How to survive unemployment.

  Although it potentially doesn’t sound intelligent to say it, I actually rather enjoyed unemployment. Whilst many of my unemployed friends (all graduates) would complain violently about their sorry state of affairs, I found the three-months I wasn’t working gastronomically enriching and delightfully lacking in pressure. Having said that, I am a homebody and wasn’t frantically fretting about bills and rent. So if you’re unemployed, here are my tips to surviving unemployment for the bleaker days when you might not be working.

Do a daily Sudoku.

Try a difficult/expert sudoku because it is as mentally challenging as any job. One Sudoku, for example took it over ninety minutes to complete. I set myself a target not to leave my garden on a summer evening until I completed the ‘expert’ Sudoku. This meant it was in pitch blackness that I finally decoded the 81 squares…

Watch Hoarders and Intervention.

On the channel Bio, there are some really worthwhile public figures who have managed some great accomplishments fitted into a tightly woven programme. Then there are some really bottom-of-the-barrel programmes about average Joes who lead less-than-amazing lives, which I am a really big fan of. The first, Intervention, is really stomach-churning stuff, a programme my parents steadfastly refuse to humour. The premise is as it sounds: a televised intervention. You are led on a story about people with alcohol or substance abuse, and occasionally the overeaters of America. You thereafter become immersed in their stories. Where did their lives go wrong? How did they end up slugging a bottle of vodka by lunchtime? The intervention is therefore a great surprise to them, as they are led into the room where a trained interventionist gets family and friends to force them into a ninety day treatment programme (the addict does not know about the intervention, nor the ‘gift’ of treatment).

It counted to me as a form of light psychology- will they survive the intervention? And will the family hold their bottom lines- to reject further support if they relapse? I actually stopped watching however after one individual improved after the ninety day treatment (for obvious reasons of not having the substances on him) but then went on to fully relapse, and then subsequently commit suicide. The shock of this shattered me emotionally. Luckily, most of the stories resolve around successes. The programme was gripping, very powerful television, something I needed in those quiet days.

Hoarders was much lighter and much more cathartic to watch. If you know that you’re a messy person, you are safe in the knowledge that you are no messier a person than ANYONE featured on Hoarders. The crystallisation of the so-bad-it’s-good television format, this programme has a dramatic theme tune, and featured continual updates of Hoarding confrontations, one-to-ones with official hoarding specialists, and a whole lotta junk!

My two favourite individual clips actually worked to highlight the severity of hoarding. The first was of a mother in a backwater farmhouse in Oklahoma. She had several animals, some of which had chewed the back wall of her house! After this clear wake-up call, she still continued to neglect her house and build her possessions. The cracking point in this particular case was when the neglected daughter arrived to assist in sorting through her mother’s hoarding, only to feel further neglected when the mother got emotional over a sodden toy: a (drowned) bear. In a brilliant confrontation, the daughter wisely pointed out that the mother seemed to care more about the bear than her. Once the penny finally dropped, (it was hidden under about 400 pizza boxes) it was a brilliant television programme – we knew the mum had finally seen the light.

In a second brilliant moment from another episode (I’ll leave the adult diaper episode for a later date,) an emotionally-fragile photographer/mom – who knew her property was being monitored by social services closely – simply lost control of the situation. The scenario: her 14 year-old daughter was about to be looked after by her father across the country, this visit from the hoarding team was a make or break moment for the family unit. It therefore seems ridiculous that the mother proceeded to argue with her daughter because she discarded used underwear, which was previously discovered in the animal toilet of their disused garage. The location of this underwear was in the 1-800-GOT-JUNK truck, and the mother was NOT happy, as demonstrated by her breakdown on camera, in front of ten members of the team where she kept whining – in between crying – that her underwear was in the truck, fuelling her feelings of betrayal.

Daytime television, I realised after this moment could not be bettered. I also realised that the mere connotation of hoarding scared the be-Jesus out of me. I became an obsessive with cleaning, (well, I definitely improved anyway) which leads me to my next tip to surviving unemployment….

Complete an audit of your house…and sell the contents on Amazon Marketplace.

