It may seem taboo to speak of unemployment positively, and it definitely seems to be very rare. A quick search on google reveals that most answers related to unemployment are either for depression or moaning about how much it sucks. But there are not many people speaking about its benefits.
As I write this post, I wonder whether saying I have enjoyed being unemployed is taking a risk that people might just decide to leave me unemployed forever, or if on the contrary I’m showing that by being pro-active and having positive thinking, you can make the most out of this time.
Before I started my period of unemployment, I was really worried about what it was going to be like. I was scared of being bored, of going crazy and getting cabin fever, and basically just not being very happy. But the truth is, it has turned out to be quite different. Ok so, I have several positive factors that have helped me out and these are the following: I get unemployment benefits which means that I don’t have to worry so much financially as people who are depending only on savings. I also started my period of unemployment in January, meaning that the better part of this period has been spent in nice weather and about the best time of year.
But it’s not all been peachy: signing up for the unemployment benefits was a real nightmare. Not only does it take forever, but of course there’s always one document missing, and one more thing to chase up, and it ends up taking you months before you are actually signed up and receiving benefits. It can be quite stressful, and upsetting, and it’s definitely meant to put you off. Well, it almost worked but I hung in there and now everything is working fine. Of course, financially you’re not living the life you lived when you had a nice fat salary coming in, but if you know how to cut spending in a smart way, there’s no reason why you should have to worry about paying the bills, and not be able to have a bit of fun too.
So what exactly is good about being unemployed? I can think of a few answers. One is time, and the other is freedom, and I think that combined both of these make up for about 99% of the benefits of being unemployed. Sure, I’m a young twenty-something with no children, but I think this philosophy can be applied to most people.
It’s fantastic to be able to have all the time in the world to do what you want. Not what someone has asked you to do, but what you feel like doing on that particular day. Feel like having a baking day? Do it! Feel like going on a day trip? Do it! Feel like sitting at home all day watching movies? Do it! The key of course, is to strike a balance. If you spend every day at home watching movies then it can obviously become depressing quickly as you start to feel useless and aren’t getting out and about. But if every day you do something fun and different, then suddenly it all becomes much more interesting.
Not only that, but you also have the time to do all those small things you’ve been meaning to do for years and never had time for. Wanted to clean out the attic? Now you can! Wanted to sort out all those pictures you took on holiday last year? Now you have time for it. Wanted to read those books you got given at Christmas? Now you can do that too. Basically, you can catch up on a lot of things.
Freedom: I think this is the most interesting part, as you finally feel liberated from a lot of constraints. You don’t have to get up in the morning (though it’s best to do so) to go to a job you find boring. You don’t have to worry about deadlines, or that thing you forgot to do which will set you back, or that huge to-do list of things you have for tomorrow. You don’t have to worry about everything falling apart if you go on holiday, you don’t have to worry about being accountable to someone. Essentially, you’re free! You can engage in any activity you want, and you’re your own boss.
This is a great way to learn to slow down and enjoy life one step at a time. I’m usually a very time stressed person, running around planning things to the minute, making sure everything and everyone fits into my schedule, and worrying about what I have to do next. Being unemployed has taught me to be much more laid back about things. When I say laid back, I don’t mean careless, I mean relaxed.
For example, not everything has to be done within the next second or else it’s a fail. Not everything needs to be urgently decided or organised right now. Of course, when you work you have some imperatives you have to take into account, but I believe that being unemployed can help you to learn to balance your priorities, with your relaxation time. Once out of work, learn to enjoy and take things on, one step at a time.
Being unemployed is also a great time to engage in volunteering, and either discover new areas of interest, or carry on in old areas of interest. This means that you will not only feel useful, but you will keep yourself busy, use your skills, and make sure that during your unemployment you haven’t just been sitting at home feeling depressed. Through volunteering, you can meet new people, keep your network active, learn new skills, and many more.
Being unemployed is also a time to figure out what you want to do with your life and give it new direction. Perhaps you’re a young twenty something like me, and you can decide what exactly you want to do with you career and what direction you want it to go in. Perhaps you’re a thirty something and you’re thinking of a career change. Now is the right time to give it consideration, and put into action what it is you want to do. Perhaps you’re a forty something and you feel it’s time to move to a new job to give some new impetus to your career. In any case, it’s a great time for you to take you career into your own hands, shape it, and give it the direction you want, not the one you have been thrown in to.
I understand that unemployment is not all peachy and that it has its negative sides. Of course, you get tired of job hunting and sending in endless meaningless applications. Of course, you get tired of never getting any answers or being told your profile “didn’t quite fit the job”. Of course, it’s a worry financially at times, and you hate having to tell your friends you are unemployed. It goes without saying that being unemployed has its down sides too.
But the point I am trying to put across, is that if you use this time wisely, and use it to do what YOU want to do, then unemployment can really change your life in a positive way. It can be a great time to get to know yourself better, and to do what you really enjoy. If you use this time in a constructive manner, then you can go out and meet friends and prospective employers and tell them “Yes, I’ve been unemployed, but it was great”. “I was unemployed but I’ve been keeping myself busy, and I’ve developed this new skill that would be great in this position you’re advertising for”.
Try to see the positive sides of unemployment, and use it to your advantage. And remember, enjoying your period of unemployment doesn’t mean you want to stay unemployed forever, it just means you have managed to find its positive aspects and make the most out of it to your advantage.