I remember him physically bracing himself as he delivered the news, clearly preparing for the impending yelling/weeping/generalnashingofteeth. But somehow, none of that came. I calmly put down the GIGANTIC box of Runts (Banana FTW!) I was consuming, assured him everything would be fine, said a quick prayer, and opened up my excel budget sheet.
Turns out, remaining calm was probably the best thing we both coulda done during the period that G searched for a job. While I hope this never happens to you, ReaderFriend, I do think we learned a lot of valuable lessons during this chapter in our lives and felt it was my bloggerly duty to pass them along. Other than STAYING CALM PEOPLE, might I recommend that you:
Be informed: I’ve had friends who were unemployed for two weeks, others who were unemployed for two years. I spent a looooot of time reading articles and studies about unemployment, but one salient fact still sticks out: The average unemployment period is about 8 months. Eight. Knowing a stat like that and being cool with it are two very different things, but understanding that relief might not exactly be right around the corner was helpful in moving forward and creating a plan of action. Which brings me to ….
Have a plan: You know me and my Type A ticks—I love a plan and firmly believe that having one is nearly always a good idea. There’s so much to talk through and figure out when you’re going through this process: What kinds of jobs are you going to apply for? What salary are you willing/able to take? What happens when Unemployment Compensation runs out? How can you use your network of friends and family to find out about opportunities that might be a fit? Is it time for a career change? GAH! There’s just so much! We found it so helpful to keep everything in the open and talk through all of our options so we were always on the same page and always operating from the same playbook. It sounds odd, but we squabbled less than ever during this uncertain and shaky period of our lives. No doubt in my mind that that stemmed from the fact that we remained transparent and honest with one another.
Make a budget (and stick with it for Pete’s sake!): We were fortunate in that we live by a fairly strict monthly budget, so it only took us a few days to really find out how we could carve into/around it in order to save dollars during this critical time. And because I’m such a budgeting freak already, it wasn’t too much of a challenge to stick to our new, meager spending guidelines. We also made tons of phone calls to everyone from the car insurance company to our internet provider to find out how we could save a few bones here and there. We cancelled services (sorry, Audible!) that were really not necessary, skipped any and every dinner out, and nixed birthday presents and the like. Don’t need it to live? Then don’t need it period!
Trust and Rely: Simply put, we could not have gotten through this period on our own. We prayed a lot while looking for answers and guidance, and we relied on the prayers of our friends and family. We looked to colleagues and neighbors to hook us up with job opportunities and help G network. We called parents and vented for hours on end. We gratefully accepted every check-in-the-guise-of-an-easter/New Years/happy summer-present that George’s mom offered. We high-fived friends who let us bail on dinners and happy hours out and who happily came over for frozen pizza nights instead. (Do I like frozen pizza better than “real” pizza? I might, friends, I might.) What a strangely amazing position to find ourselves in!
Be grateful: All of this to say … perspective people. Throughout this “hard” time, I remained employed; we had a cozy house to call home; and our friends, family and faith carried us through. We learned so freaking much about being grateful for what we have been given, about not mistaking work for life, and about the folly that is believing in “financial security.” It was hideous while we were in it, but looking back, I’m thankful for all the lessons we learned! Hindsight, 20/20, you know that whole thing.
So there’s your inspirational pep talk for surviving the uncertainty that is unemployment. Next week, I’ll be back with the nitty-gritty on that budget plan that you know I’m just itching to share with you!