5.06.2013

intentional unemployment


today's prompt touches on something that has been on my mind often as of late.

we are coming up quickly on my anniversary of unemployment. I'm sure some people still think I'm crazy to quit a well-paid job and abandon a promising career to move to the other side of the world. [and to be honest, sometimes, I am one of those people] Husband teaches and so does pretty much every other person I hang out with. so when we meet a new friend they usually assume I am also a teacher. when they find I am not, it leads to the question I have come to dread most:

so... what do you do?

back when I was freshly unemployed I wrote a really great post addressing the similar question I kept receiving at that time: what are you going to do? sometimes I look back at that post and find my younger, pre-Taiwan self annoyingly optimistic [dancing unicorns, really?] sometimes I find it inspiring and mentally hi-five myself. and sometimes I look back at the past nine months and ask myself if I've been using this opportunity to the fullest.

when you wake up every morning with a day full of endless possibilities, it can be scary. what do you choose when you have no [or limited] obligations and an abundance of freedom?

sometimes I worry about my lack of career and lack of direction and get wrapped up in small things like Costco runs and washing dishes. sometimes I get lost on the internet and forget to go out and explore and wonder. and it's true my expectations may have been more than what is realistic. but if I'm being honest I have been using this opportunity. I've done [or started] a lot of those things I wrote about. the fact that I didn't panic and hop a flight home after my first week in Taiwan is an accomplishment in and of itself. the rest... scooting and language barriers and cooking without an oven and risking my life every time I try a new restaurant is all progress above and beyond.

so back to the topic at hand. when someone asks "what do you do?" they almost always are implying "... for a living" or "... as a career." and the title of our occupation is our instinctual response. right now I can't answer that question with my job, because I don't have one. whatever money I currently earn from subbing is basically pocket change to fuel my nailpolish and Anthropologie addictions. I don't consider it a job.

could I find work here? easily. but I choose not to. and lucky for me, our situation allows for Husband to support us both. coming from the states and especially Michigan, people automatically think of unemployment as a bad thing and something to be pitied. there's no denying that doing a job and doing it well can be a great source of satisfaction and self-worth. but I am much happier for not having a job. mostly because I have the freedom to pursue my happiness.

obviously, that's not an easy or quick thing to explain to a near-stranger who merely was asking what you do, whether out of curiosity or politeness. so I devised a phrase: I am intentionally unemployed.

I don't have a "career" or what I feel is a clearly defined role in life. every morning I wake up and unless I am subbing or fostering a dog or committed to a skype date, I am free to choose to do what I please. who am I? what do I do? there are any number of responses I could give: I am a writer, a photographer, an explorer, a substitute teacher, a housewife, an artist, a baker, a blogger, an adventurer... heck, a collector of washi tape. I do all of those things. 

but the simplest truth is... I am whoever I choose to be. in that day, in that moment. so in a world where I can do anything - almost literally anything - what do I do? I love, I create, I learn, and I live. 

and sometimes wash the dishes.

16 comments:

  1. I love this! I found your blog through the May link-up, and I think you're so brave to be intentionally unemployed. Right now I'm looking to make some major changes in my career and where I'm living, and it's terrifying that I don't know what's next. So reading this helps me. Even if I don't know my next step, or even if I don't have a job right away, I'll still be making a good step in the direction of being happy. :)

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    1. some days I feel more stupid than brave, but in the end I think it's worth it. good luck with figuring out what's next and I hope it brings you happiness :)

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  2. So well written. To many things spoke to me for me to be able to pick just one. I loved the whole bit about waking up everyday with endless possibilities.

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  3. I'm usually unintentionally unemployed which is terrifying... I would love to be on the intentional side :)

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    1. maybe you could turn something unintended into intended? I feel guilty sometimes about not working when so many others would if they could, thank you for being understanding and I hope you find work [if you want it] soon!

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  4. when i first saw your title i thought you had written "internationally unemployed" so feel free to use that as your book title =) if you'll allow me to play the age card here i'll say that going off on an adventure to taiwan with your husband is better than any job or promising career. now that the dust has settled - i would have junked teaching a long time ago to be a better mother and wife. that stated - we really shouldn't have to choose between marriage/family or career - but from where i'm sitting - you're doing the most important job you will ever do:

    being - becoming - Jamie Walker

    xx

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    1. "the most important job you will ever do: being - becoming - Jamie Walker" and there is the short answer to the question it took me 12 paragraphs to answer! ha xo

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  5. So well put. And how nice it is to have the chance to be intentionally unemployed! I try to remember that any day I get worried that I'm not doing enough with my life or should get a job. Having this opportunity to seek out what we really want to make us happy is so wonderful, and we only have one life to live!

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  6. I totally get you on this. I wrote a somewhat similar response to the prompt, at least in our ideals of what we feel like we have to answer when it comes to this question. I loved reading your perspective!

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    1. thanks, bailey! I agree, it's so silly that we try to define each other by our job titles - we are so much more!

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  7. I'm so glad I found your blog! I really appreciated this post. I quit my job at the end of last year, for several reasons, and I am remaining intentionally unemployed. My husband and I are planning to leave on a several month long trip in the fall, and finding another job right now just didn't make sense for me. I still feel guilt about not having a career though, whenever someone asks what I "do." Thanks for reminding me that it's ok to be unemployed :)

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    1. it's definitely hard not to feel guilty, but you have to do the right thing for yourself :) hope you have a great trip!

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  8. this is such a great post. I am a stay mother, who is writing a novel, because I don't have an agent or a publisher sometimes I don't use the word writer, I can't easily answer that question either. but using intentionally unemployed is so creative :)

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  9. Life to me is all about finding out what makes me happiest and striving to make it possible to spend as much of my time as possible doing that. So many people strive to be rich or successful in a career without realising that those things are actually of little importance to them. I think it's great that you're choosing a life that suits you.

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