Friday, November 19, 2010

Are You Allowed To Enjoy Unemployment?

So, my husband is unemployed.   If you've been following along for the last few months, you know this.  

Next month he begins to fall into the category of Long Term Unemployed which has a whole host of negative connotations especially if you listen to certain individuals, who apparently think that those who can't find a job have a host of personal failings the rest of us are immune to, and perhaps should just float away on an ice floe, so as not to continue to bother the rest of us hardworking, morally superior Americans who are employed.

Huh.  I've never quite understood that particular line of thought, and I'm grateful that the people around me don't either.

Unemployment brings out a lot of different emotions during the course of it, especially the type of  unemployment that the current economy has brought about.  It's scary, it's overwhelming, it's filled with uncertainty, it can make people question their own self worth.

But it can also be a lot of fun.

I can hear the lynch mob screaming, even as I type.  "Unemployment should not be fun!  Unemployment is serious business.  These people are taking money from other hardworking Americans!   Unemployment is probably enjoyed only by those people who want a permanent government handout, and prefer to sit on their lazy asses all day!"

Let's ignore those moralizing basilisks for a moment though, while I make another, more important point.

More Important Point:  I do not mean to make light of unemployment.  At all.  It IS scary.  And it makes people who want nothing more than to go to work lose their homes, their savings, and creates food insecurity, which, in a country as bountiful and full of plenty as ours is - well, the fact that people around us can't be sure if they can feed themselves is shameful.  

But I'm a firm believer that you only get one life.   And that life is meant to be enjoyed as much as possible.  Even when money is tight and you don't know what is going to come next.

Money is important.   But when you get right down to it, money is not the value of a human being.

14.9 million people are unemployed. More are coming to join their ranks this December.  And walking around in a state of puritanical misery is neither good for the economy, their individual  job prospects, or their mental and physical health.  Adopting an unemployment hair shirt also teaches the children of said unemployed that money = happiness.

Let me repeat that, because I think it may be the most important thing I have ever written: It teaches their children that money = happiness and lack thereof should = unhappiness.  

Now really, is that the lesson we want the next generation to come away with? 

One of the greatest gifts my parents gave me is how to have fun on very little.  It's not a gift in the sense that being able to have fun without money is somehow morally superior to having fun with money.  Not at all.  In many ways, it's much easier to have fun with money.  And often I crave the type of fun that money brings.  As we all do.   Nothing wrong with that.


To teach your kids - or yourself - to have fun, and to see adventure even when circumstances are less than ideal gives not only a sense of safety in an uncertain world, but it grants a level of resilience as well.  In other words, having fun is healthy.  Normal.  And really really important.  Let's quantify this - who would you rather hire, the person who is optimistic and hopeful, or the person who walks around pissing and moaning?

Yeah, I thought so.   

So here's the thing: Enjoying unemployment may be the best way to stop being unemployed. Heck, enjoying your life is probably the best way to have a good one under any circumstances.

That doesn't mean you stop looking for a job, or spend lots of money on unnecessary things, but it does mean that perhaps if you are unemployed, you consider doing some of the things you have never had time for - stuff around the house, volunteering, learning a new skill, that sort of thing.  

Life is uncertain by it's nature.  So have a little fun, will ya?

Here are some ways you might go about it.