Shop Eastwood for your Auto Restoration Needs!
What's up with this banner thing?

If you don't see a navigation bar on the left, CLICK HERE

Spinning My Tires   is one man's view of the world of cars. Random thoughts, ideas and comments pop up here, all of them related to owning, driving and restoring cars. I've been doing this car thing as long as I can remember, and have enjoyed a great many car-related experiences, some of which I hope to share with you here. And I always have an opinion one way or another. Enjoy.

E-mails are welcomed--if you have thoughts of your own to share, please send them.

Additional Spinning My Tires editorials can be found on the Archives page.


The Unemployment Blues

I spent the last 3 weeks of September and nearly all of October 2004 unemployed, having lost my job at Mustang Dynamometer about a year after being hired. The details aren’t important (a combination of things contributed to our parting ways, some of them my own fault), but seven weeks is a long time to spend alone, wondering about one’s finances, family and future. I know there are people out there who have been unemployed far longer than I was, and I’m sure it only gets harder the longer it continues. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have landed on my feet, and I look at my new job as an opportunity to make some big changes in my life.

One of the most important lessons I learned from the experience is that your job is only one facet of your life. Yes, of course it is critical to keep the money coming in, and a job can provide a great deal of personal satisfaction. But it is not your only reason for living. It is often hard to remember this when facing mounting bills and dwindling savings, but if you don’t maintain your mental health during this critical time, you’ll be on a downward spiral that can ruin you. Trust me, I know—this is the second time I’ve needed rescuing.

When I lost my job, the Buick, this web site, my writing, even the magazines and books I usually enjoy reading all became pretty meaningless. I stopped eating, didn’t sleep much and stopped talking to friends and family because I was ashamed. I wouldn’t allow myself to enjoy even one moment of pleasure without the specter of joblessness lightly tapping me on the shoulder and whispering, “How dare you do something you enjoy when you have all these things to be unhappy about? Why aren’t you looking for a job instead?”

I made the job search my full-time occupation. I woke up each morning, scanned the classifieds, went on-line to all the usual places and searched the listings, sent resumes by the ream, and focused exclusively on finding a job. Anything that distracted me from that mission was irrelevant. I wouldn’t let myself do anything else until I’d invested at least six hours calling, writing, E-mailing, looking for a job.

Let me tell you: that’s a hard thing to live with every day.

Sure, I would occasionally think about the Buick and wonder what would happen if I didn’t find a job soon. I would dream about finishing it someday, just as I always had, but the joy of anticipation was gone, entirely replaced by guilt. More than once, I wondered what my friend Doug Seybold might pay me for the whole damned project, or if I should list it and my Mustang on eBay to cut my losses and buy us a few more months. For a time, I couldn’t even bear to go into the garage because I felt like it was full of broken dreams. Everything I did made me feel worse about myself and my future. My confidence plummeted as a result.

Eventually, the job search just couldn’t take up as much of my day as it did initially—I had already seen most of the jobs that were out there and already applied for those I was qualified to do. I had a few interviews, registered with some head-hunters, followed-up with some prospects and called some friends of friends of friends, but it really was a waiting game by that point. Being alone with my own thoughts became poisonous.

One afternoon I went out and cleaned up the garage. I still wouldn’t let myself work on the Buick, but the mess out there bothered me. Then I looked at the car, saw something that needed my immediate attention, and I just did it. Just a quick project, something that didn’t cost me any money, just an hour or two of my time. That night, Julia came home and noticed my attitude had changed. I was whistling.

“Well you’re certainly in a good mood,” she said. “Did something happen today?”

Of course, she was referring to the job search, but something had happened: I realized that my career was but one facet of who I am, and that a job requires only a portion of my time. I’d finally done something for myself, and my spirits had been lifted tremendously—the clouds had cleared and I could see the sun for the first time in weeks. I nailed a subsequent interview (the one that ultimately landed me my new job) because I’d rediscovered my confidence and ambition out in the garage (where I had apparently been storing it all along).

I’m certainly not advocating that you undertake a frame-off restoration as a cure for the unemployment blues. I am saying that when things seem most bleak, take a little time to do the things that make you happy, because you need them. In fact, I’d say you need these things most during times of greatest hardship. You should not feel guilty about keeping your spirits up with a hobby any more than you should feel guilty about drinking orange juice to ward off sickness in the winter. It’s something you require to stay healthy.

Whatever your hobby may be, fit it in somehow. I did a lot of little jobs on the Buick that didn’t require anything other than my time, jobs I would have to tackle sooner or later anyway. I already had the equipment and supplies, it was just an investment in some spare time—and I had a lot of that. I didn’t stop looking for a job, but I managed to fit hobby time in whenever I wasn’t doing job stuff or (most importantly) family stuff. Set priorities, but don’t exclude things that bring you happiness. This is very important to your mental health—I felt like a new man after that first session in the shop, ready to challenge the world. A week later, I had two job offers, something I attribute to my improved attitude and renewed optimism.

With that in mind, here are a few things you can do if cash is tight and you just need something to distract you from your problems, even if only for a few hours:

  • Clean. I know you have a pile of parts you just don’t want to deal with, something that you keep putting off. Do it now. Even the worst task on a restoration is better than feeling despondent about your situation and doing nothing.         
  • Polish. If you have the equipment and supplies already, polish some trim. It’s dirty, unpleasant work, but has a very high degree of satisfaction to it. What’s better for morale than taking some cloudy metal trim and making it shine like a mirror? Think of yourself as that piece of stainless: still useful, just tarnished and weathered. Rejuvenate yourself while you restore trim.
  • Sand. Surely there’s something on your project that can be sanded, stripped or smoothed. Best of all, after a few hours of sanding, you’ll be so tired that you won’t lay awake at night worrying about your situation. Get busy!   
  • Organize. If you haven’t been labeling and packaging parts properly, spend an afternoon in your storage area and get your project organized. Even if you’re doing nothing more than labeling parts with some masking tape and a marker, getting your project organized will energize both the project and your life. Again, this is something that you might tend to neglect under different circumstances. Put your current circumstances to work for you now.   

Most of all, I want to thank you for all your letters of support and encouragement—while I haven’t met most of you personally, I consider all of you my friends. Thanks for keeping me on-track.

See you next month.

E-mail me at

This page accessed Hit Counter times
Last modified on 02/06/2005

Thanks, Fidget!