Hi there, did you have a nice weekend?
We did. We hung out with some friends and their kids at a new French coffee shop where I’m secretly hoping to become a pastry apprentice. We wandered our fair city, ate lots of tasty shao kao, taste-tested a few beers for the non-drinking Buddha at his bar, (a story for another time), and went for an amazing Hash Run through rice paddies at the Moon Bear rescue center just outside of town.
Which all just goes to show that, while being unemployed sucks, it doesn’t mean you can’t still really enjoy your weekends (and then, on Monday morning, remain in your pjs until noon-like I said, there are perks to this unemployment thang).
Before we get into part deux of Friday’s post, can I just say that all of you out there reading are so fantastic? When I started writing this series, I had no clue what the reaction would be and to be honest, it’s all of your emails and comments that have made this series so fun and rewarding to write.
Your comments and emails have been enlightening, encouraging, and just plain wonderful to read. Thank you so much for making my day; and if I may shamelessly pander for more, please keep them coming!
And without further ado, a few more unemployment side-effects before we get into the warm-fuzzy side of the unemployed life tomorrow.
4. Spending Hours on the Internet looking for work…or reading the news…or window shopping…you get the picture
Just kidding. I’m never online. Ha!
Scouring the internet for want ads is, admittedly, not usually the most effective strategy for finding work.
In my case though (and probably yours) the internet was a place to start before I knew anyone or anything about Chengdu. Not to mention, the internet provides a lifeline to friend’s back home, world news, American culture, etc, etc.
While I’ve found lots of good information about Chengdu and even applied for a few jobs I’ve found online, can I just say that surfing the interent is really not the best way to spend the majority one’s time?
I love the internet, I love the VPN we use to get around the firewall. I love reading blogs and news sites and window shopping and reading more blogs.
But the internet is no substitute for human contact or for getting outside and seeing a little bit of the real world. If you want to become temporarily, totally socially awkward, spend all of your time on the internet for a few days. Seriously. I’ve done it and it’s not pretty.
The real world does not speak in the sorts of pithy, sarcastic phrases that support life in the blogosphere. There’s no box for comments nor a “remove post” option. You have to put yourself out there.
And laughing at funny YouTube video along with thousands of other people is still no substitute for sharing a smile with a grandparent on the street over their ridiculously cute, butt-less-pant-wearing grandbaby.
Believe me when I say you need human contact when you are unemployed. A coffee date with your best girlfriend is great but just getting out and walking around amongst people working, playing, laughing, eating, sleeping and/or playing majong (around 2pm, that’s the majority of the people here it seems) works too. You need it. You just do. End of story.
I used to be one of those people who fell asleep the second my head hit the pillow. I can fall asleep mid-sentence. I can sleep anywhere.
I once managed to sleep for 6 hours between two 6’5″ 300 pound Christian missionaries from in a miniature coach seat from Nairobi to Heathrow-though not before I promised to remember that “the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be coming back-very soon.” Of course.
Back when I was working I could, and did on multiple occasions, fall asleep under my desk when I was working late…though I preferred sleeping under my colleague Greg’s desk after he left-just a bit more comfortable really.
My ability to sleep instantly and anywhere is a talent really, if not some sort of borderline-narcoleptic medical condition.
But now, I’m an insommniac and in the weirdest of ways.
I don’t stay up worrying per se, I stay up because I’ve just got too many interesting thoughts going through my head (interesting to me anyways, though probably not to anyone else).
It’s as if not working has freed up a whole lot of my brain energy and at night I can’t sleep until I’ve somehow used it all up.
Though I’m glad I don’t stay up worrying about stuff most nights, its not as if I’m coming up with a cure for cancer either.
Last night, after thinking a bit about my last blog post, I stayed awake for a few hours dreaming up a watercolor-project involving Chinese characters. I may have also made mental notes to buy a cake carrier and a label maker off Amazon someday. Then I may have planned out my Monday morning to include some bread-baking and a date with the treadmill.
Yup, that’s me, bettering humanity, one sleepless night at a time.
