making the most of unemployment

I've been in the States for three months already. Dang, that's a full quarter. There are days when I think I'm bored, only to realize that I do have plenty of things to keep me preoccupied. I'm still in the middle of creating rhythm in my life, and the lack of routine leads me to think that I can't possibly be productive while job hunting. I know I'm wrong.

Job hunting. It's been just over a month since I officially started looking for work. The people who told me that it would be easy to get employed here probably had good intentions, but now I'm learning to manage my expectations and change my strategies for the search. Friends here in the US say it can be hard to find work even if you've been in the workforce before. Finding the right job that fits my skills and interests is tough (like I said, managing expectations!). I have work experience but it still won't make the process any easier. What's easy is for me to beat myself up for not landing a job immediately, but I am making extra effort of keeping perfectionism and guilt out of the way as I move forward.

There is an upside to all of this free time on my hands--precisely because there will most likely be no other point in my life when I would have this much free time. So what do I do with it? I try to savor it. Here's what I've been doing to make the most of my unemployed season:

1. Getting fit
This season is all about planting seeds (read: good habits). I started taking fitness more seriously last year when I got married. Carlo and I began P90X3 but because our move from the Philippines to California, exercising fell by the wayside. We were so close to finishing it but we did what we had to. We're going through P90X3 again, intent on finishing the 90 days this time. During this period of unemployment, I'm training my mind and body to crave the movement, nourishment, and rest that it needs. I'm thinking long-term here: I want to be a strong employee. A strong mom. A strong wife. I want to live long with my husband. I'm glad I'm not too busy with work and I don't have to deal with not having time to exercise, or feeling too tired to do it. Staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet. Simple things add up.

2. Feeding my mind
I've been so caught up with browsing job listings that I forgot to exercise my brain cells. No wonder I'm feeling bored. As a learner, I frequently have to be picking up a new skill or new information to process. I became single minded and made it all about the job hunt to the detriment of my continuous learning. Everyday I make a commitment to read and process the news, and visit my favorite websites . I don't go through all of the links everyday but I make sure I work out my mind, too. I'm trying to read a wider variety of books and playing brain games like those in Peak. I've also been trying to write everyday in different ways, be it blogging, writing in my journal, or typing thoughts in Evernote on my phone.

3. Reflecting on a lot of things
Reviewing my life plan, our marriage, my other relationships, my life mission. Taking inventory of my skills, strengths, weaknesses, experiences, likes, dislikes, interests, passions. Reflecting on the past 25 years of my life, as far back as I can remember and being grateful for how everything turned out.

This reflection includes learning about managing finances even before we get a regular paycheck. Just last weekend Carlo and I had a financial management primer with his cousin--he shared his knowledge of stocks and the market, bonds, and different apps he uses to manage his resources. We had a fun time and it piqued my curiosity about investments. Useful knowledge for the future, for sure.

4. Being useful around the house
My in-laws are generous enough to let Carlo and I stay with them while we are getting back on our own feet. The least I could do is help out with the chores. Carlo and I try to make sure our space is tidy, that we clean up after ourselves, and that we generally help out around the house.

5. Cultivating my relationship with the Lord
I saved the most important area for last. I had a mid-year reset and decided to revamp my Bible reading plan. I should finish reading the entire Bible again by August next year, since I started the new plan last month. I updated my prayer lists and continue journaling. But what keeps me going isn't any system that I set but rather leaning into the Gospel daily. The habit of preaching the Gospel to myself everyday humbles me and frees me from trying so hard to earn God's love, when He's already put me in a place where I'm already loved. Cultivating my relationship with Him is not about having the perfect morning routine so I can pat myself on the back and check off my daily prayers and readings from the to-do list. Rather, it's about having my priorities aligned with His so that I can live according to His design. My marriage, other relationships, my view of work and how I carry it out, my view of finances and material possessions...all of them are shaped by my relationship with God and it is indeed my most important relationship of all.

As long as I seek first His kingdom and righteousness, I have nothing to worry about despite not being employed yet (Carlo calls my status "soon-to-be-employed"). Because my identity is found in Jesus, I am not insecure despite being dependent on others for a time. I am not ashamed to be where I am right now because I know my identity is not based on any title, salary, status, or possessions.

I'm still looking, still praying, still trusting, still doing my part. There are things to learn and do for this season. Instead of being miserable, I am grateful and excited to see how things will turn around.

Have you experienced a similar season of unemployment? What did you do during that time?

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