This Journey May be the Most Rewarding of Your Life

23 May

My first (solo) apartment was on the third floor of a creaky old house in a charming and progressive modest neighborhood. After flirting with engagement ring shopping with a long-term beau, I had made the decision that the relationship wasn’t the right one for the long-haul. At that point in my life I had never lived totally alone. I had always had roommates, and I wanted the experience of living on my own.

I was living on a non-profit salary so there wasn’t a lot of extravagance to be had in my new home. The apartment was an attic, turned into a cozy one-bedroom apartment, with a small office space, and a sun porch. I am embarrassed to admit that on moving day my parents and friends had to haul my bed up through the window via a MacGyver-like pulley system fashioned out of whatever random rope and other supplies we had.

Compared to what a lot of my friends were doing at that time, that old apartment with a tiny and uninviting bathroom, minimalist decrepid kitchen, and non-luxurious appearance, was not where I thought I would land. I had lonely days in that apartment, but I also had wonderful days as well. I danced by myself, and spent beautiful lazy spring mornings sipping coffee and reading on the sun porch.

At that time I don’t think I fully appreciated that apartment. I was more embarrassed by the place and the feeling that at that time in my life I was supposed to have something “more” or “better”. I was in a hurry to get on with my life and get the things that I was “supposed to have”.

But, I look back on that time in my first (solo) apartment with so much fondness. I got to know myself better, and that cozy space was exactly what I needed at that time in my life. I didn’t realize it when I was living there, but I loved that apartment, imperfections and all.

What does my first apartment have to do with career transition, unemployment, and underemployment? It is a reminder that when we think things should be different from how they currently are, that we should have “more” or “better”, that we may really be missing out on appreciating a rich and meaningful time in our lives.

Admittedly I have days when I am able to appreciate this time, and days when I am consumed with fear, panic, loss, the uncertainty of what is next, and the feeling that this is not where I was supposed to end up. There are days when I read my own blog for inspiration, as a reminder to myself on the tough days that I am able to find inspiration and be inspirational.

I do think that someday I will look back on this time with fondness, as I did with my first apartment. But, in the meantime, not knowing when I will have the opportunity to look back, I am going to try to savor and appreciate this time, knowing that is “special”. Maybe it is not special in the way that I would like to be “special” but it is special nonetheless.

I recently read a blog post from someone who has been unemployed for four years. It is terrifying to think that unemployment can go on for that long, but I was amazed in reading the post that this person described unemployment as the best thing that has happened to him. And it isn’t because he is really enjoying being unemployed, or that he has found his calling and turned his passion into a business as sometimes happens with unemployment. No, he is still struggling and trying to make his way, but he described this time with warm regard because he has learned more about himself and grown more as a person during this four years than he has in the rest of his life. His spirit is deeply inspiring, and a remarkable reminder that most difficult times of our lives can also be the most rewarding.

Don’t get me wrong, I would still rather get up tomorrow and go to work rather than having more time for “growth”. But, we can’t control how long it is going to take to find the next career position. We can only try to appreciate what we have right now in front of us. Some days you won’t be able to appreciate this time and that is ok. Allow yourself to have those days, but do your best to appreciate the next day. This time may be the most rewarding time in your life.

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6 Responses to “This Journey May be the Most Rewarding of Your Life”

  1. Jane Doe May 23, 2013 at 11:47 am #

    I’m sorry. I know trying to stay optimistic is important but at this point I am having trouble with finding anything about this that is rewarding. Because I did some freelancing when I was unemployed the unemployment bureau is withholding my pay pending investigation to make sure that I was not an employee of my clients. My pension is gone. My health insurance is gone and I have conditions that aren’t being treated. I realize the interest that has built up during periods of unemployment is too large and I have to choose between retirement and default. My parents who live off of Social Security are dipping into meager savings along with my brother to help me pay rent and get food and medication. I just interviewed for another job and made it to the second round. If I don’t get it I may have to live on my brothers sofa. If you can tell me what is rewarding about this being my life with an Ivy League grad degree at 46 years old I would truly be amazed. While at times this blog has inspired me it is getting repetitive and unrealistic about how truly awful this can be. I need to feel support from people having similar problems. Not a pity party mind you, but a realistic appraisal about what is happening to the middle class in this country. Not a “pick yourself up by the bootstraps” mentality when someone is holding those boots to the floor. I will unsubscribe myself. Sincerely good luck to you in your search.

  2. Lisa M. May 23, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

    JaneDoe, I am not trying to minimize how difficult this time can be. I have incredibly difficult days, but I don’t find it particularly helpful to write about how difficult things are. Yes, there are big changes happening to the middle class, and the changes in the job market have been rapid. Sometimes it feels like politicians and the media don’t care about the unemployed. There are plenty of blogs where you can read about how much enemployment sucks and how hard it is. I choose to take a different path and figure out how I can make the best of a bad situation. I understand your frustrations with getting a good education and not having it pay off. But, in the end we aren’t entitled to anything. If you don’t like what is happening to the middle class, what are you doing to change it?

  3. Rebecca Fraser-Thill May 23, 2013 at 7:35 pm #

    I find this post to be absolutely beautiful. Good for you for going it on your own all those years ago and, as you said, finding so much to love in the imperfections of the space and the situation. There is always value in this way of perceiving the world. We can’t control our circumstances but we can change how we think about them, and this is a gorgeous example of just that.

    • Lisa M. May 23, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

      Thank you Rebecca! I needed that today:)

  4. Razwana May 27, 2013 at 12:59 am #

    I second Rebecca’s comment. How you deal with the present is a choice. You are choosing to remain optimistic. Perhaps that comes from the ‘I’ve been here before’ feeling when you think back to your apartment?

    Admiration all the way for you here !

    – Razwana

  5. Sarah Li Cain May 27, 2013 at 6:27 am #

    As someone who went through unemployment at one point, I agree it can get very frustrating. To be honest, you have so much more free time that I think in some silly way that is a blessing in disguise. I hate saying this, but there are ways out, like freelancing. Granted, freelancing isn’t going to be a magic cure and of course you won’t end up with a liveable income right away, but at least you know you are working on something long term. And if you are freelancing, I don’t consider that being unemployed.

    I remember practicing gratitude a lot during those times, even when it got hard. If you surround yourself with so much negativity, that makes it harder and harder to get out of it. Which in my opinion can stop you from progressing, like self-limiting thoughts that get you employed (e.g. “I am not qualified for this job, so I won’t bother applying for it.” etc.(

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