Unemployment Benefits: the unexpected perks of being laid off

So, I just got laid off. And, although I initially greeted this information with the standard reactions of fear, uncertainty and mental images of homelessness, now I have to say I’m pretty happy about it.

Maybe it’s because this isn’t my first time being laid off.

As a twentysomething who graduated college in the mid-to-late-2000s, my entrance to the real world perfectly coincided with the “Great Recession.” So yeah, I’ve already witnessed a seemingly successful career plummet into the abyss of unemployment.

The first time I got laid off, I took it pretty hard. Back then, I was working as an entertainment journalist in Las Vegas, a job that (although low-paying) was frequently padded with comped dinners at acclaimed restaurants, free show tickets, celebrity-studded nightclub openings, countless open bars and coveted poolside cabanas. I went from that lifestyle to waitressing in Denver, so my long work hours were swiftly replaced with part-time work; free entertainment now meant a trip to the public library. Champagne was replaced by the “champagne of beers.”

Truth be told, my life wasn’t even bad. I had the free time to read for pleasure, take a midday yoga class, peruse empty museums in the middle of the afternoon, whatever. But instead of enjoying all the perks of being marginally employed, I spent most of my time sulking—and worrying.

I was more interested in sending out hundreds of resumes to jobs I was grossly overqualified for, only to never hear back. I endlessly researched the plights of my generation, trying to figure out what to do when you’re young, educated and unemployed. I briefly considered going to grad school or even moving home and officially becoming a boomerang kid. What I ended up doing was taking an unpaid internship, which eventually led to a yearlong, temporary job as a content editor—a job that finally ended about a week ago.

But this time, I want to do it right, if there is such a thing as being laid off the right way. I’m not filing for unemployment benefits. That’s never been my style, no matter how hard things get. No, instead, I’m using this as an opportunity to try freelancing. (You know, that feast-or-famine career path that values creativity, resourcefulness and flexibility.) I want to use this as an opportunity to do more hiking, try more recipes, take road trips through Colorado, make homemade ice cream from scratch, or just enjoy life the way I didn’t let myself the first time I got laid off. Who knows, maybe I’ll have to go back to waitressing. But this time, I at least want to try to be happy.

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