i never know what to say when someone asks me what's new or what i've been up to. it's a conversation that immediately becomes awkward for me and i didn't know why, until recently, when i realized it's because i don't know how to talk about my life in a fleeting, casual way. and isn't that what people are always asking for?
they want a status update. what do you do for work? how it is going? are you dating anyone? do you think you will marry this person? how soon do you want kids?
but what happens when you don't have any quick answers to these questions, because you don't actually have any of these things––you're just living your life one day at a time, sort of making it up as you go along? what do you say when "what's new" is nothing, and also everything, and you feel like a completely different person––but also the person who is more true to who you really are? how do you explain your life as an unemployed person of eight months (and counting) with enough information to clarify that quitting your job wasn't a rash or regrettable decision and that you aren't irresponsible or living in an unrealistic dreamworld, but also not giving so much information that you're unfolding your entire life story?
if we were sitting down, having coffee (probably at crema), i wouldn't worry so much about the words i chose. there would be room to pause, to stutter, to sit with the truth between us––that i don't know what i'm doing with my life––as we sip our coffees, to eventually talk about things not related to my employment at all.
let's pretend we're doing that. i am drinking coffee as i type this, and maybe you are too, as you're reading it. let's pretend we're sitting across from each other.
if we were having coffee, or even if we weren't, here are things i would talk about.
+ yes, i am still unemployed. by no means is it a long-term solution, but in the mean time, being unemployed is my jam. i'm loving it, and not because not having a job means not having any responsibilities (because, the opposite is true). i'm loving it because i'm learning so many things i could never have learned otherwise.
listen, i'm not going to encourage you to quit your job, but if you happen to find yourself in the same situation that i'm in, embrace it. even if you don't understand why or what's happening or where you will end up. there is nothing else quite like freefalling, especially when you stop trying to clutch everything to your chest in fear that you will lose it otherwise. let it fall, see where you land, go from there.
+ nothing has landed for me yet, so i've been trying to focus on making the best use of all this free time. because unemployment means all of your time is free time, so what you do in your free time ends up being what you're doing with your life.
also, i will hopefully never have this much free time again in my life so why not take advantage.
for the past year, this has meant asking "what if" questions, and then chasing down their answers. what if i quit my job? what if i went on tour? what if i lived in italy for six months? what if i sent the text? what if i stopped trying to look for a job? what if i committed to writing a certain number of words every day? what if i stopped watching netflix?
some of these questions are life-altering, and some effect only my day-to-day, but each of them push back against my comfort zone. they challenge me to find out what happens, and what there is to learn, in choosing something different.
+ a couple weeks ago, i thought what if i deleted all the social media apps from my phone? it wasn't for the sake of a "much needed" break, as you see a lot of other people posting about. i don't actually use social media as much as the next person. quality time is my love language, so i'm not the person with her nose to the screen as much as i am the one who will call you out for being that person. i deleted the apps, though, just for fun, for a week.
it took three days for me to stop picking up my phone out of habit. four days to get annoyed with myself for choosing to go without, because sometimes you really do just need an outlet. by day six, i stopped caring. on day seven, i was no longer asking "why can't i have it?" but "why would i want it...?"
(i re-downloaded the apps, because i can't help myself.)
+ i started watching this season of the bachelorette with my friend tab and her group, who are serious bracket-making, bet-setting watchers. honestly, i'm only in it for the snacks and wells adams, and spend most of the hours-long episodes (because they are multiple hourS long) cringing. but it changes up my monday nights so i'm embracing it. (and will totally peace out once wells is sent home, however long that may take.) (or maybe he wins, i don't know.) (is there a proper term for who she picks? "winning" just doesn't seem appropriate.)
+ i went to the library, for reasons other than napping (in college) or babysitting (on tour), for the first time since i was little. i looked at my list of books "to read," found a couple on the shelves, and got myself a library card. i maybe let out a small squeal of excitement too, because I LOVE THE LIBRARY. give me all the free reads!
+ speaking of which, i have finished something like eight books so far in 2016. two of which were read between late 2015 and mid-april. six of which were read between mid-april and now (aka, since i stopped watching netflix). in case you were wondering how my netflix hiatus was going.
+ i am reading the harry potter series for the first time ever. i wasn't allowed to read them growing up, but i've heard such good things. (like, more than just "IT'S SO GOOD" from the overly obsessed fans who probably dressed up for the midnight showings when the movies came out. brené brown writes about hp in daring greatly and i have a lot of respect for brené.) i'm currently on book four, the book with which you can no longer carry with you in public because it's 893746 pages long.
it only took until half way through book two for me to be in it, and not just reading out of curiosity anymore.
+ i recently watched the movie brooklyn. 10/10, highly recommend. i actually own a copy, it's that good. (you can rent it on itunes or find it at redbox.)
+ i am working my way through the artist's way, by julia cameron. i'm still on week one, so i'm still in the excited and hopeful and let's set my alarm 30 minutes early to write morning pages like she suggests phase. the thing, as a whole, is twelve weeks. so yes, including it here is an attempt to keep myself accountable.
+ i've been babysitting a lot. i think this is the answer everyone is looking for. okay, you're unemployed and it's great and all, but how are you paying your rent? it's a weird and awkward thing to realize that almost everyone i come into contact with is wondering about this very personal detail of my life. but there it is. i babysit! so, let your mom friends know.
also, i often forget that this is how i pay my rent, because hanging out with kids is the most fun. when parents ask what my rate is, i always, always pause. what do you charge for a thing you would do for free?
now it's your turn. i can't do all the talking on our coffee date.
tell me how you are, but tell me what you've been loving or learning or even just thinking about recently. what would you do if all of your time was free time, but your budget was limited to $0? (this is a real question. i'm looking for suggestions.)