Self-worth when not working can be hard to come by. When you discover you are watching a re-run of E! News followed by a re-run of the Kardashians, you know you need better distractions! After watching Hoarders, I tried to become as minimalist as possible, i.e. selling my life on Amazon Marketplace. Surprisingly, I was selling my items like no-one’s business. A book on crystals? SOLD. A shockingly boring film about the tragic life of Blues singer and drugs-fiend, Billie Holiday – played by current crack-whore, Diana Ross (for a massively inflated price)? SOLD. Any textbook I acquired from my university education? SOLD. The feeling of selling was like a true addiction, in fact, for a while it superseded my addiction to my emails (see my previous entry on my email addiction), and there was nothing like feeling as if I were an online Del Boy. Unlike Ebay, the whole re-listing/buy it now saga didn’t exist. You merely listed, hoped your item was the cheapest, and thereafter hope your item \ctually sold. Last week someone was mad enough to buy the truly abysmal Dances With Wolves film, directed by, and starring Kevin Costner. A true snoozefest if ever there were a film. The other day I even sold Bambi. Of course, I felt wildly guilty, Bambi had already lost his Mum and there I was selling his legacy down the river.

Amazon is the perfect way to gain easy cash whilst minimalising your life. Amazingly, I haven’t received a cent from Amazon from this excessive promotion, therefore you should take my words at face value.

Surveys: the key to feeling valued.

Please believe me, friends, when I tell you this doing surveys, for me is in many ways a double-edged sword. When I was in high school and compulsively checking my emails, (I’d imagine by now you’ve got the message) many of the few I received were pop quizzes from people within my year group, which my friends and I quickly denounced as particularly sad. This was for a largely obvious reason- we could just have asked these questions at school four hours ago. Why were we going home to answer banal questions through a screen?

I also remember when I was at university and had access to unlimited television after several months of desperately streaming through my laptop. One of the first programmes I grew an unmitigated addiction to was Wife Swap USA. The programme went out of its way to find the weird in Wisconsin, the odd in Ohio and the kooky in Kankas. One particular family were obsessed with COO-PONS. Yes, I mean coupons, but the way they said it was so, well, weird and bemusing. The family were seen as a joke because they didn’t count work as a priority; instead the Father worked part-time whilst the children and mother spent many an hour cut, cut, cutting the coupons from the many magazines they received. Admittedly, when the swap occurred, the ‘coupon’ wife managed to save the family a sensational $70 on an $80 food shop (no typos there), however the question was inevitably begged. Why didn’t they just work and collect coupons on the side?

I’ve veering off topic here, so, I graduated shortly after becoming glued to Wife Swap, and thereafter felt the bubble burst. This was when I realised that literature wasn’t necessarily the most sought-after degree out there. My sister suggested when I got my first role, as an unpaid intern, that I do surveys on the side. I originally thought nobody could have that much free time. Oh how times changed!

In many ways, whilst unemployed, I accredited survey companies for providing a great deal of happiness and motivation for people like me whose challenges of the day included whether I should have cornflakes or weetabix on a Wednesday morning. For example, the message from one company, upon completing an individual surveys states: Thanks for doing this survey- we really appreciate it. Fancy doing another? Well, my answer within a beat was ‘absolutely,’ of course I would! My relationship to surveys has become rather abstract, in fact I feel like surveys are like an old friend. And whilst I used to think doing surveys were sad, I can clarify by stating that doing paid surveys is actually quite liberating, there’s nothing like a major company willing to pay for your humble opinion. Well, in my eyes, anyway.

Even now, whilst I’m working, the moment a survey pops in my inbox I don’t need to think twice to sign straight on. The addiction to the survey, to stating your opinion is something I actively wouldn’t want to break from. My attitude to surveys is that they won’t leave me, so I’ll never leave them. So get started on the surveys, what are you waiting for?

And finally: take frequent walks.

There are days when you’re not working where you feel the idea of leaving your house to be without any real purpose. I’m sure you must have been there even when you’re working. So I say to those unemployed, take a walk to your local woods. Don’t just visit the job centre to collect your dollar.

And with those tips, I wish you well should you ever enter unemployment. With these tips you can’t fail to enjoy at least a day of sitting on your Jack Jones working out your next big step. And if you’re at that particular stage just mentioned, good luck to you in your future career!


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