Saturday, February 21, 2009

Today's happy thought

Four weeks from today is the first day of spring.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here's another happy thought Mark being inspired by time off.


For now, laid off and loving it
Some are finding respite in a life without work

A few days after David Adler's wife decided to leave her law firm in December, he was laid off from his job designing software at Brightcove.

Related coverage
A warning for Obama on deficits
U.S. may take big stake in Citi as crisis rages
Demand for GED classes increase with job losses
Some governors torn over stimulus
Obama to name Interior Dept. official to lead stimulus oversight
It was shocking. And scary.

Until it wasn't. Adler has quickly learned to appreciate some aspects of his unexpected unemployment.

The 42-year-old spends his days doting on his 6-month-old daughter, visiting museums with his family, and preparing for a possible exhibit of his photos at a local coffee shop in Dedham. Living off savings, unemployment, and severance packages, Adler knows he has to get a job eventually and has started the search. But for now, he's cherishing every moment. "It's our first child and I love watching her grow," Adler said. "And it's nice to have time off and get in touch with my old hobbies."

As the ranks of the nation's unemployed grows, more Americans are facing the reality of life without work. Despite the grim task of making ends meet (firing the nanny, bailing on Whole Foods, applying for unemployment), there is a newly forming society of people who are making the best of being laid off. They are rediscovering hobbies. They are greeting kids at the school bus. They are remembering what daylight actually looks like.

And the massive layoffs by companies nationwide - nearly 600,000 jobs were lost last month - has helped remove the stigma and shame of being unemployed, according to John A. Challenger, chief executive of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago outplacement firm.

"There's less of a 'why aren't you working attitude' that is giving people some extra space and freedom to explore new directions and just take time off to do the things they've wanted to do, whether it's spending more time with children, taking a class, or traveling around the world," Challenger said.

John Stephen Dwyer so far isn't missing his job or former office overlooking Chinatown. The 41-year-old Boston native was laid off in November from his $40,000-a-year job as education coordinator for the Clinical Research Graduate Program of Tufts University Sackler School of Biomedical Sciences. And he hasn't started seriously looking for new work.

Don't get Dwyer wrong - times aren't exactly easy. He has applied for unemployment and now takes the subway instead of taxis. But he has started doing things he enjoys: taking a class in history and ethics of biotechnology at the Harvard Extension School; cooking food for the homeless; and attending weekday Mass at churches around Boston.

"I want this year to be the year in which I transition from doing something just because it's a good job and pays well to doing something I'm interested in," Dwyer said.

As bad as it feels to lose a job, temporary unemployment can provide a much-needed intervention to workaholics who can benefit from such a break, said Douglas T. Hall, a professor at the Boston University School of Management.

"It's the success syndrome. You work hard, you do well. It's very satisfying and that gets you more involved to start working even harder," Hall said. "It's a success spiral that people get into. And sometimes it takes some extreme experience to get out of that spiral."

Kendra Winner, who in September lost her $95,000-a-year job designing teacher professional development training, described her escape from the spiral: "I'm loving being home because I no longer feel like the Eiffel Tower is crushing my skull. I was squeezing so much into limited bandwidth as a working mom. Now, I don't feel like I'm chronically overcapacitated."

Winner's epiphany has come at a price. The 46-year-old has cut back on the nanny, slashed last year's Christmas budget in half to $400, and started shopping for less expensive groceries at Market Basket. The usual February ski vacation is being replaced by a stay-at-home vacation with the kids.

"We're trying to cut down any place we can," Winner said. "That's not fun, but we're focusing on making memories."

And these days, Winner has a hard time imagining going back to the crushing schedule of a full-time job and missing out on the simple joys, like staffing her first school field trip.

She is looking for work, particularly because she's concerned her husband's job at an advertising technology firm isn't safe. And after spending a recent week home with her sick 3-year-old, Winner was starting to miss work.


Jenn Abelson can be reached at