Unlike most people, I knew that the end was nigh. In fact, I knew the exact day when I would transition from an employed person of good social standing to an unemployed cretin. At least that was how I first viewed my upcoming joblessness. But my colleagues, former colleagues now, saw it differently. The word “funemployment” was bandied about as though we were all heading down to Cancun for spring break instead of losing our health insurance. It was portrayed as the sort of sabbatical a professor of leisure studies takes: a hedonistic, carefree break devoid of obligation. “Think of all the time you’ll have!” they whispered while offering me a Dixie cup of Kool-Aid. I nodded, wide-eyed, and took a deep, long sip.
I was expecting massive amounts of fun. I was expecting day trips to the Hamptons and wild nights with nobody to answer to except my liver. I was expecting to finally see all the museums without any of the crowds. I was expecting BIG THINGS (caps necessary). For once, I would be the center of the universe and that universe was called, strangely, funemployment.
Turns out, funemployment isn’t that fun. It’s not terrible and there are worse things that could happen to a person (dying, covering the Gathering of the Juggalos for a media outlet, being stuck in an elevator with Gilbert Gottfried), but it definitely isn’t fun. Exaggerations aside, sure I can wake up whenever I damn please and my schedule revolves solely around my own bowel movements (as opposed to others’, for those who work in sanitation), but the monotony gets to me. Slowly, I’m realizing the routine joys of working. I don’t know how much tollbooth fee collectors make or what their life expectancy is, but after being out on the lam for just two weeks, I want that kind of excitement. Plus, my B.A. in French would finally be helpful to all those Quebecois weekenders.
The problem is three-fold. One, I don’t have any money. Or rather, enough money to have a really awesome time. If funemployment came with a weekly “fun stipend” that let me make proper use of all this time I have, it would be a different story. But sadly, the government unemployment compensation that arrives in my checking account every Thursday is woefully small. Large enough to probably make a difference in most third world countries, but too small for proper carousing. (NOTE: I’m curious to see if any of the GOP candidates mention their support of a funemployment stipend in their upcoming campaign pushes. It’s a real hot button issue among us 8%-ers.)
Two, the number of people with which one can have said fun is depressingly scarce during the week. This is because they have jobs, which was the thing I used to have before funemployment started. Now, I could be an exception since most of my friends are gainfully employed, but if you have a bunch of unemployed friends I don’t think that’s funemployment. It’s called graduate school! I am so sorry about that one.
Third, and most deadly, is the sheer amount of available time that I am confronted with. All that time previously spent toiling away at the office (10-12 hours a day) is now a vast maw of inactivity. It’s not a matter of what to do, it’s a matter of when to do what. Only careful planning can insure that I’m not left with a massive block of time and no activity to fill it. This “dead air,” as I call it, is very dangerous. Most often, it ends with me scrolling through an eBay auction with no recollection of how I arrived there. Other times, it concludes with a visit to Chipotle. Point is, all this time cultivates complacency which leads to boredom which breeds more lazing about until I find myself ordering delivery despite having an entire afternoon to walk and pick it up. Or better yet, learning how to cook.
I know what you’re thinking: Aren’t you going crazy? How do you stay sane? Would you like a job? Unless I am in a mental asylum by the time you are reading this, dear reader, here is how I’ve survived Shawshank so far:
- Going to the gym; laundry (no tanning)
- Netflix and Hulu and YouTube
- Naps (cat and otherwise)
- Reading and Writing
- Basic hygiene
- Advanced hygiene
- Applying to jobs
- Writing follow-up emails to jobs I am moderately interested in
- Getting rejected from jobs
Now, what’s the featured article on Wikipedia today? Yesterday it was Pangaea!