Today I’ve been thinking about that old saying… .”If I knew then, what I know now…”
It’s so easy to look back with the beauty of hindsight and consider how things could have been… So, as I think back to my 7 months of unemployment, I can’t help but think about how I could have spent my unemployed time differently.
Now don’t get me wrong, I still would have job searched furiously and it would have been incredibly difficult to overcome the all-consuming waves of anxiety. But, would I change anything? I can honestly say, now that I am somewhat removed from it and I have a bit of perspective, I do wish that I’d done a few things differently.
Last week I responded to a reader comment by saying that EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. of unemployment was filled with self-doubt, stress, anxiety, depression. It was truly the most difficult time of my life. Seven months of analyzing my life, my decisions, my skills, my opportunities (or lack thereof) and my inability to gain employment. It was exhausting and frustrating and it wholly consumed me. It occupied so much of my thoughts and my days, that I can almost say that I didn’t get anything positive out of this wonderful (and I say this with my tongue in my cheek) gift of time.
And that, my friends is what I would change.
It’s extremely rare in adult life, that you are given the gift of time. And, if you strip away all the horrible negatives of unemployment that is indeed what you are left with. And… I wish that I’d taken a moment to look at things around me differently. I wish that I’d done more with the downtime that was forced upon me.
It’s so much easier for me to see it now.. now that I’m back at work, now that I’m collecting a paycheck, and now that I have so little downtime. I had 7 months to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, and instead I sat around in my pajamas and I wallowed in self-pity, with a bruised ego. It was difficult to motivate to shower each day much less to “seize the day” to do anything more than search the internet for jobs & make networking phone calls. I was swallowed up by the stress and depression of unemployment, so much so, that I wasn’t actually living. It’s almost as if time stopped for me for 7 months.
I often wonder how different it would have been if I’d known, by some magical power, how long it would last. I honestly believe that, if I had known a firm end date to my unemployment, it would have played out differently. If someone had said to me… “you’ll be without a job for 3 months” or “you’ll be working again next February”.. or even if I had known that the term of my joblessness would end in 18 months or longer, I think it would have somehow felt different. For me, the burdening weight was the unknown… the stress of not having any idea if I’d be working next month or next year. The weight of this unknown was too much for me to process and was so crippling to me that I couldn’t take time to enjoy myself at all.
I envy those people who found a better way to balance their unemployed job search with activities they enjoyed. Playing sports, walks on the beach, gardening….whatever low or no cost things that made them happy. This is something I didn’t take proper advantage of.. and I truly wish that I had.
I know that if someone said this to me while I was unemployed I would have told them… “you just don’t understand how difficult this is…” And, any time someone told me they were envious of all the free time I had, it made me mad. But maybe I should have taken those comments in a different context, and heeded some of that hidden advice, to try to enjoy the time I had. Because eventually it did indeed all came to an end.
And now, as I look back, I can see it more clearly because I’m not clouded by all the bitterness and I realize that maybe, just maybe I should have done things differently.