I've heard on several occasions that when a person first learns they'll be losing their job, the number one stressful thought isn't "How will I provide for myself and my family?" but "What on earth am I supposed to do all day?" I can imagine--while the idea of long, drawn-out days with nowhere to go, nothing required of you may initially sound pretty OK, as they start to add up, a growing sense of lack-of-purpose might start to nag. And then that nag might turn into something bigger--a slow, twisting pang of hopelessness that gets more pronounced with every turn of the calendar page.
Thankfully, I'm not there yet--not even close. Between the holidays, the first faculty interview (no. 2 very soon!), plus a little side project I've been working on, the days have been different and busy enough that I haven't yet lapsed into a daily routine of boredom-fueled binge eating and video games.
I made a couple of rules for myself, the first being that I have to leave the house every day. Even if it's just to walk to the store to buy cat food, I am under no circumstances allowed to spend the entire day indoors in my sweatpants. Second, I must exercise often. Exercise is good not only for getting rid of those nasty love handles that mysteriously popped up around the time I went to three holiday "cookie parties" in one weekend, but also for generally feeling good in my brain. I've decided that even if I end up with a little credit card debt, I'm keeping my gym membership; going to the gym gives me energy and makes me happy, and those are two things that an unemployed person needs, badly.
The money thing is a much bigger problem--as you might imagine, the NIH post-doctoral minimum salary doth not very far stretch here in the Big Apple, and my savings are, one could say, lilliputian. Now, I will be the first to admit that I haven't exactly lived an ascetic's lifestyle in the last five years, but that is currently neither here nor there. The reality is that J and I may have to move, probably to Queens, where rents are substantially cheaper than in Brooklyn. I went out there earlier this week to check out our options, and was greeted by a woman carrying a live parrot on her shoulder who showed me an apartment with blood on the bedroom floor. I wish I were kidding.
I also signed up to receive unemployment benefits, which is one of the most humbling things I've ever done. I felt bad, like I was taking it from someone who "really" needed it (and yes, I realize that the fact that I had that thought speaks loads of my privileged existence thus far). But I do need it, or I will not be able to pay my rent, even if it is in a blood-spattered apartment in Queens. This week, I have to go to a Career Assistance appointment at the NY State Department of Labor. I wonder if they have an in at SUNY?
But life is not all sadness and dismay! I cashed in some credit card miles, and in a couple of weeks I travel to a warm state to visit my sister, and will give two seminars while I'm down there. I went to the opthamologist and dentist, and received reports that my eyes haven't worsened and that I'm a good brusher. Without saying too much, things are...progressing...on the faculty front, and even possibly on the interim-job front. I am optimistic that life will not be horrible.