Being unemployed is an emotional roller coaster. Some days I feel unqualified for everything. Other days I feel empowered, like I am a hidden gem just waiting to be found. One hour I'm optimistic, while the next, I feel like I’ve been hit by a financial mac truck. No matter the dynamics of my emotions, I choose not to let this short stop in my journey defeat me.
I thought I would write about this after I found a job, but a good friend inspired me to talk about my experience in real time. As a matter of fact, as I pen this essay, I have been unemployed for 17 months. Solid job possibilities are nearly non-existence and my unemployment has run out. My third revised deadline to have a job is three months away. Here is how I survived the last 17 months and how I will continue to hold on to my sanity and peace of mind.
I Focus On The Source, Not The Resource
I have always been an unapologetic church girl. However, regular religion was not helping my situation. My relationship with God was my saving grace. With the bank account on empty and job options nearly non-existent, God is all I have. My spiritual relationship was all that I could control. To exercise that control, I dedicate time daily to prayer and devotion. On days when I cannot summon up anything good to think or say, I recite faith confessions to make sure I’m speaking life to my situation. I continue to honor God through giving my tithe, talent and time to my church more than what I had been giving before. This gives me ultimate peace. I trust him with everything I have. Everything that I have given, I have gotten back ten times more. Indeed, this principle has never failed me. I have been able to pay every bill. I have never lacked anything. All my needs are being met.
I Find Productive Distractions
I relegate job searching to one day of the week. During the other days, I work on projects that I enjoy. I am working on marketing my first self-published book, building my company’s online website and planning a summer camp for my non-profit. I fill my time with reading and writing pieces to forward my professional identity. Soon, I will began working on producing my first podcast. I hold myself accountable by creating daily goals and weekly milestones. Working on my passion projects keeps me focused on things that I can control and it helps retain my value of self-worth. It is a clear way to see my time and effort manifest in something great.
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I Practice Gratitude
I wake up every morning and thank God for health, shelter, food and clothing. I am extremely grateful for the simple, little things in life, more so now than ever. I refuse to complain about anything as I realize there are so many who are less fortunate than I. When I feel myself nearing an emotional low point, I find something to make me happy. When I think of the most extreme outcome of a crisis, I think about people who overcame worst. I have become a minimalist, as I do not need much now to be content. I can truly say I have real joy during a time when I normally should not.
I Focus On Others
It is so easy to fall into self-pity and selfishness when your world crumbles. It is exhausting to me to worry about my own problems all the time. I seek reprieve from my situation by supporting those close to me. I have recently supported a BFF in running in her first full marathon. I pitch in for another bestie as an occasional assistant in her new private practice. I am a pseudo manager for my friend who is a rising national speaker. I also assist my Dad, as he is building up his catering business. I am so happy I can be there for them during their vision-building period. My problems take a back seat to seeing others win. It is such a fulfilling practice.
I Make Self-Care A Priority
I told one of my friends that I absolutely refuse to be fat and unemployed. While I do slack sometimes, I strive to be active at least three to four days out of the week. I also set aside a small budget to do something special for myself at least once per month, like having dinner, going to a $5 movie or grabbing a cupcake. I schedule guilt free days of binge watching and afternoon naps. Doing something for me helps me feel a sense of normalcy.
I do not know what the future will bring, but I do know that the past 17 months have developed my faith and tested my resilience. Not many people can sustain long-term unemployment without succumbing to the related negative pressures and emotions. Shifting my mindset and the way I viewed my situation are critical to me handling unemployment like a champ. (Well, even champs get punched in the face). I made a deliberate decision to take advantage of and enjoy this portion of my life journey. I promise myself that no matter how long this lasts, that I will forever be grateful and live my life to its fullest.
Dr. Erin Wheeler is a social entrepreneur dedicated to pushing the conversation of college success into mainstream conversation. She is the founder of bepreppy.com, an online college coaching site and author of "Geaux Wiser: Secrets of College Success”. She enjoys exploring and writing about personal and professional improvement. Follow her on Instagram @erinwheelerphd.