Unemployment Gave Me Purpose
Unemployment. For some, this is an ugly word. A word that has drastically shifted the reality for many families. Since the recession, the stock market crash, and the bailouts; households have suffered tremendously as a result of joblessness. For the mom who is accustomed to working outside of the home, unemployment can become a dismal existence. It is a realization that the perceived right path may be all-wrong.
Unemployment got me in 2010. Before that time, I had worked since the age of 16. I am almost 40. My last stint as an educator lasted 10 years. In spite of the steady paychecks, summers off and decent work hours, I felt a desire to try something new. I enrolled in law school in the hopes of discovering a new destiny. So when my job came to an end, I wasn’t too concerned because I was looking forward to the degree’s possibilities. The jobs and contacts were surely going to seek me out. Boy, was I wrong!
After graduation, I landed a temporary job as a judicial law clerk. I was not worried, however. Clerkships are coveted positions that lead to law firms, which pay the big bucks. In the last month of my clerkship there were no job prospects. But reality didn’t set in until it was time for me to fill out my unemployment forms. There were no jobs and no contacts knocking at my door. All that was left was my bruised ego, an extra-large diploma, and professional uncertainty.
Unemployment made me desperate. In my frustration, I found myself considering job opportunities that I knew would make me unhappy and disgruntled. Even when jobs did not meet my professional qualifications, the constant rejection made me second-guess my skills and abilities. Little did I know that greater possibilities were within my reach – once I was ready to shift my thinking. Through intense journaling, prayer and a depleted hubris, I learned to survive and see beyond the despair.
The good news – the unemployment rate is at an all time low. But, the fact remains that there are still millions of people who are jobless – some for more than six months. This too shall pass. Until then, try these five tips to survive:
1) Read The Alchemist.
Find a book, a group, or a hobby that provides the inspiration to move forward. For me, The Alchemist was clear confirmation that my journey was aligned with my purpose. In the story, the main character has his eyes set on reaching the Pyramids. Along the way he experiences detours that not only build character, but also skills necessary to fulfill his purpose. I identified with the main character’s frustration and persistent desire to see the Pyramids. Since then, I see detours as little jewels for the journey.
2) Turn off the television.
I spent a lot of time on the couch flipping through daytime television and On Demand features. TV junkie I am not. However, I allowed myself to be consumed by the false realities and impractical idealisms portrayed in the media. This only fueled my discouragement. My time in front of the tube was a slow and certain mental death. I would compare myself to fictional characters. Instead of focusing on my strengths, I was consumed by my weaknesses.
3) Get moving.
Walk, run, dance, bike or do some form of physical activity to boost your brain function. Studies have shown that exercise increases mental health benefits. For the unemployed, stress is a major factor that impacts mental disposition. Exercise will increase concentration of the chemical that moderates the brain’s response to stress. It also alleviates anxiety and releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria.
4) Tap into a passion or lifelong desire.
I recall going to work each day and feeling the need for a drastic change. Writing was always a passion I hoped to tap into, but I didn’t have the time. Raising a family and working a full-time job left me completely drained. I was too tired to be inspired and write anything down. The other problem was that writing would not pay the bills, so why waste the time? Unemployment forced me to rethink my fears and boldly step into my passion. It is a scary place, but the freedom is exhilarating.
5) Be encouraged.
The road to purpose seems bleak after experiencing unemployment. It is not uncommon to feel worthless when academic and professional accolades are not living up to your expectations. Create a vision that encourages you to get up everyday and pursue your purpose. If a vision seems too arbitrary or intimidating, write down a few daily or weekly goals to work toward. I set small goals to write something everyday. I didn’t define what that something would be. That way, I had room for flexibility and avoided the pressure of failing myself. Whether two sentences, two paragraphs or two pages, my writing flourished instantly. I felt productive and encouraged to continue in my purpose.
Conquering the distress of unemployment is challenging for anyone, especially if you are accustomed to working everyday. It takes time adjusting to the unstructured free time. Moving beyond the discouragement of unemployment will help you to step boldly into your purpose.