surviving unemployment

Unemployment can definitely be scary. I’ve been here before, so I sort of knew what to expect. The first time I was unemployed, I had no benefits. It’s the unemployment that ruined my credit. I was buying food from the dollar store, which was hard to ration because it would go bad in a matter of days. Luckily, after three months, I found another job.

The second time, the company I was working for went under. I had benefits, but I left my unhappy living situation and moved in to my dad’s home. There were 9 of us in a three bedroom, two and half bath house. 6 girls sharing one shower. Three months later I was back in Chicago and attending the portfolio school.

I’ve now hit the three month unemployment mark, and well, things on the reliable source of income front haven’t changed and don’t readily seem like they’ll change. I mean, yes, I have a plan: Grad School. In 2014. One year from now. But I’ve got the here and now to worry about and unemployment can be down right daunting. You need a plan, otherwise you’ll just go crazy.

1) Figure out what you want to do with yourself.
Seriously. It may take you months to figure it out, or maybe you already know, but take some time and really think about what’s important to you. What do you want to do? What do you want to pursue? Explore every possibility. You may not figure it out during your unemployment, but at least you gave it thought and made an effort to doing something that matters to you.

Of course for me, it’s been grad school… But once my applications are all sent off, I can’t just sit and wait.

2) Give up the idea of a dream job falling in your lap.
Ok, now, don’t call me a pessimist, but you do need to hold on to some shred of reality here. If you want something, you’re going to have to work for it. But I’m not about to get all life coachy on you. Sometimes you take the “ok” job because it’s a job. It’s a paycheck that’ll help you get by. Just because you took the ok job doesn’t mean you have to stop working towards the dream job. And you never know, that ok job may turn out to be a great job, and may send you in a direction you never thought you’d go. (I mean, if you can help it, don’t just settle for any job… but remember there’s no shame in taking something just to pay the rent — a lesson I’ve learned a few times now.)

3) Get dressed.
Chances are you’ll spend a lot of time at home. And while it may seem nice to stay in your PJs all day long… well, I found it’s starts a bad cycle of laziness. I’ve made a rule that I have to at least put a bra on. And now I’ve moved on to loose tees and leggings as pants. So figure out what it is that makes you feel motivated to do something other than go right back to bed.

4) Make a schedule.
It’s super easy for the days to blur together when you’ve got nothing to do and no where to go. Every day’s a weekend, but you probably shouldn’t treat them like they are. I spend an hour each day from Monday through Thursday on my online courses (when they’re in session). I’ve also been spending at least an hour each day on my grad school applications. Also: set alarms. I have one that goes off to remind me to certify for my unemployment benefits, and now another one to remind me of rent.

5) Find some good use of your down time.
You’re going to have so many hours a head of you… Probably shouldn’t spend them all on Netflix. I’ve tried. Mostly you just run out of shows faster and end up watching drivel. I’ve been reading a lot. Finished the first Game of Thrones book in 3 days. Also busted out my water colors. I had painted some in high school, and a little in college… but mainly acrylics or oils, and I was never serious about it.

water color painting, beating boredom during unemployment

They’re not super amazing, but it felt good to do something creative again.

If it wasn’t for my severance, this unemployment might be a lot different. I’m not worried about being able to buy food, or if I’m going to be able to pay rent. I still don’t have the lifestyle I used to, but I don’t have to be uncomfortable.

Three months have passed. Having the tours helped, but that was only a couple of weeks. The rest has just come down to me making the best of this situation. Hermit life is all right for a little while, but it grows old fast. I have to remind myself to get outside every now and then… It’s not perfect, nor is it easy, but you make it through one day at a time.

*Every time I wrote “you” I also, and mainly, meant “I”… or whatever form is grammatically correct.