've been laid off for six weeks now. And I gotta tell ya, aside from worrying about whether or not I'll be able to find a decent job again, I feel great. Money, or more accurately the lack of it, is the only thing that ever gets me worried. Fortunately, I've never concerned myself with the accumulation of it. My policy of just getting by remains intact.

Ordinarily, you figure that when you lose your job, you have to trim the fat in your budget, as it were. Some of the personal-finance gurus on the teevee are especially hilarious; they find suckers who live beyond their means to begin with, and find all sorts of fat to trim, idiots with massive credit-card debt and entertainment budgets. Hell, I can take a ludicrous budget like that and pick it apart, give me a book contract and some teevee appearances.

Our only extravagances are satellite teevee (95% of which we could do without anyway; an à la carte subscription system is long overdue), internets service (actually not much of a luxury anymore, since the majority of job postings and hunting is done online now), Netflix (a whopping twelve bucks a month), and food (eating healthy costs more than not eating healthy). So, not much to trim, which means it becomes a creative exercise in financial juggling. So far, so good.

So money is kinda jacked, but money is always jacked for nearly everyone. But on the personal happiness index, it's pretty good. Instead of getting up at five and getting home at six, I've been able to see my daughter when she leaves for school and gets back home, and even go on a couple field trips with her. I have time to exercise now, and have already lost ten pounds and put two inches back on my arms (chicks really do dig the gun show). I grab a guitar and play as often as possible, several hours a day, rather than the hour every week or so of aimless plunking. I have time to read actual books again, and have knocked out over half a dozen since Christmas. The weather has been amazing, and an opportunity to get out and walk and do yardwork. The long-postponed honey-do list is getting systematically tackled. Days suddenly seem full of things to do and enjoy and accomplish, rather than squeezing in a couple of necessary chores on the weekend, in anticipation of another soul-sucking week of commuting and tedium.

All these things are vital to peace of mind, obviously, which may be the most overlooked element in being successful at finding a job you actually want. It's hard to sell yourself, especially in a glutted market, when you can't get centered. This is even more true if, like me, you're the sort of person who tends to overcommit to your work, and become too much of a "team player", to where everyone just takes their problems to you because they know you'll take care of it.

And so many of us are experiencing the same thing, and there's some solidarity in that, that we all want and need to get working again, hopefully at something fulfilling and enjoyable, hopefully sooner rather than later. It's okay -- in fact, it's necessary -- to remain skeptical and at least cautiously pessimistic about how things are shaking out across the country. I think we're all angry as hell about how the big picture is going, and we should be angrier, if anything. But these times may also serve to help us refocus on the small pictures, and rethink what's important in life.


The Vile Scribbler said...

Good on ya. Here's to hoping the next job leaves a healthy amount of time for the good stuff in life.

I'm reading a couple Tony Horwitz books right mow myself. Confederates in the Attic was great (and I also just got this one, since we're on the TIDOS topic. I live right in the thick of that mindset, so I'm always trying to keep an eye on them.)

In other news, in case you didn't realize it already, they're never gonna let it go.

Heywood J. said...

Thanks. I've done a couple of interviews already, and keep searching pretty regularly. Something will come along; in the meantime, it's important to manage stress with all those other things I mentioned. I do think a lot of people in that position get caught up in panic and forget that. They're no good to their families, themselves, or their potential employers if they're constantly stressed out. You control what you can, and keep an eye on the rest.

Actually, as I recall, I came across Horwitz by a comment you left some time ago, and I just happened to be surfing through the archives. You had said something about Baghdad Without a Map, so I checked out Horwitz on Amazon, and ended up checking out both that and Confederates from the local library. I enjoy his writing quite a bit, and will probably check out Blue Latitudes soon. The fun thing about reading so much more lately is that the list of stuff to read grows much faster than my ability to keep up with it.

An interesting combination is that I read Confederates, Walk in the Woods, and Killer Angels consecutively, each providing different perspectives on the war and its lingering effects in that part of the country.

It's hard for those of us out in California to comprehend, but it seems that the war never ends for these guys because they still live in the middle of it all; the monuments and battlefields are all right there, so it's easy to preserve that culture, especially when you're economically aggrieved.