I’m having to come to terms with unemployment, and it’s not easy. Staying home is not the difficult part. I have plenty to do. I’m usually up with my wife by 7:00 a.m., I’m at the computer by 8:00 or 8:30, ready to start my day’s work. My day’s work usually involves looking for a job, staying up to date on freelance projects, doing some personal writing (like this), or working on a number of household chores, anything from bills and paperwork to hard physical labor like mowing the lawn or using power tools. In between I keep the dog from chewing cords and whizzing on the floor.
Most days the urgent work, looking for a job and finishing freelance projects is put off. I’m not sure how this happens, but it always does. Like today. It’s 10:00 a.m. already, and I still haven’t touched my list of urgent work (though I could argue that the half-hour I spent surfing the web and reading news was “work” on my freelance projects). My wife will be home in the next half-hour for lunch (though it’s too early for me to eat), which means the dog will be preoccupied but I’ll be distracted. By the time she leaves to go back to work, I’ll have just enough time to get started on something before it truly becomes lunch time and I’m interrupted once again.
The difficult part of unemployment is figuring out what to do. I have a lot of bills to pay, and they don’t get paid by sitting at home. It’s not like I’m sitting on the couch watching TV all day. That’s not even a temptation (though sitting on the couch and reading all day is — I miss my reading time on the bus). But putzing on the computer and installing smoke detectors doesn’t pay my school loans. At some point unemployment becomes unfeasible.
Unemployment checks should technically kick in this week, though I won’t receive them for another week or two. Even then, the state’s handout isn’t much. Do I take a part time job at Target? Do I become a school bus driver? Do I hold out for that full time job in my field? Or do I dive into freelancing, forsake full time work, and hope the income will cover the expenses?
Yikes. It’s a scary position to be in. At least I have options. There are possibilities. It’s just not easy waiting to see how God will provide. It’s funny how concerned we are with our jobs, with what we do for a living. That’s the first question I ask people I meet, as if that is who they are. As if their employment somehow completes them. Once I asked one person what they did, and he looked confused. He asked if I meant for work, as a clarifying question. He obviously didn’t consider his job to be the most important part of who he is. Yet so often I feel like a job equals identity. There’s a feeling that if I don’t have a job, I’m not anything.
But what is a job? It’s just that. It’s work that has to be done, services in exchange for the expenses in our lives. For some of us it’s hours put in, a job done, and we go home. For others it’s something they truly enjoy, something they would do for free. I think an idealistic notion exists that the enjoyment of employment is the highest call. It’s the notion that you have to love what you’re doing. I think that’s true, but in a different sense. I don’t think it’s something we have to do that requires education and just the right position, but I think what’s important is finding joy in what we’re doing, no matter what it is. Whether I’m working at the grocery store or at the New Yorker, I should do my job to the best of my ability, enjoy what I’m doing, and go home at the end of the day to focus on more important things. I think that’s part of the problem with America’s disintegrating family. So many of us put such importance on the job that it stresses us out. Rather than just finding joy in it and moving and on, we focus on our work. We stay late, we bring work home, we let our employment become who we are. We forget about more important things like family, friends, God.
Sometimes I think God laughs at us. Our attempts to provide for our family become so much more. God provides for the sparrows, and he promises to provide so much more for us. When Jesus had his ministry, he didn’t have a day job. He didn’t have a home to come home to. But he focuses on what was important, and the rest took care of itself.
Unfortunately it’s not that easy, but sometimes I think we [I] make it too big of a deal.