How many times have you sat in your office/cubicle/taffy stand and thought to yourself, “Man, if I didn’t have to show up to work every day I could really make something of myself. I could really make something of my life! I could learn a language. I could write a book. I could backpack around the world. I could finally watch those Netflix DVDs of Lost Season 3 I've had sitting on my coffee table for the past 11 months."
Well, thanks to a collapsing global economy, a crumbling job market and the breakdown of everything we held dear all in the matter of eight days, many of us can now experience the pleasure of casting aside the financially-secure shackles of employment thanks to the fast-growing miracle of "layoffs."
Now, when many of us hear the word "layoff" we can only envision the end of a salaried position or the demise of healthcare benefits. But in reality, a layoff can be a blessing. For those who feel stuck in routine or trapped by professional obligations, a layoff can be the perfect time for personal renewal. A time in which not just to discover what a meal consisting entirely of Lucky Charms and Pabst’s tastes like at 10 A.M. (and then again at 2 P.M., 6 P.M. and 3 A.M.) but also a chance to feed your mind. A chance to feed your soul! No longer bound by the demands of your department, your work schedule or a Draconian office dress code that considers pajama pants “home clothes,” you are finally free to explore your dreams, map out your future and find something, anything, to kill eight to ten hours each and every day.
However, like an artist staring at a blank canvas, a writer staring at a blank computer screen and a freshly terminated employee staring at their grimy, unshaven, dead-eyed visage in their bathroom mirror, it can often be hard to decide what to do first. Do you reorganize your home? Do you take up an instrument? Do you start talking to yourself, then to your pet, then to your cutlery, giving each fork, knife and spoon both a name and a motive? The choices are as endless as the mornings and afternoons! But to give you that extra push you may need off the couch and away from the cable remote, Wii controller and sleeping pills, I present a helpful "To-Do List" for all those who are happy to be out of the office but scared to be alone with their thoughts.
• Start a blog! What better way to work towards writing that book, play or film script than by getting into the habit of jotting down your thoughts every day? Each morning just sit yourself behind your keyboard and let the thoughts flow out of you, stopping occasionally for nourishment or at least punctuation. Want to share a childhood memory? Want to throw your two cents in about a recent news development? Want to take the opportunity to remind hundreds of people you never met that it’s your birthday and once again you’ll be celebrating alone at the same diner you celebrated your college graduation all by yourself? Put it in there! Before you know it you’ll have a rapt online audience completely taken with your elliptical, Joycian prose, your keen insights into flagrant promotion of yourself or your girlfriend, your seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of 70’s cartoon series, commercial jingles and Atari cartridges and your complete willingness to let just anyone gape into the dark nether regions of your soul as you type just fast enough to outrun your own demons.
•Start a business! If unemployment will teach you anything it’s that you can’t count on others to keep paying you (and that most physical injuries seem to occur the second your health coverage lapses). So why not make your own money?! By becoming an entrepreneur you not only get to be the captain of your own destiny but also the crew, the shipbuilder, the dockhand and the one who first comes upon the wreckage on the beach. Hours once spent on one mind-numbing job can now be spent on countless heart-racing tasks, from drawing up a business proposal to conducting a market analysis to ascertain the viability of your idea to deciding on whether it will be a general partnership, limited liability company or sole proprietorship to securing the necessary permits and licenses to determining whether or not to file for S Corporation status to selecting and reserving a company name to developing a capitalization/borrowing/debt service plan to obtaining all required government forms to drafting all employment contracts to establishing check-cashing procedures to having an independent appraiser calculate the replacement value of your property to shopping for the best loan terms to identifying all trademarks, patents, copyrights and service marks you must register or purchase. And that’s just the first ten years! Soon you’ll be working three jobs just to secure the initial capital and expenses reserve you’ll need to operate a full-time business that you can now only find time to keep open between midnight and five a.m. You may not make a fortune. You may not even live to see forty. But you will have certainly made the most of your time off by ensuring you never, ever have the chance to nap or even sleep again.
• Start a militia! By the third or fourth month of unemployment your self-recrimination will slowly, magically, transform itself into victimhood. Statements once phrased as “How could I let this happen?!” will be delivered as “How could this happen to me?!” Random fears will coalesce into focused rage. Scapegoats will be uncovered for your career demise. Federal agencies will be blamed for your inability to secure another job. Agendas will be put in motion to exact revenge on a government that no longer has your best interests or desire for a third car at heart. Soon you’re finally out of the house and once again communicating with other likeminded individuals. Days once spent indoors with only a box of wine and Kleenex to keep you company will now be spent in the woods or caves in the company of trained marksmen and people who know how to make an explosive out of tree bark. Who knew you could feel such a renewed sense of purpose?! “This is our time!” you’ll shout, spirits and rifles raised high. Finally you’re making something of yourself. Finally you’re making something of your life! Finally you have a course of action. But let’s just hope you get captured or shot before you achieve a sense of accomplishment.