How to Make the Most of Your Unemployment: Part One

No, this is not a guide to beating the unemployment system. Because that would be wrong. Plus, I don’t know how to work the system.

Instead, this is a place for me to document how I’m taking advantage of this time of unemployment. If it gives other people ideas, great. If not, I can look back and see what I accomplished (or what I need to do better next time.)

To give context, the job I procured when I first moved to LA two months ago was a summer nanny gig. The summer is now over, so my employment is over. This was great. This was just what I wanted. Low commitment. Something to tide me over until I get a job in the industry. This was perfect.

Yeah, not so much.

Sure, I was able to save a little more than one month’s rent (after already paying this month’s rent) and I have a 0% APR credit card for the next year or so, but I don’t like uncertainty. I don’t do well with uncertainty. So everything I do on a daily basis is my attempt to distract myself from the uncertainty. From the negative aspects of unemployment.

So what are the positive aspects of unemployment?

R & R

It’s forced rest and relaxation time. There’s nowhere to be, no excuses not to exercise, hang out with friends, eat well, read, and better yourself in general. This is going to look different for everyone. For me, an introvert, I took about 3-4 days to do absolutely nothing. I placed no expectations on myself. I ate whatever I wanted. I watched two-and-a-half seasons of Heroes. I played The Sims. I spent 16 hours every day in the same spot on the same couch.

I call this my detoxing.

What happens after the detox?

Cleaning

Today I cleaned like mad. I cleaned my bathroom (everything looks gorgeous now!), I vacuumed, I took the trash and recycling out, I organized my room, I did laundry, dishes, anything I could think of got done. It’s almost 5:00 and I’ve only watched 30 minutes of television. And those were TED talks (more on that later).

Food

When you’re unemployed, it’s important not to overspend. And now you don’t have any excuse not to make food at home. Supposedly it’s cheaper, and I guess it is, but when I go to the store for “a few things” and spend $50, that’s hard for me to rectify. But I digress.

It is cheaper. And it’s healthier. And the best way I’ve found to do this is to choose a few recipes for the next few days, shop for them, then come home and make them right away. Or at least make the things that are possible to make ahead of time.

Today I went to the store (see? I got a lot done between cleaning and food), spent $60 (but that included toilet paper, so really it was the usual $50), came home and immediately set up stations.

Like most apartments, my kitchen is pretty small. There’s a tiny bit of counter space to the left of the dish drainer, a large space to the right of the sink, and a small space on the counter that holds the microwave and toaster. So this got complicated. Regardless, I set up space to mix some tuna salad together, another space to make an avocado cilantro sauce, and another space to cook my breakfast because I broke all the rules and went to the store hungry.

Additionally, I made some fruit juice popsicles and froze some grapes.

So now I have enough tuna salad for a few meals, a great sauce to use with raw veggies (enough to last at least a week), and some healthier dessert options. Plus, I had extra gluten-free pancakes, so tomorrow’s breakfast is taken care of. If I pair these options with the remaining oatmeal, eggs, salmon, chicken, and veggies I already had, I’m good for the next few days at least. In the end I’ll have probably spent less than $100 for a week’s worth of food.

Bonus, I got to feel productive for the first time in a while.

TED Talks

The last thing I want to talk about is TED talks. If you have a computer, or even better an Apple TV, TED talks are easily accessible these days. Most videos are about 15 minutes, which makes them perfect for watching while you eat a meal, or even while you prepare a meal. And since they’re largely auditory you don’t even need to be looking at the screen most of the time.

Over the past few days of unemployment I’ve watched a variety of talks ranging from how to make choices (this was chosen once I realized I was having difficulty choosing a TED talk), lexicography (the act of compiling dictionaries), and tapping into our brain to experience the world around us in a new and different way.

These were fascinating, I felt more well-rounded and knowledgeable after watching them, and I even got a few ideas for characters and story lines.

I’ve been watching TED talks for years, but rarely with such a determination (usually only after being recommended I watch a specific video), so I encourage everyone to be more intentional in watching TED talks, particularly if you are currently unemployed.

Upcoming in Part Two: looking for a job, working towards your goals, exercise, and more.

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