A few days after my AmeriCorps service ended, I was talking with my dad about how hard it is to find a job and how desperate I am for work. I was nervous about stranding Taylor with all of our bills while I settled into a mindless routine of daytime talk shows and bon-bons. And my dad, who taught me everything I ever needed to know about hard work and finance, gave me some interesting advice that I wouldn't have expected.
He said, "Take some time for yourself, Kate. This is a rare opportunity for you to relax a little bit and do some things that you want to do. There will always be time for work. You have a long road of work ahead of you, just enjoy this while you can."
Of course, in my frenzied state I disregarded this advice, thinking 'What does he know, anyway?' The mortgage won't pay itself.' Which is true. But I failed to see what my dad was really saying. He was saying, "Continue searching and applying for jobs, but after you've done that, move on to other things you want to accomplish in the day, too. Don't let the pressure of finding a job hold you captive from enjoying life and getting other stuff done."
Or something like that. Still, I found it difficult to close the computer and do something just for me. I thought it was selfish of me to do something fun when I still didn't have a paycheck to bring to the table.
After Taylor found his new job, though, a lot of that job hunt pressure was lifted off of my shoulders. Financially we were fine, and the sense of urgency to replace my income was suddenly gone. But I still couldn't let myself off the hook. I spent way too much time on job search sites, constantly refreshing the web pages, even late into the night, so that I wouldn't miss any brand new postings. After a couple of weeks of this unhealthy, obsessive behavior, I fell into a funk, and started to believe my value as a human being rested only in my ability to find (and keep) the best job ever. And when you're jobless, that means some pretty low days.
I'm trying harder now to not make my entire life about CareerBuilder. To continue searching for jobs, but to move on to other goals, just as my dad said. I want to have something to be proud of, something to share with Taylor when he comes home from work besides, "I applied for 3 jobs on Craigslist. Woo."
I recently shared my problem with a good friend of mine over coffee, who advised that I make a point to schedule "fun time" into my day. She pointed out that I have been really good at focusing on one task (the job-hunt), but lousy at giving attention to anything else that might actually make me happy. I'm still working on it, but in the past few days I've actually gotten quite a bit of stuff done around the house that I've been putting off for no good reason. I've cleaned up an unusable room in our house, I've made a little stepping stool for my elderly cats, and I've been assembling a scrapbook of our wedding pictures--all tangible things that I can hold up at the end of the day and be proud of.
So in short, you were right, Dad. I should take your advice more often.
But don't let it go to your head.