There’s a repeated scene in the excellent movie American Splendor where the neurotic hero Harvey Pekar wakes in the middle of the night sweating and breathing heavily on messy sheets. “Thank god,” he gasps. “I got a job”.
For an alpha female, being unemployed is kinda like that — without the “I got a job” part at the end.
You see, for some, unemployment is a pretty sweet deal. There’s the mild stress of looking for work, sure. But there’s also the joy of waking to your own clock, catching up with friends mid-week and long coffees in the afternoon. But for an alpha female, UNEMPLOYMENT IS A PULSING, THROBBING, BLOODY LIMB OF ANXIETY AND PAIN. She’s that kid who loved it when mum tucked the sheets around tight at night. The kid who listened to every parent, teacher, every figure of authority and diligently applied their advice from kindy to graduation. The kid whose floppy, gloopy sense of self-worth is only held upright by positive feedback, commanding high heels and a career trajectory on par with Elon Musk.
And robbed of her daily activity of putting out fires, managing up and a good reason to put on make-up, she’s crazier than an ice fiend robbed of meth.
For an alpha female, unemployment is a period of paralysing anxiety and less-than-zero productivity. It’s a time when the comfort blanket of a zillion tweets/emails/Likes/meetings/coffees/lunches has been ripped away and replaced by the soul-chokingly empty inbox that reeks of failure. It’s a time when her barely caged Self-loathing and Dread suddenly discover Confidence and Discipline have bailed and keys to the liquor cabinet are right there on the kitchen table.
And when she hears the garbage trucks trundle by at 10:45 AM she’s overwhelmed with nauseating sadness. “Ha!” she thinks (and when I write she, I mean me), “even garbage collectors have great jobs!” Yep, it sucks. But there are a few things that can make it better. And strangely, they’re not the usual suspects (sleeping all day, wearing PJs 24/7, hitting the bottle at 10am). The stuff that legitimately makes you feel better is the small stuff — reading books, long cups of tea, letting things come together rather than. Frantically. Freaking. Out.
During unemployment the alpha female in us all needs to take a deep breath. Joblessness happens to everyone. Kicking and screaming and hating yourself through it doesn’t make it any shorter — it just makes you dumber. And truth, there’s actually one skill you need more than being able to work. And that’s being able to live. Here’s a 10-step guide to help get started on that.
Bake – between all that working-late takeaway and toast your oven didn’t get much of a workout. Turn it on now and activate the forcefield of awesome.
Take a bus out of the city – the mind-blowing slowness of public transport outside of peak hour is one of the wonders of the modern world. Where have you got to be anyway?
Clean the cutlery drawer – because that dusty, rusty, battery-rattling mess isn’t doing you any favours.
Photograph flowers – they’re way prettier than spreadsheets. Chuck it on Instagram and suddenly feel like a pro.
Submerge yourself in water – they had baptisms for a reason. Dive under and emerge so fresh and so clean.
Catch-up with kids – they’re hilarious. And they don’t give a shit about your random insecurities. They just want to play.
Change the sheets on your bed – you now have the time to enjoy that fresh-sheet feeling every night.
Read a fantasy book – because magic plus swords times daemons equals brain massaging joy.
Pat an animal – you’ll get more out of it than they will.
Match all the missing socks – because when you pick up work, in like less than a week, you’ll be stoked they’re all there ready to go.