Friday, July 15, 2011

A Few Things I Learned Along the Path to 35 and Unemployed.

So, the day this post goes live is my 35th Birthday, and let me tell you, I really considered completely taking the day off. However, when I did my Origins week, and managed to have a full week of updates despite being out of the state, I established some sort of internal precedent. So, with the arrival of guests looming and tasks around the house still unfinished, this piece will be a little shorter than usual.

No lies ahead, just a few thoughts. Some will inevitably be thought of
as cliches... that's just how these things go.

Without further ado, I present: 

7 things I know as an unemployed 35-year old that I didn't understand at 25.

1. The mind overestimates the long-term impact of tragedy on the heart.

This one, I didn't understand until recently. The loss of a job, end of a relationship, death of a loved one, these things suck. The incredible resilience of the human mind to find happiness when there is no choice but to deal with what has happened is amazing. (It is called impact bias, we also overestimate the effect good fortune has on happiness.)  There's a TED talk about it here, you owe it to yourself to make a few minutes to watch this.

2. No matter how much free time or money you have, what you think you need will take up almost all of it.

Whenever I made a decent amount of money, I never felt I had enough to cover what I needed and wanted. The same is true now, with a whole lot less. On that same front, I've been out of work for almost six months, and despite having nothing but free time, I always manage to be too busy to get to everything.

3. Little, stupid, easily correctable things will erode your sanity if you let them. Don't.

The things that have driven me to stupidity aren't usually the big arguments with friends, family or my wife. It is stupid things like coming back from a hard day and the remote doesn't work. I always have spare “AA” batteries in the house, it is an investment in peace of mind.

4. Sometimes, the most important thing you can do is shut up for a few seconds.

Some people will never get this one. They'll wreck relationships trying to “talk it out,” get attacked by someone who was on the verge of calm, and won't understand why. Sometimes, what you gotta say is nothing at all.

5. It is key to identify when you are losing control of your emotions, and make sure no rash actions are taken or decisions are made until you get it back.

Sane and rational adults lose it sometimes. Instead of denying that fact of life, recognize when it is happening to you and don't say or do anything in those moments that will wreck your life.

6. Learn to let things go.

I still struggle with this one. I've stayed in relationships that were hurting me and going nowhere, stayed at jobs where I was miserable and had no future and stuck with projects that were a waste of more time and effort. When things stop working, don't let the fear of the unknown make you stick with it. Learn to bail when it is time.

7. Life isn't a competition, or if it is, we don't all use the same scoring system.

I've worked jobs where people looked down on me for what I did or how much I made. I've gotten myself down looking at where people around my age are, and envying their success. Forget it. Triumph and tragedy happen suddenly, when they happen and no particular moment guarantees either. I've been happy by experiencing and learning, playing and sharing with people around me. By the way I'm keeping score, the lack of an expensive car of annual vacations doesn't mean I'm not winning. What you do for a living isn't who you are.


Enough musing. Time to get ready to celebrate surviving another year, and get on with doing what I do. Back next week with the usual comics, games and science fiction.

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The Angry Lurker said...

Happy Birthday my friend, good life points....especially No.3.

Alpha said...

Old man! Ke ke ke...

Bard said...

Happy Birthday Doc! Wise words indeed. I'm an especially fervent supporter of #3 & #4, a victim of #2, and desperately working at getting better with #6.

Colonel Shofer said...

... and it brings wisdom.

Great piece.


The Happy Whisk said...

Happy Birthday!

Zombie Ad said...

Happy Birthday sir, great post. 100% with you on all but 2 rings the most true.

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