Unemployment is better than employment in nearly every respect. I’m into my second week of joblessness, and I cannot recommend it enough. I can count the drawbacks on one hand, with fingers to spare:
1. No income
2. No health insurance
3. No paid leave
The perks of unemployment, in contrast, are plentiful. Here’s just a sampling of things I’ve done with time, now that I have more of it:
1. Volunteering. I am the newest volunteer at Homeward Bound of Asheville. This is a day shelter for the homeless in Asheville. Their goal is not just to provide temporary shelter but to actually end homelessness. They’ve housed 454 people since 2006, with an 89% retention rate. I’ll write about them in more depth in the future. For now, suffice it to say that I’m volunteering with a program called A HOPE. I’m helping out at a busy public service desk, answering questions and doing my best to be friendly and professional. Which sounds an awful lot like a job I used to have.
2. Walking to and from the homeless shelter. Quite apart from my own misgivings about the carbon footprint of driving, the price of gas is steep, particularly for those of us who are unemployed. But the homeless shelter is a 30-minute walk, which is just about perfect. I get exercise on the trip there and the trip back. I have never acquired the knack of exercising for the sake of exercise. Every time I try to establish a regular exercise routine, I fail. I start thinking about things I’d much rather be doing, and then suddenly it’s all Oh-hey-there’s-a-book, and it’s over. Exercise disguised as a commute is a different matter entirely.
3. Sightseeing. The hour of on-foot commuting allows me to walk through downtown Asheville. I never get tired of seeing its buildings and its people and its dogs being walked by people. And the return trip, for variety, takes me through some lovely neighborhoods in northern Asheville, filled with houses that were built before cookie-cutter developments came into vogue. Many of these houses are home to kitties who come out to the sidewalk to demand attention.
4. Reading. The hour of on-foot commuting also allows me to listen to audiobooks. I would rather read a book than listen to it (and I would rather read a book on paper than on a device) but I’ve slowly learned to accept certain types of audiobooks. This is particularly important, since I still can’t carve out enough time to read for pleasure, unemployment notwithstanding. I’ve got a ton of books left to read this calendar year.
5. Hiking. Mom and Dad took me to the arboretum this weekend. There’s not much garden to see at this time of year, but there was a lovely bonsai exhibit, and the weather was just perfect for hiking on the trails. According to Dad’s app, we hiked about six miles. Without all the leaves cluttering the trees, there were some pretty scenes to take in, and the smell was divine: rhododendron and pine needles and decaying foresty stuff. Rotting animals smell awful. Rotting forest floors smell like Narnia.
6. Yoga practicing. I do not have the discipline to practice yoga with any kind of regularity at home. It is too much like exercise. But there is a donation-based studio that’s an easy ten-minute walk from home. I have an on-again, off-again relationship with yoga. I don’t know that I’ll ever become a dedicated yogi, but unemployment seemed like a good opportunity to start hanging out with yoga again. We’ll see if it lasts.
The irritating thing is that, even without a real job, I still don’t have enough time. In addition to everything I’ve already mentioned, I’ve got lots of duty reading (in preparation for the Foreign Service exam in February) and I’ve got lots of pleasure reading (because pleasure reading is roughly as important as breathing) and I’ve got contract writing, because the articles and synopses I write for the NoveList database constitute the only money I’m earning. It’s not enough to pay the bills, but I hope it’s enough to keep the bills at bay until the Foreign Service or the Peace Corps or the indeterminate Plan C kicks in.
Or until I get a job in Asheville.*