Three Ways to Live the Life you Want when You’re Broke & Unemployed

Aging GuitarOne potential problem of the long-term unemployed is that we face this dilemma: Everyday we have so much time that we truly could do anything we wanted, but at the same time, we are burdened with our “shoulds.” We should be working, we should be looking for jobs, should be updating the resume, should be networking, should be XYZ. I’ve been “unemployed” for almost a year now and I certainly haven’t done enough of the shoulds and I haven’t nearly gotten close enough to doing all of the things I want to be doing. What have I been doing with my time? I’m embarrassed to say, but I’ve been worrying too much. I could have been creating my my “perfect” life. I could have been working on tasks that would set me up for where I wanted to be today. BUT there is no point in harping on what could have been done. I can only move forward.

After an angry and frustrated emotional breakdown where I thought to myself, “What’s the point of living if I’m not going to do anything with my life?” I decided to just start doing the things I enjoy. I wasted a year NOT doing things I enjoy, why should I continue down that road? My time of extended unemployment will probably  be coming to an end soon so I might as well make the most of it.  I’m literally only  two weeks into “living the life I want” (of course with some financial restraints- but money isn’t everything and there are ways to do what I enjoy for free- thank you, internet), and I’ve been feeling better.  I’ve been pushing through lazy, and showing up when I don’t feel like it, and I feel like I’m accomplishing something.

My advice for the broke & unemployed:

Let go of who you think you SHOULD be. It’s a waste of time to live there. You’ll never live up to your expectations. For example: I want to get back in shape. Well in my mind, to do that, I would have to get up and workout at 6 or 7am (5 days a week, mind you), even if I have nowhere to be that day. WHY? I don’t know… that just seemed like what I SHOULD do. Now, I just work out when I feel like it. I pick whatever time is good for me that day and I go. Sometimes it’s in the morning and sometimes it’s in the evening. And you know what I found out? That the gym isn’t as packed as I thought at 6:30PM.

Find what it is you love, and find a way to do it for free. And don’t give me that crap about not being able to do it for free. You have plenty of time, dang it! Figure it out. Or maybe you can find a way to make a little investment in your “passion” by selling some junk around the house to save money. Free courses and materials at MIT anyone? CLICK HERE. (Obviously some are more “Free” than others, but still…) I bet you have a local library with books you can borrow for free (or already paid local taxes). Who knows? What you learn may turn into a useful skill set that you can use to generate income.

Stop giving a crap about what other people think about you. People have a lot of opinions to offer the long-term unemployed. Frequently, they add to the “should be” narrative. But they don’t have to wake up everyday and BE you. I’m not saying be reckless or ignore the people who care about you when they tell you you’re being reckless. What I am saying is you are not under a microscope and projected on a billboard for public display. We long-term unemployed people have a ton of time to examine, judge and sometimes envy what other people are doing. Just because we’re surveying everyone else’s actions, doesn’t mean they’re surveying ours. Besides, you don’t have to advertise to everyone what you’re doing. That’s just wasting energy, anyway.

Here are some motivating articles to kick you in the butt. Read them!

The African Way- Just Do It

The Myth of Passion and Motivation: How to Stay Focused When You Get Bored Working Towards Your Goals

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Slow-Paced Careers

The American workplace simply isn’t cut out for stress-free, slow-paced living. Yes, you can argue that how you perceive and respond to stress plays a big role in how a job feels, but it is unlikely that you’ll find a slow-placed, low-stress career working for somebody other than yourself.

Employers, by their very nature have needs, and as their employee, it is your job to take care of those needs. They are not paying you to take care of your needs. They are not paying you to move at your pace and enjoy life on your terms. Companies are set up to serve the needs of the owners and/or investors, etc. You and I, my dear readers, are just the cork in the wheel of big business.

Think about it: if you are the manager of a company, does it really matter if your employee needs to take a day off because her car breaks down? And her kids got sick? And her kids got her sick? And a relative passed away? And her menstrual cramps hurt so badly it renders her incapable of working for a couple of days? No, you just need her to come into work because you have to answer to the higher-ups. You need someone who will do the job, regardless of what’s happening at home. Business is so impersonal, that if an employee has too many personal problems, she will be let go for not prioritizing her commitment to the job.

