The Upside Of The Economic Downturn: Why Being Unemployed Isn’t So Bad

Image courtesy of Roy Lichtenstein

With the economy being as tough as it is, and so many people struggling to find work, including many who will read this, it’s very easy to fall into a dark hole of depression and despair.  How will I find another job… when will I find another job?  How will I pay the bills, feed my kids, afford the rent? When will this economy improve… will it EVER improve? As we spend hour upon hour on Craigslist and other sites searching for jobs, sending our resumes into a black hole called the internet, these are the questions that crowd our minds.

Then, of course, there is the interview process.  Our hopes held high with that first phone call: “We were looking over your resume and really like what we see…” only to be shattered later with the second or third call (or better yet, a very impersonal email): “After going through the interview process, we have decided to go with another candidate whose skill set best fits the qualifications of the position.  We wish you the best of luck in your on-going search for employment.”

It’s almost worse than getting laid-off.  Rejection is never easy.  Uncertainty never comfortable.  Unemployment never fun.  Or is it?  Could it be?  If we looked at it from a different perspective, is it possible to find an upside in all of this?

Maybe so.

Think about your life before your first job.  What was your dream?  Not your goal nor your plans, but your dream… that far away, far-fetched idea that you spent nights discussing with your friends in college, or discussing with yourself as your mind wandered in art history class.  I wanted to write for a fashion magazine.  (And save the world.)  My girlfriend wanted to be Christiane Amanpour, traveling through the worst parts of the world exposing injustice and crimes against humanity.  I’m unemployed now… she’s a mother of two.

So… could that terrible blow to our egos when we get axed from a job we sort of hated anyway actually be a blessing, a wake-up call that it’s time to do what we want to do?  And not what we think we should be doing?

Instead of focusing our attention on all the terrible things about being unemployed, here are a few reasons why it actually isn’t so bad:

1. We can wake up in the morning and think to ourselves that ANYTHING is possible.

Gone are the days where our entire day, week, year… lives… are scheduled by the hour.  Instead of waking up at 5am – heading to the gym for a 45 minute workout, back home to shower, in the car by 7:30 and at the office by 8:45-9am depending on traffic – we can finally wake up and enjoy the silence.  We can finally wake up and enjoy the possibilities that the new day will bring to us.  Maybe I’ll do yoga, or cook a magnificent dinner for my lover, maybe I’ll start writing that book I’ve always wanted to write, or paint or sculpt or walk on the beach… or maybe, just maybe, I’ll lay in bed all day because it’s been 15 years since I’ve had the chance to do it.  The point is that we can finally decide how to spend our day because it’s no longer incrementally mapped out for us by the hour.  Better yet, we finally have the option not to decide at all, but rather to float.  We can let the day take us where it wants, rather than trying to control the hands on the clock and wishing hours away just so we can finally escape the office.

2. There’s finally time for exercise!

Gyms love to advertise with reverse psychology- which is just a diplomatic term for guilt.  “Don’t use your job as an excuse to avoid the gym… or over eat and gain weight.”  Ha!  I’m wondering if any of those fitness trainers have ever had to work a 40-60 hour week, as well as cook dinner for their kids, walk the dog, get the kids to bed and then clean up after their mess.  Unemployment, as difficult as it is, is the perfect “me” time.  Get out there and bike… or go on a hike… or join the gym.  Take a walk with your spouse for the first time in 20 years.  Start to get fit together and go home to make yourselves a delightfully healthy lunch rather than grabbing some fast food on a lunch break!  This is some much needed down time, a time to focus on you.  Get those endorphins pumping and your mood will begin to enhance as quickly as your waistline begins to decrease.

3. Volunteer

One of the best ways to feel better about yourself is by helping another who is in greater need.  Even if for only one day of your unemployment, take that time to give your time to someone else.  Feed the homeless, read a book to school children, become someone’s mentor.  Volunteering is such a fulfilling act of kindness… and the rewards are immeasurable.  We all need to be reminded sometimes that things could always be worse… and for many, they are.

4. You can finally be your own boss.

Have you ever dreamed of owning your own business?  Or maybe working from home?  It can be very liberating to finally have control of your time.  You have flexibility and a better balance between your personal and professional time.  Whether you choose to embark on an entrepreneurial journey or find yourself another job in a company, it is important to take this time of unemployment to get to know yourself, and your needs thereby becoming the boss of your own life.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you will find a job again.  You will get hired again.  This economy is cyclical, and we are due for the upswing.  In the meantime, try to fill the downtime with positivity and pro-activity.  Get to know yourself, so that when you do find a new job it will not define you, but you will define the job… and where this new venture fits into your life.

Good luck and enjoy the ride!

Melisa Verrecchia is a Guest Blogger for PickTheBrain and a freelance writer.

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