Allowing Myself to be Unemployed

If you told me 10 years ago that I would be a native English speaker who’s worked as many jobs and seen as much of this world as I had… I wouldn’t have believed you.

This is it: today marks the beginning of unemployment for the first time since I was 16 years old. That’s almost 8 whole years of a pretty severe case of workaholism, where I was either counting my hourly pay, trying to build my resume, or being tormented by the “what ifs” and applying for jobs. I’ve always been an addict to “work,” kept myself sane by working 3, 4 part time jobs at a time to keep things fresh and stay motivated. I felt like I was not important, unless I was doing something that paid or was anywhere near the definition of “work.”

In my 23 years, I’ve been a waitress, caterer, English/Chinese tutor, hotel receptionist, translator, writer, journalist, filmmaker, elementary school/college teacher (albeit very different jobs), surveyor, usher, babysitter, event planner, social media slave, photographer, editor, coffee-getter, intern… And some more I can’t even recall.

I am blessed to be able to say that all of these opportunities were rewarding, either in money or in experiences, and they each led to great friendships, skills learned, and bigger opportunities.

Now for the first time, after this norm of keeping myself busy, I am allowing myself to be society’s biggest taboo – “unemployed.”

Perhaps it was the realization that I have spent most of my best able-bodied years sitting behind a desk. Perhaps it’s the realization that a “career” seems to be exactly what’s keeping me from seeing everything I want to see, from going to more places like this, and from traveling and experiencing more stories. Because when you’re bound to the 5-day work week, you can only fit so much into the 2-day weekend — if you have that privilege at all.

The privilege of unemployment -- visiting beaches when they are actually empty. If you live in Taiwan, you know how rare of a sight that is.
The privilege of unemployment — visiting beaches when they are actually empty. If you live in Taiwan, you know how rare of a sight that is.

Of course, this is not a completely reckless decision. I have been saving money for the past year, being the true workaholic that I am and sustaining multiple jobs and earning extra on weekends. I have enough to not panic just yet about an only outgoing bank for the next few months, but not without plans of being financially savvy.

My goal for this unemployment, is making every second count. This is going to be my best chance to truly embrace spontaneity, travel without plans, experiencing creative and physical freedom, before being confined (however rewarding) by another full-time career, whatever it may be.

I will document my finances in the meantime, to see how I will stretch my one year of savings into traveling the world. To the unemployed, discussing money seems almost stigmatized, but it’s the ultimate fear that keeps people from becoming free from the grasp of a full-time job. As I found out through visiting Bangkok, traveling might not be as financially detrimental as stereotypes insist.


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