How one unemployed man spends his time

August 31, 2011

What do you do all day?

It’s a question I get asked quite often.

And to be truthful, I have to think about it. When you’re not working, days fly by like leaves in the wind. Unless something in particular is happening, I can lose track of what day it is or what the date might be.

I have tried to keep to a schedule during my unemployment. I get to the gym at my usual hour — 4:30 a.m. It’s not just working out that drives me to the gym; the before-the-crack-of-dawn crowd are my friends, so this is socially as well as physically important to me.

When I get home, I grab some tea and start reading the morning papers online: The Post, The New York Times, Huffington Post, BBC, Politico, The Nation and several others.


(Courtesy of Stephen Rhymer)

After I finish my morning reads, I hit the job sites. There are hundreds. I keep to about eight. After a while you learn how to search using all sorts key words that might take you to a job. You can search for hours.

Around noon I break for yoga and meditation. The one bright spot in this unemployment nightmare is that I have learned to be at peace with myself, even if I do still occasionally rant about the outside world. Yoga keeps me flexible; meditation keeps me sane. 

I make time every day to play my guitar. I’m no Stephen Stills or Eric Clapton, but I have improved over the course of my unemployment and that pleases me.

Afternoons are spent making follow-up calls about potential jobs or contract work; most often I get pushed to voicemail. I also follow up by e-mail. I’d like to think it helps but after two and a half years I don’t believe it does.

I also make time for the tube. There are great shows on The History Channel and other cable stations that don’t appear on evening TV. And yes, I do have my guilty pleasures: “MTV’s Parental Control,” “Parking Wars” and “Say Yes to the Dress.”

I’ve always been a voracious reader, so I’ve been able to get to many books I might not have had time for while working. On the table today: “Tickets for a Prayer Wheel” (Annie Dillard), “Thurgood Marshall” (Juan Williams), “The Fiddle”  (Vivian Wagner), “How I Killed Pluto” (Mike Brown), “How May I Serve” (Ram Das) and “The Coldest Winter” (David Halberstam).

In between all this I write this blog and write for myself.

As with all things, days vary. I sometimes get out for lunch or coffee and tea with my friends, wander the bookstore or the mall. Anything to get outside and into the real world.

There are two big kicks for me – my telescope and the fenced woods near my house. I often sit on the fence and watch hawks circle above me and deer, turkeys and the occasional fox and coyote amble across the field and into the woods.

And thanks to an old reflecting telescope I’ve spent many a night and early morning exploring the universe: constellations, meteor showers, planets and full moons – things I loved as a child and still do.

That’s my day. I’m learning that while different, each day is great and wonderful as it is.

As I have learned these past seasons, while working is important, it’s not my be all and end all.

Stephen Rhymer, a 59-year-old former public relations official from Edmond, Okla., has been unemployed for two and a half years. Read more about him here. Read about the “Help Wanted” project here. Visit the project home page here.

Read more updates from Stephen Rhymer here.

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