In 2014 I had the chance to find out what I love to do. Unemployment gave me a break from working for other people and gave me the space to work on whatever I wanted.
I had big plans for my unemployment because (1) I felt horribly bad and deeply guilty about not working (2) I wanted to prove to people I was still doing things, even if I was not paid to do them and (3) I needed to be a positive inspiration rather than a lame-ass, unemployed, over-educated 40 year old.
I will start a blog, I promised. I will re-engage with the environmental community as EcoChixSpeaks and transform myself into an eco-blogger. I started on Twitter and created a daily hashtag to organize my communication. I found cool posts. I scheduled them on Hootsuite. I celebrated every new follower and delighted in favorites and re-tweets from environmental groups I admire.
Then I began the blog. I found a template and put time into my bio. I looked for photos. Finally, eventually, I wrote two blogs. Then I got a real job and promptly abandoned the project.
I wrote other things too during that time, more personal stuff, stuff I really liked writing. The eco-blogging felt like a chore. I haven’t been a paid part of the environmental community for over a decade and felt unsure about my current knowledge and opinions. My writing tried too hard. The blog was supposed to inspire hope for humanity with positive stories of sustainability but ended up sounding as righteous as the rest.
The personal stuff, on the other hand, flowed freely. I had to carve out space and do it, but once I sat down the writing was fun. It was creative. I found a voice and loved making the voice come alive.
When I took the real job I promised to keep writing. I bought a composition book, an old-school black and white one from CVS pharmacy, and carried it everywhere. At 2pm I headed outside with my notebook and a cup of coffee to write for half an hour. I ate lunch at my desk but took time in the afternoon to let thoughts pour on paper. I didn’t know what I’d write when I sat down, but I jotted down the first five paragraphs of this essay and the beginnings of many others.
I wrote about playing small and crazy mothers. About self-care and the reasons I love my husband. About Los Angeles and cancer and forgiveness. I even wrote about EcoChix and sketched ideas for events I have in mind.
Looking through the notebook now I realize how much I wrote, even if in bits and pieces. I created the beginnings of ideas that were swimming in my mind and those ideas remain, lurking and marinating and hoping to be written.
I also took notes from seminars and books that inspired me, including a webinar by Dorie Clark called “Stand Out." Dorie told us how to become thought leaders in our fields. In my notebook I copied her phrase, quite big and bold, “Create MORE White Space. You don’t need time, you need space.”
Unemployment gave me space. But at the time, unemployment felt demoralizing. It was difficult, mentally and monetarily. I made unemployment mean that I wasn’t good enough, that no one wanted me, that I had failed. I questioned every decision I had ever made in life because how could they be right if I was left without work?
But now I can see unemployment for what it truly was: a gift. It was space. I worked my whole life, and worked hard. I moved from one job to another being great at what I do but never clear about what I wanted. The space gave me clarity. The space let me think. In the space I found my voice.
The real job was a year-long contract and now that contract is complete and I find myself with space again. I find myself with time to leaf through my notebook and finish my thoughts. To sit and write and do what I love.
In this round of unemployment there is less meaning and more gratitude. I know my next adventure will be a good one, and that it will benefit from the abundance of space I have today.
A Bit About Me
I am Tenaya, a communications strategist and public speaker telling stories that connect, inspire...and laugh.