On My Way to Unemployment


Pronunciation: \‘jōb\
Function: noun
Etymology: perhaps from obsolete job lump
Date: circa 1627

1a: a piece of work; especially : a small miscellaneous piece of work undertaken on order at a stated rate
2c: a damaging or destructive bit of work
3a: something that has to be done; an undertaking requiring unusual exertion

(Excerpted from Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary)


Come August 28, the etymological root of job will not be the only things that is obsolete; my days as an editor at the Smithsonian American Art Museum will also be. On Monday, I gave notice, and boy does it feel good to have that off my chest. It’s been tough sitting in meetings about projects that everyone but me thought I’d be working on.

Am I sad? No, not really.

Much too frequently my job has been “a piece of work,” and the “stated rate” has been far too low. On occasion, it’s been “damaging and destructive,” making me want to tear out my hair or give someone a good piece of my mind (if only I were confrontational). And almost always, it’s been “something that has to be done,” not something I get excited about doing.

But of the three jobs I’ve had since I came home from Greece, it was probably the best. Being an editor is something I enjoy. I like working with words, trying to find the gem that is usually hidden inside a lot of junk and polishing it until it shines. I like working with authors and designers and publishers. I have friends at work whom I will miss. I am well-liked by my boss (which did make the notifying her of my intent to leave kind of awkward as all the “I’m so lucky to have had yous” made it feel a little too much like we were breaking up instead of sorting out my resignation). And I had the privilege of working for an esteemed institution, and I can’t deny that having Smithsonian Editor on my resume probably helped open a few doors in the writing world (and will hopefully continue to do so).

What I don’t like is the bureaucracy of working for the federal government. I don’t like having co-workers whose most common refrain is “That’s not my job.” I don’t like having to go to work and sit all day at a desk on days when there is absolutely nothing to do. And I hate that hard work isn’t rewarded while whining is.

But why linger on that? I have less than 30 working days left. Then it’s off to Sweden and then the world.

As we prepare to leave, I have no need to think of where I will end up next, but I can’t help but ponder it every now and then. At this point, I’m seeing myself moving into the world of freelance—editing, writing, etc. I’ve given the office space world the old college try, but I just don’t think I’m cut out for it. But who knows, maybe after a year of complete freedom, I’ll miss the working world. It will be interesting to see how my perspective changes over the course of this coming year. Will I come back even more determined not to return to the 9-5? Or will I long for the routine of office life? What do you think?

I’m putting my money on option one.

19 Replies to “On My Way to Unemployment”

  1. You go get a job? And think about actually keeping it for a while? When your husband will be working at a decently paying job?

    I don’t think so.
    And I might hold my breath.

  2. “job = 1a: a piece of work” – I would include: “that can be done at any time, anywhere”.
    yeah.. I guess you might get a nice job when you come back.. or several. =)

  3. Having not had a job for the last month and a half, I thought I missed it. I thought I needed a job just to keep me busy and get me out of the house and give me a sense of purpose. Yesterday I went for a job interview though, and the feeling of being in an office just for the hour I was there was not very good. I just kept thinking how much nicer it was to be at home in my pj’s and have the freedom to do whatever I wanted to do whenever I wanted to do it. I guess the grass is always greener…

  4. Congrats, if that’s appropriate. I did the same thing, twice in fact. It hurt, me and them, but it was rewarding in the end.

    If you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life, or so they say. I love what I do.

  5. congrats theresa~ it has to be nice knowing everyone knows your plans now! somehow making it more real & sooooooo freaken close you can almost feel it.

    i’m getting very excited for you two.

    my advice- stay away from the office lifestyle & do the freelance thing… you’re motivated & talented enough to make that world happen.

  6. “Will I come back even more determined not to return to the 9-5? Or will I long for the routine of office life? What do you think?”

    Ignorance is bliss … you’ll come back, get a job, find out that the people you work with can’t possibly fathom the travels & adventures you’ve just done, but you’ll settle in, have a few kids, get a home in the ‘burbs, maybe a car loan, and then you’ll spend the rest of your life wishing you were back traveling.

  7. A simple google search would allow any future employer to see how not excited you would be for the job, so I’d recommend the freelance route.

    * Obviously you are highly marketable and would come strongly recommended, so maybe your post highlighting your dislike of office work would not be that detrimental after all.

  8. Well, they’re already offering me freelance work here and giving me suggestions of other places that might be interested in my editing services, so I think if I wanted to try to make a go of it I could. Editing plus writing could keep me busy…not make me rich though, but that’s never been my goal.

    And for the right job, I might be excited. I’d be pretty happy back in the publishing world I think…it’s just the federal govt aspect of my current job that kills me. I’m a bad federal employee because if I am at work, I want to do work, I want to be busy, whereas the govt seems to assume that you’d just rather sit at your desk and do nothing all day but collect a paycheck. It’s not work I dislike…it’s boredom…which is why I enjoyed working at the zoo more than I have enjoyed many of my other jobs. I did some nasty work there…flying maggots on rotting potato salad comes to mind…but it was never not interesting.

    I told Jeff that if I don’t do freelance or pursue something in publishing, I just might become a park ranger. What do you think? I’m pretty sure I’d look awesome in the hat.

  9. Yay no more job in just 30 days! The great thing is the feeling once you’re on the other side of it. You suddenly realize you’re not stressed everyday and you haven’t thought about the office for a long time.

  10. I never gave it much thought until I was diagnosed with cancer at the ripe old age of 28, but until the health insurance situation changes in this country, you may want to go back to a 9-5 because of the benefits. My stepdad has his own business and due to his pre-existing conditions, it would have been impossible for him to obtain insurance had my Mom not had a teaching job with health benefits. If you’re interested in having a child, from what I’ve read, it will cost you about $10K on average if you have minimal or no insurance.

  11. Matt, I’ll be getting to Stockholm the beginning of that next week (Aug 17th or so). Theresa’s going to follow in the beginning of September. Looks like we’ll just miss each other, but its a nice time to be there. Have you been before?

  12. I gave notice at my recruiting job on Monday as well, and know completely what you mean about the huge release. What a great feeling! Our environments sound equally as damaging.

  13. Magnifique—You make a good point about health insurance. I am hopeful that Jeff will have a job that provides good health insurance, and we can cover both of us (and any future family) through that. Luckily neuroscience isn’t much of a freelance type of career, so it’s not as though we’d both be wanting to completely shed the office, or in Jeff’s case lab job. But I think it’s really tragic that so many people aren’t covered by healthcare because they are trying to pursue a nontraditional career (I know that many, many writers lack insurance) or that so many people are unable to try something new because they can’t afford to lose their insurance. Something needs to be done.

    Kristen—Congrats on giving notice. It’s very freeing!

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