How many times have you heard bosses say, “Check your personal problems at the door?” If you are going through a divorce, is your boss’s request truly realistic?  Regardless, the business just needs somebody who will work like an unemotional machine that just needs to be oiled a couple times a day (15-30 minute lunch breaks, anyone?)

I remember working a variety of different customer service jobs and the feeling was this: if you want to earn more money or get a promotion, you must come-in early, stay late, work through lunch and come in on your days off to prove your dedication. You had to forgo all needs in your personal life if you want to get ahead in your career. That is not a slow-paced career.
Now, if the job is your company, you care about the company’s needs. Sure, there are limitations, because of client obligations, but you can always delegate…

A slow-paced career to me, is working when you want to, and not working when you don’t or can’t. It’s not always that simple when you own your own company, but you have significantly more flexibility when you can decide to work between 7am-9am (or 7pm-9pm), in your pajamas, from your couch. When you own your own company, you are the boss. By that virtue alone you can eliminate people and situations that cause frequent stress. Do you have a client that stresses you out? Break-up with them. You don’t need their business. That energy could be better spent finding new, less stressful clients. Do you have employees who are lazy, annoying, or poor communicators? Let them go.

Furthermore, you don’t have to prioritize your “business” over the rest of your life. You don’t have to convince anyone of  your dedication to the company by working unpaid overtime. The business is your baby, of course you love it, but if you need a personal day, you can take one; you can organize your schedule around the way you work. Also, you don’t have to run your company like a mega-corporation. You can create a work-life balance for your employees and provide a slow-paced and low-stress environment.

Now as important as it is to me to own and run my own business (aka do what I love), I’m in a financial situation where I need to work for somebody else. Thus, I find jobs that fit within the parameters of what I enjoy doing.   I like working with kids; I like reading and talking about literature, so I’m going to teach English a high school in the fall. It’s not really a “slow-paced career,” but I’ll have some flexibility as to how I run my classroom so that it suits my needs.

Anyway, I recently found out that the school where I work pays an extra $5000 a year for teaching an extra class period and not taking a planning period. I don’t know if it’s optional or not, but if it is, that money is incredibly tempting if you start to think about what it could pay for. Nonetheless, I think it’s foolish to take the extra money over the extra time. (I nearly always pick time over money.) See, by taking the planning period, there’s an extra 5 hours per week (where you have to be at school either way) to grade papers, create lesson plans, and deal with all the other administrative stuff that comes with being a teacher. If you don’t take the planning period, you end up spending those 5 hours teaching and making more work for yourself, i.e. more papers to grade. That’s a total of 180 hours during the course of the school year that will move into your personal time. Yes, you might need the money to pay for some things, or support a one-income household, but forgoing planning period will burn you out so quickly. You could get sick and have to spend the extra cash on medical bills for a stress-related illness. I think there are ways to cut expenses so you don’t need that money. In the end, you’ll have more time for yourself.

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Don’t you realize, the whole point of having a job is so you can buy stuff to keep your employer in business. Why do you think we got extra tax refund money the last few years? So we could “stimulate the economy” by buying stuff.

You may not benefit your company directly with your expenditures, but your spending will find a way to benefit them. For instance, lets say you work as an claims adjuster for a car insurance company. The money you earn there seems as if it can in no way benefit your company. However, you bought a car didn’t you? You are required by law to insure it, aren’t you?

Buying things keeps us permanently enslaved to our jobs. I’m always looking for a way that I could live exclusively off of part-time income. Unfortunately, my student loans won’t allow me to do that (a story for another time). But the money I’m not spending on an iPhone (or iPhone data/cell plan) and lavish television services, saves me money at the end of the month. Imagine what I would add to my expenses if I had a car payment?

I guess I just want to conclude by saying this: There is no one fits all solution to a slow-paced / low-stress career working the night shift as a security job. For others that might mean substitute teaching (no papers to grade).  A slow-paced career may mean not taking on more than you can handle in your present position. For me, that means working for myself and choosing “writer/editor/blogger” as my career.

What slow-paced job do you have? How do you keep your current job from becoming too stressful? 

Why I’m Giving Up Online Shopping for Lent

So lent started last week, and the only thing I gave up was giving unsolicited advice. An awesome pursuit, as I can become a better listener and mind my own business. Except, my boyfriend said, “why don’t you give up something hard?”  I hadn’t really thought about it much until I went to Amazon.com yesterday to look for a canvas tote bag.  And that’s when it hit me. I’m going to give up online shopping. I think I have a borderline addiction.  It started a few years ago when I didn’t have a car and I needed to furnish my apartment. Or if I needed to buy something really large and heavy and didn’t have anyone to help me pick it up and carry it to my apartment.

