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
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
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:
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
See you next month.
E-mail me at email@example.com This page accessed times Thanks, Fidget!
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
This page accessed times