Nothing destroys a man’s fragile ego like being unemployed. I learned that the hard way.
I’ve been gainfully employed for the last seven years and I’ve taken a lot of pleasure out of being able to take care of myself. I’m 25 and these last few years have been kind to me. Earlier this year I graduated from Humboldt State University with a degree in Journalism, of which I am quite proud of. I love Journalism, but as many might have noticed most newspapers around the country are folding. So when I graduated news organizations were not exactly lining up to hire me. My GPA when I graduated was less than spectacular, due in large part to the fact that I worked my way through college, which didn’t leave me with a lot of extra time to study. I passed all my classes, but I didn’t stand out academically. Fine by me. I was just happy to survive the college experience without having a major mental breakdown.
When they called my name at graduation it was one of the proudest moments of my life. My parents and younger brothers were there, as were my grandparents. The fact that they mispronounced my middle and last name made me laugh as I walked across the stage, pausing for a second to dry hump the President of the University (it’s true). You should never take yourself too seriously, I felt. Behold my victory dance at graduation:
I graduated from college debt free, which is something that I am quite proud of and a rare feat indeed in this day and age of massive student loans and steep interest rates. How did I do it? I’m a waiter and a damn good one, if I do say so myself.
For the last four years my “day job” has been as a server at two different restaurants. The experience changed my life. I realized that there was good money to be made in the restaurant industry if you know where to look and what the hell you were doing. Hard work pays off in restaurants. It’s fun too if you like working in a hyper social environment where you are judged on how quickly you can make a personal connection with a group of strangers. I learned something about myself waiting tables: I’m really good at talking.
If you are friendly and polite and don’t drop food and drinks all over people you can really make it in the restaurant business, I quickly found.
I figured out that I could make much more money as a server than as a rookie journalist, so I decided to stay in the restaurant business for awhile. I rather enjoy it.
So why have I been unemployed for the last month and a half? Well, that’s another story for another time. Long story short: I made some mistakes, but I am proud to say that I learned from them and have grown and matured from the whole experience.
So what have I been doing during my month and half of unemployment? Well well well, I’m glad you asked! Besides applying at 27 different restaurants about town I have spent my time doing a great number of things so as not to go completely insane. This is my list of how I spent my time:
Yeah, I know, I sleep all the time no matter what the state of my finances are. But seriously, I’ve never slept so much in my life as I did during my month of unemployment. Let me tell you why…
In the restaurant business there is really only a 3 hour window of opportunity to go into a place and met with the manager or check on your resume: 2PM-5PM. Why is that? Those 3 hours are a slow time for most restaurants. The lunch rush has just ended and the dinner rush has yet to begin. It’s the perfect time to stop into restaurants if you want to met with managers.
This left me with 21 hours of the day to do with as I saw fit. So I slept a lot. Why not? It was free to sleep and it’s good for you. Which brings me to number 2 on the list….
2) Hit the gym!
I went to my local gym 6 times a week during my month of unemployment. Why? I needed the exercise, frankly. Waiters do a whole lot of running around during their shift and I was used to being exhausted after a long day of work. Suddenly I was sitting on my ass all day, which made me feel fat and useless.
I really didn’t want to gain weight during my unemployment, and considering the drop in quality of food that I was eating to survive (read: mac and cheese, rice and beans, ect.) I thought it might be a good idea to take my gym membership seriously. Plus the exercise helped me feel good about myself. If I had been sitting around all day I would have sunk into a great depression and I really didn’t want that for myself. I had to think positive if I hoped to get a job that required quite a bit of smiling and joking on my part. Working out kept my energy level high through my whole ordeal.
I’ve never really had time for podcasts before and suddenly I found myself with 21 hours to kill in my average day and I could only spend so much time sleeping, eating, and working out. I hit the podcasts pretty hard. I listened to everything that I had always wanted to listen to but I had been too busy to do so before.
Which ones did I listen to? A lot of comedy related ones. When you’re unemployed a laugh or two is much appreciated. Here’s my Top 2:
“Doug Loves Movies.” Doug Benson’s movie podcast saved my life on more than one occasion. After going to a restaurant and being told that “my services were not required at this point in time but we’ll call you if a position opens up” I would sink into some very dark thoughts. This was my go to podcast to get me laughing again. Thank you Mr. Benson, I’m in your debt.
“Nerdist.” Chris Hardwick’s podcast features interviews with a lot of interesting people in the comedy and entertainment world and I spent many a happy evening curled up with a cup of tea and this podcast.
I did a whole lot of reading during my Month of Free Time! I mostly read essays and biographies, with a giant splash of Hunter S. Thompson for good measure.
I love reading and so it makes sense that I would find comfort in books in my time of need.
5) Family and friends!
I’ve never called my mother so many times as I did during my period of unemployment. I must have called her every day to tell her about my job hunting progress or lack thereof. My mother and I have always been close and this whole experience strengthens my belief that I could never survive with out her kind words when I’m feeling blue.
I also spent a lot of time confiding in my friends who stuck by me during my moments of depression and bitterness. Thanks guys! I couldn’t have done it without you!
I’ve always loved the San Francisco Giants but have never been able to actually watch the games because I would always end up working on the nights that they would play. So I embraced the opportunity to get outside of myself and stop focusing on how miserable and broke I was and cheer on the Giants like there was no tomorrow.
The fact that the Giants ended up winning the World Series during the year that I was actually able to watch their games made it all the more sweet! 56 years and they finally won! I’m not saying that my unemployment had anything to do with it, but still, it was a bright spot in an otherwise frustrating time in my life. So thank you Giants for giving me hope for the future.
So there you have it. That’s my list of what I did during my month of unemployment and heart ache.
Thankfully it’s all over now. I recently was hired to work as a waiter at a new restaurant opening up in town this coming Friday. I’m really excited to be able to get out there and work again! All this free time has made me realize how much I miss being social and being able to go out with friends and enjoy my life.
That’s what I’m thankfully for this Thanksgiving: Employment. And the Giants winning the World Series. But mostly employment.