Unemployment Benefits

As a general rule, I believe in work. It’s good to have a purpose. Here in New York City, 2016, personal and professional fulfillment are increasingly intertwined. I work in the marketing department of a tiny software startup a few blocks from Union Square. I’m lucky – my job allows me to write, which has long been one of my most pleasurable pastimes. It pads my résumé, it gives me income, it surrounds me with a passionate, dedicated team. In short, there are plenty of benefits to working, and that’s before we even get to the benefits – the paid vacation time, the health insurance, the enormous drawer of tea in the office.

It took me about four months to find my job after I arrived in New York, one of which was taken up by a short, dirty, and ultimately forgettable flirtation with life as a used bookseller (this phrase has multiple accurate interpretations). Another month, let’s say, was used to acclimate myself to my new, never-sleeping environs. That leaves two months of unadulterated unemployment, characterized by the writing of cover letters and spending without earning. It sounds stressful – particularly now that it’s no longer my reality – and I’ll freely admit to a certain fraying of the nerves (for proof of this, just ask Mary Cate, who gamely tolerated the resulting angst).

The clarity of hindsight has led me to a kinder realization about that time, though: I saw and learned and did so much. By the time I was hired, I was halfway through my twenty-fourth book of the year. Endless new recipes were created and tested, including a few that have become fast favorites. Mary Cate finally convinced me to watch The Sound of Music, and it was, to no one’s surprise, lovely. A trip to the Mid-Manhattan Library gave us a pair of IDNYC cards, which we turned into free memberships at half a dozen of the world’s best museums with plenty more on the way. I spent endless hours in the company of my fiancée, and still others curled up with one or both of our cats. I became, through a startlingly ungraceful process, more in touch with my own thoughts and feelings. I started writing a book. Many of these experiences, I suspect, will form the bases of future posts.

In the end, it’s awfully nice to have a job. After all, this is New York City, where there isn’t really such a thing as “too much income.” But to have had two full months with this place as a cultural playground? Years from now, when I look back on my New York experience, that’s probably what I’ll think of first. It was extravagant, expansive, lush, lucky: all the things that made me dream of New York in the first place. (And I do mean “lucky” – we were able to live off savings for as long as we did in part because I totaled my car three months before moving and hopped out, unscratched, to collect my insurance settlement.) I see those months now as both a rare opportunity and a defining moment in life, even if I wasn’t always able to appreciate it at the time. Unemployment, it turns out, can have benefits of its own.




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