Or maybe what this really means is that I should be studying my Mandarin wayyy more than I do. That will tire a brain out pretty quick, right?
6. The Writing Constantly and Misguidedly Applying for Free-Lance Writing Gig Phase
Technically, I’m not over the first part of that headline, I don’t think. I write A LOT.
“Duh” you might be saying to yourself right now, “you subject us to damn-near epic novel-length blog posts everyday and still believe ‘I write a lot’ will be a revelation?!?”
It’s true. I like to try and lull people to sleep with ultra-long blog posts. But I also write a lot of stuff that doesn’t make it up onto this blog.
Stuff like the first 2 pages of a novel, and the first 2 pages for another novel. And a plan for a non-fiction book. Then there’s also that constantly-open Word document filled with notes and journal entries from our days here in China and an attempt at a recollection of Chris and I’s wedding day.
(Note to still-single readers: the time to write down your memories from your wedding day is the day after the wedding, not the year after. At this point, I’m about ready to throw in the towel-all I can remember is that it was awesome, and stuff happened, and people ate really delicious food).
I’ve even write (in my head) blog posts about the Chinese people and their relationship to the media and then I remember that nobody behind the firewall can read my blog now as it is and that I still have a lot to learn about censorship and free speech here in China.
I write a lot more in China both because I have the time to and because there’s plenty of inspiration. Everyday I see new things, realize new things, hear new phrases. Being a stranger in a strange land just makes writing that much easier for a person; and, over the course of two months, writing has transitioned from an occasional recreational hobby for me to nearly a compulsion.
Too many hours away from a notebook or a computer screen and I start to feel like I’m missing something.
With all of this writing, you would assume I could find some sort of paid writing gig. So far, no dice. I’m still trying, but apparently there are reasons why the world isn’t full of stay-at-home writers making a decent living from their kitchen table.
In addition to everything I have gone through since moving to China and becoming unemployed, there are also a few phases that I haven’t gone through that I really sort of wish I would have. Phases like:
1. Exploring the city/Sichuan like an obsessed and devoted Lonely Planet wannabe.
This goes under the phases I wish I had gone through because, though I explored the crazy when we first arrived, the reality is that it got lonely doing it by myself day after day. Lonely and a touch expensive.
After a few weeks I realized that I’d much rather do the bulk of my exploring on the weekends with Chris when we could enjoy the new experiences together rather than me always saying “Been here, done this.” It’s bittersweet in a way, disappointing that I don’t enjoy exploring solo more, happy that I do have someone as fun as Chris to run around with on the weekends.
2. Becoming a Total Workout Junkie
With all the time in the world, why not at least get in really great shape?
Sadly, I haven’t. My complete inability to tighten my pigu while in a push-up position still has the Chinese, super fit, ex-gymnast yoga instructor at the consulate totally perplexed. The killer abs are still at least a few daydreams away.
Most days the pollution is so bad walking outside, much less running, is borderline painful; and there’s only so long I can last on the treadmill watching ESPN on the Armed Forces Network on the consulate grounds-that’s painful too, albeit for different reasons.
(Are you the sort of person who couldn’t get enough of the cheesy “don’t do ecstasy” type public service messages during the 1980’s? Watch AFN, you’ll love it.)
I get to the gym on a regular basis but it’s definitely not how I spend the bulk of my time. Luckily this is China, where losing weight comes with the territory-as long as I can control my love affair with the dan dan mian and fried rabbit and the corn cakes and the mantou and the dumplings…
3. The Devoted Mandarin Scholar Phase
Nope, not even close. As a kid, I was always bright but not great about studying. Apparently, not much has changed. I love learning the language, love hanging out with my tutor and learning more about Chinese culture, but I’d much rather be writing or baking or walking around the city than studying all day.
Tomorrow we’ll get to the perks of unemployment-the fun part, the warm fuzzies. Thanks for staying with me on the journey.
Missing Something? Check out the rest of this little Unemployment: From Career Girl to Temporary Housewife series: