My hidden costs of collecting unemployment for over a year.
On April 3rd of 2020, I received a phone call from my boss who informed me that I was being laid off, and that they needed my computer, backups, and any other equipment I may have had on me. My work from home stint had lasted only 2 weeks before coming to a sudden end.
Oh, and did I mention that April 3rd was only 1 day before my birthday on the 4th? Yeah, they really did get rid of me the day before my birthday. I was starting year 28 without a job while COVID-19 was just beginning to ravage this country. Life was about to change for me in ways that I never would have been able to predict.
Getting laid off was a blessing in disguise. The boosted unemployment benefits were life changing for me. It wasn't just the money, it was what the security of the money afforded me. It gave me freedom from having to worry about bills or debt, and I was able to afford to live without having to go to work.
So what do you do when you don't have to clock your 40 every week? Well, you do whatever you want. And so that's what I did. I went to protests for George Floyd. I bought a camera. I paid for my brother's bills all summer long. I Venmo'd money to strangers on the internet who needed help. I tried to give back as much as I reasonably could, because I felt blessed. Working a job was something I'd been doing since I was 15, my whole life. For the first time I was thriving and I did not have to work for it.
What I couldn't have predicted was how my priorities would shift without me noticing. When you're not focused on the rat race of life, other things become important to you. Before I knew it was getting hung up on things that just did not matter. Social media, which had once been a good outlet for me, had become too important, since I would spend a lot more time on it because of the pandemic in general, but once I didn't even have a job to pull me back to reality, it consumed me. I just didn't notice it since we were all quarantining and I couldn't see it.
At some point the feelings of alienation, discrepancies in shared values with friends and people in general, and the lack of schedule or regular human interaction became too much. The way this manifested itself has harmed myself and some of people I care and love the most in this world.
I am eternally grateful for all the opportunities this time in my life has afforded me, but I would have done things very differently if I'd have known the mental anguish I'd cause myself and force onto others unintentionally. It's not a good feeling.
Everyone is built differently, and I don't want to suggest that this is a universal experience. I'm not trying to warn others or make it sound like unemployment is a bad thing. The last year has been the most beautiful time of my life, for so many reasons. It's just important to remain tethered to reality. I've felt like I wasn't participating in society anymore in a strange way. It's been hard to articulate.
I haven't had a free ride for this last year, I just paid in a different currency than a lot of other people.