You would’ve thought my mother caught the Holy Ghost the way she was jumping up and down when I gave her the news. “I got a job,” I told her. While her and my sister thanked God and my friends planned celebration drinks, I sat on my bed thinking, “There goes my freedom.”
It was official: I got my first professional job out of college. It was time to exchange sleeping in for a 7:30am alarm sound-off, PJs for work-appropriate clothing, and day-time talk shows for staff meetings.
Don’t get me wrong, that 5-month unemployment period was one of the most emotionally draining times in my life. It really did a number on my self-esteem. I definitely don’t miss spending hours sending out cover letters only to get a few, if any, responses. I don’t miss relying on the money from my published articles to fill my gas tank. And I don’t miss trying to convince hiring managers that my English degree and editorial background are not completely worthless. Yet, during that time I wish I would’ve taken advantage of my free time and did so much more. Like:
I should’ve become a financial guru.
Since I wasn’t making any money, I put my financial planning on hold. I figured I would come back to it when I actually had some money to manage. Bad Decision. I’m now almost ready to start paying back some student loans and I haven’t yet selected a payment plan. Sallie Mae is going to start breathing down my neck in a minute.
I should’ve learned the Adobe Suite, Basic SEO, or any fun skill to add to my resume.
Lots of folks I interviewed with wanted to know if I had any experience with layout. Apparently, it’s not good enough to just be a writer anymore (Now, they want you to be able to format, write HTML, and put the whole damn magazine together). It was always on my list to learn those things, but I just never got around to them. I think I would’ve been hired earlier had I learned them. They’re still on my “Get Around to Eventually” list, since it would be good to know how to use them to enhance my own blog.
I should’ve spent more time outside.
On my last day of unemployment, I sat on a quiet beach and thought, “Why the heck wasn’t I here every sunny day?” I could’ve gotten a head start on my summer tan, or at least gotten rid of this natural raccoon tan on my face. Now I’ll be spending most of my time in a cubicle under fluorescents and trying to catch the last bit of sunshine on my drive home from work. Will that be enough Vitamin D?
I should’ve got my eyebrows done one last time!
I don’t trust just anyone to do my eyebrows. And Ms. Lady is so good, she always has a line of people waiting to be tweezed, waxed, and plucked -- but not on weekdays. I used to get my eyebrows done while everyone else was at work, but now it looks like I’ll be with the rest of the crowd. I’ll miss those perks like going to the beach, the mall, or the track when hardly anyone is there. My eyebrows are looking quite rough now. Guess I better take a book and wait my turn.
Now, I didn’t just sit in my bed all day and mope while I was unemployed (though that’s a good percentage of what I did). There were a few things I did right.
•I went to coffee shops, where other job seekers and writers often hover. Sometimes people gave me pointers or leads on jobs. It was good to be around people in a situation similar to my own. It was also good to get out of my house. A change in scenery was so necessary at times when I could sit at my desk no longer.
•I did what I love. I kept blogging and writing articles, and managed to get published on some of my favorite sites. I also checked tons of books off of my reading list. Doing these things brought me some of the happiness I needed during one of my roughest days.
•I found other ways to pick myself up. As I mentioned, I moped, pitied myself, and complained a lot—until I realized how counter-productive and uncharacteristic of me it was. Instead, changed my “What if” game. Every time I thought “What if_______ (insert something negative like: I don’t ever get a job or I get stuck with minimum wage my whole life), I would lay in bed, close my eyes and picture myself at the perfect job. That usually motivated me to keep sending in those applications. I also created a meme for myself to laugh at whenever someone told me I wasn’t qualified, or tried to offer me an underpaid position:
Now I am employed and grateful for it, but there a several things I will miss about my time of freedom. I used to hate people who would say “Enjoy it while it lasts,” whenever I told them I wasn’t working. Now I’m one of them.