Time and money.
Those are the two things I am able to trade for the goods and services I’ve come to depend on in my daily life. In some cases, those two forms of payment are interchangeable. Pay for a taxi or wait for the bus. Hire a handy man or fix it yourself. Buy it at the store or craft it at home. Most of us make these decisions everyday based on our current allotment of time vs. money. For me, with my net income dwindling in the negative I am investigating life based solely on time currency. If I have learned anything from unemployment so far, it’s that I have a lot of time on my hands, and I might as well put it to good use.
Something I seem to be running across more and more in my efforts to live my life with minimum expenses are businesses that take money out of the equation. They take direct manpower for their services, allowing people like me, who have a surplus of time, to trade work for all the other things I need/want. Back in Denver, I heard of a restaurant called Café 180 where you can “pay” for lunch by either giving what you can or trading an hour of volunteer work. Here in Boston there is a dance studio where you can trade an hour of
work for an hour of dance class. Then there’s WWOOF or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, where people have travelled the world exchanging their labor for a place to stay and some food.
With all these options, I sometimes think I may never need another job. In a way, money is just a way to keep track of previous investments of time. Then again, the convenience and versatility of cash money is not something I could give up lightly.
Another helpful use of time that has benefitted me in the past is volunteering in general. I’ve gained a number of both obscure and sometimes useful skills from offering up my relatively unskilled labor. In high
school, I learned to use a cash register volunteering at the local resale store then later was able to apply to be a cashier in a grocery store. Not big on the scale of life skills but it certainly got me the job over several of my other unskilled colleagues. Now I am hoping to volunteer some time with either my local library and/ or the nearby Planned Parenthood office with the hopes that my time investment will help me get paid to be in these industries at a later date.
The last and arguably most fun use I have found for my time in unemployment land is learning. In the past week, I have learned how to do laughter yoga, how to make tomato zucchini fritters and how to make chai tea
from scratch. I’ve learned to play telephone Pictionary and seen “The Wire” for the first time. I’ve discovered two new restaurants and a great bookstore in my neighborhood. And I’ve met four new people, two of whom offered to keep an eye out for a job for me.
Now while I can’t be sure that any of these things will lead to a job or help me develop a marketable skill, they do encourage me to continue working on myself while nor otherwise working. I could research skills to gain that would give my resume more of a competitive edge, or look for classes that could help me hone the talents I already have. Either way I’d like to start thinking of my unemployment as a workshop— a time dedicated to self-development, self-discovery, and who knows what else. Hopefully, this change in thinking will help brighten the next few unknown months ahead of me.