When I lost my job and couldn’t immediately find a new one, disappointment became my daily companion. As weeks, then months passed, my search for employment still fruitless, I felt myself sinking into a dark place. I constantly wondered what was wrong with me.
I felt like I once felt in high school when most boys paid me little attention – I must not have been pretty enough, skinny enough, interesting enough, funny enough, rich enough, wild enough… My unsuccessful job search brought me back to that place – I must not be smart enough, talented enough, connected enough, educated enough, corporate enough, prepared enough… Finding a job had never been a challenge for me, yet there I was, empty-handed after three months of seeking work. What in the world!?! I knew I was more than enough for every job I sought. I also knew I had to do something different because applying for every job that fit my basic requirements wasn’t working.
I began to consider a new possibility. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to jump back into full-time employment. Maybe I was supposed to have some time off. Here are five things I did to make the best use of my unexpected time off.
1. Use the free time to do something that brings you joy.
Writing and enjoying nature are two of my favorite activities. I always feel good when I do them consistently. There was a time when I went to work while it was dark, spent 10 to 12 hours there, and went home when it was dark. At the time I didn’t completely understand why, but my outlook grew more and more gloomy although things at work were constantly improving. My doctor prescribed heavy doses of vitamin D and suggested I spend as much time outside during daylight hours as possible. That’s when I realized just how much I need to experience nature. Now that I have time on my hands I take every opportunity to enjoy our garden, walk around the back yard, spend time on the back patio, or just sit beside a window where I can feel the sun.
Writing is the easiest way for me to express myself. It helps me process my emotions. I write letters or short notes and send them to people I care about. I write stories and poems, most of which are never shared. I write in one of my journals (I keep one in my car, my purse, beside my bed… they’re everywhere.) Writing is my thing and now I have more time to do it.
2. Consider trying something new.
In my absence of employment I thought about creating a niche travel business geared toward Black women visiting New Orleans, then I changed my mind. I investigated the possibility of partnering with a church to open an elder care business. That didn’t pan out. I started exercising almost every day. I can’t say that I liked it but I felt great after I did it. I stopped when it rained four days in a row. I felt like a teenager that didn’t know what school club or team to join. The feeling was slightly disorienting, yet sometimes I liked the freedom of not being bound to anything.
The one thing I did consistently was write, so I decided to use that as a springboard to do something that required a more focused commitment. In May I started this blog, Build and Balance. In August, due to my family’s displeasure with the “public” school system that’s been overrun by private businesses, I started homeschooling. Both challenging and fulfilling, these endeavors have provided me with a way to focus my talent and energy in productive ways while I continue to seek sources of income.
Joining a dancing club or taking dance classes is next on my list of new endeavors. I’m really looking forward to having fun while I exercise.
3. Help someone else.
It’s amazing how helping others can make you feel better. Even though that statement may seem self-serving, it remains true. You don’t necessarily have to be an volunteer with an official organization. You also don’t need to have loads of money or time. When you’re looking for ways to help others you start to notice that you’re surrounded by opportunities to be of service. Here are a few inexpensive, simple ways to help others.
- Offer to help friends or family with school drop offs and pick ups.
- Offer to watch someone’s children or older loved one for them.
- Surprise someone with a friendly, encouraging note.
- Cut your neighbor’s grass or pull their garbage can in from the curb.
- Keep individually wrapped snacks or small personal care items such as peanut butter crackers, granola bars, deodorant, mouthwash or socks in your car. When you see them, offer them to people who are seeking help at intersections.
- SMILE and say something kind to the people seeking help at intersections (and to people in general).
- Check on an elder that you haven’t seen in a while. Call or visit, ask how you can help, and remind them that they are valued.
- Show up at your next meeting with coffee (or tea) for people the people in your group.
- Donate items that your family no longer needs to your favorite thrift store or charity. Some organizations will pick donations up from your home.
4. Take advantage of the time you have to relax and recuperate.
Sometimes you really need to chill!Just relax! Maybe there’s a very good reason you have nothing to do. It’s possible that what you truly need to do is NOTHING. We were not created to constantly do things. We are not perpetual motion machines. In our society rest is severely underrated but I’m all about an afternoon siesta, even if it’s only for ten minutes. When many people are trying to find time to rest, it seems wasteful – almost disrespectful – to avoid rest when you have the time. As with all opportunities that could benefit us, when given a chance to relax and recuperate, we should certainly take that chance. One never knows when the next opportunity will occur.
5. Don’t give up. Take breaks when you need them, then continue moving forward.
There isn’t much more to this one. I’m still seeking and creating opportunities to build my income, assets, strength, health, wisdom, and capacity. I’m still balancing my desires, needs, and wants with my responsibilities and current limitations. I do what I can with what I have and I pause when I need to pause, but I continue looking forward. When I’m ready, I take another step, then another and another. That’s all any of us can really do.
These five things have been working for me. When confronted with an unexpected, undesired (at the time) change, what are some things you’ve done?