UPS is good at transporting and delivering items for me. Amazon Prime is amazing. I have free two day shipping, but it’s become more of  problem than something that helps me. Because as I look around my apartment, I see that almost everything I own was purchased online.  Nowadays, I buy things online for one of these two reasons: #1) I don’t feel like dealing with the world (which means Miami traffic/people/a gazillion stores); or #2) Amazon has a better selection and it’s cheaper.  But what I’ve come to realize, is that the quality of the items I purchase cant be inspected through a computer screen. Furthermore, I’m less likely to purchase something or spend money on something if I go to the store and look at it– more than often than not, I don’t like the item.

Benefits of Giving up online shopping for Lent:

  1. I’ll learn patience: waiting until items go on sale, waiting in line, waiting to find the perfect item.
  2. I’ll  spend less, because I know sure as heck I’m not going to feel like going out to the store. And I’ll  think twice about buying things IF the only way I can get them is by going out.
  3. I’ll be more aware of what I’m spending: for some reason when I buy online it hardly feels like I’m spending money. Money disappears faster than I realize.
  4. I won’t buy crap I’m not going to use.
  5. Any spring cleaning I do won’t be wasted- I won’t be filling my house with anymore crap from Amazon.

Career Choices

I have talked very little about my career choice since starting this blog.  I know I’ve mentioned becoming a teacher in my “priorities” blogs, but I’ve questioned this career choice since I majored in elementary education for 2 semesters back in college.  I keep coming back to it though; I don’t know if that says something.

Career choices overwhelmingly influence how you spend your time, how exhausted you are, and how slow paced your lifestyle will be.  Teaching is a great slow paced career because you most likely get summers and major holidays off from work. I love the whole concept. Yes, you bust your butt 9-10 months out of the year working with students.  It is a great career for anyone who likes the idea of built in breaks.

And it’s a great career choice for me because working with kids is rewarding (even though it is exhausting), I love reading and writing, and staring at a cubicle in a windowless office all day is a miserable endeavor. I planned on easing into teaching and getting more experience by becoming a substitute teacher first.

Yet, the certification tests, fingerprinting and all of the other requirements seem daunting, and every time I seriously start thinking of teaching as a career I freak out and back away.

Last night, however, it occurred to me that I need to get a full-time job pronto. I’m 25 (about to be 26) and I haven’t had a full time job since I first graduated college in traumatic 2008. I’ve only had two full-time jobs (ever) and both laid me off in less than 4 months.  The summer of 2009 I started my part-time job hopscotch.  Needless to say, I’ve been rather pessimistic about the job market.

I’m still not sold that a full-time job is the way to go in terms of the slow life. Full-time jobs may provide some benefits (literally), but I’ve found that full-time fosters an overwhelming commitment to work. There is nothing wrong with loving your job or enjoying what you do, but I know people who answer work emails, call into meetings, and tell people to call them when they are on vacation.  I don’t want that.

That doesn’t change the fact that I’ll need the full-time income come January.  Mistakes in my past require me to work to pay for them.  And I didn’t pay for grad school with cash, either. I’m going to have to suck-it-up and work a little more than I’d like to for a while.  I will not, however, work myself into complete exhaustion. Hourly, wage jobs seem to encourage that.  The best thing I can do is minimize consumption of goods and services, and maximize my saving potential.

So, I came up with a solution to my “I need a full-time job” problem:  First what I’ll do is get work as a writer.  I should have no problem finding a “writing job” because my master’s degree is in, you guessed it, writing. After I’ve settled, I’ll slowly obtain the requirements to become a substitute teacher. That way, I can work on them when I have time, not when I’m focused on other things.  Once I’ve fulfilled all of the requirements, come November after I’ve defended, I can look for a part-time substituting job. The idea would be, by January, to earn full-time income by working both jobs part-time.  I like the variety it provides.

Both career options offer flexibility.  Substitute/full-time teachers are off in the summer and during holidays, and writers can often work from home.  I get the best of both worlds…

Sorry about the super late post everyone.  It seems I may have too much on my plate and need to cut back even further. New changes in my life coming about soon.