Observers to my life may think that my world has been turned upside down this year. Having been made redundant in April and then lost another job in August after making the mistake of choosing to work for ethically dubious employers, I have now spent the vast majority of the last 7 months unemployed.
My daily routine currently runs along the following lines:
7am – get up, have breakfast and start reading
9am – put reading down, get the computer out and “work”, make & receive phonecalls
1pm – stop for lunch for an hour
2pm – head over to library to jobhunt for the afternoon
4pm – head home and do a little more “work” on the computer
5:15pm – call it a day and watch “Pointless”
When I “work” on the computer, this means reviewing any job specs that I have downloaded. If I have also gathered any other information (website download, sets of accounts, news research) then I will read these too. I gather this information when I am at the library in the afternoon, but as I only have a limited time on the internet, I try not to spend my time reading what I could otherwise download and read later.
Let me say this very clearly: I would much rather be working. You may often hear conservatives and their apologists use rhetoric along the lines of “welfare dependency” or “it pays not to work” – an example I heard today (I’m writing this on Saturday the 1st of December) was from Fraser Nelson, editor of the spectator magazine. I have yet to see any evidence that supports this point of view. In my experience, such talk is utter tosh! I’ve written about this more before, so if you’re interested check out my “Unemployment” tag.
What I really wanted to talk about was the book of Job. It is often thought of as a book about suffering. While it’s not been the nicest of years, I have by no means been suffering. For both of the jobs I lost this year, I received payoffs, which have subsidised the amount by which jobseekers’ allowance falls short of the cost of living. I have friends who’ve undergone chemotherapy, some whose child died this year, one old friend lost his wife and a neighbour has had a limb amputated. Compared to that, my tribulations have been as nothing.
I considered Job to be the refuge for the desperate, the disconsolate and those in dire need. If I turned to it, I’d be being melodramatic. If felt that even daring to read it would be an insult to those who have undergone genuine suffering. I’ve also been keeping tabs on Tanya Marlow’s series on hope in suffering, which I highly recommend, where her guest writers have been through things I can barely imagine. For this reason, I avoided turning to the book of Job. Instead, I’ve buried myself in Romans of late, wrestling with the passages in debate as I learn about and mull over the New Perspectives movement. I’ve also been mulling over various bits of Proverbs, John’s gospel and have paddled in Genesis a bit. But Job, in my mind, has been like a big red panic button which I dare not press. If I use it now, where would I turn when things get really bad?
Of late, though, I’ve had a change of heart. It’s not that my situation has gotten any worse; although I will admit to a tiresome frustration. Rather, I no longer think that turning to Job is any kind of “last chance saloon” – Job is a book for everyone. While it may be a great source of inspiration and comfort for those who are going through dark places, it does no disservice to friends in genuine need for me to pick it up.
Being unemployed does create a certain amount of extra spare time in the week. For most of the last 6 years, I would estimate I may get up to 1-2 hours spare time per day during the week and 4-5 during the weekends. Of course, when it was busy these would be significantly lower. If you choose to spend your extra time doing nothing but jobhunting, you are setting yourself up for an emotional battering. You have to keep track of every job you’ve applied for, who you have spoken to about various roles and when you spoke to them. Applying to as many possible has the effect of spreading yourself thin and I’ve learned that it doesn’t really increase your probability of getting an interview or of succeeding in any interviews you do get.
The challenge I then face is trying to maintain some kind “work-like” routine to the day whilst I’m not actually working. This is so that it won’t be too much of a shock to the system when I do eventually restart work. This is why I try to keep to an approximate 9-5 routine, complete with at least an hour’s reading (as I would do on a train) beforehand.
But when I want to break, I can. And in those breaks, you can guess what I’m now starting to study…