When you're out of work, or, put more genteelly, underemployed, what do you do with your newfound leisure time?
By ‘leisure time,’ I mean time nobody’s paying you to use.
Everybody’s different in needs, time, mortgages and inclination, but I know what’s working for me. In hopes that some of it will work for you, here goes…
Learn new stuff. The new stuff I'm learning is videography. As the world grows more visual and more digital, it will be increasingly usefulblahblahblah.
That's likely true, but the real reason I'm learning it is that I want to. I love it. I love watching my skills grow from naught to naught half bad. You can judge for yourself at www.YouTube.com/julesolder
I've had three great aids in learning to shoot and edit.
One is a tiny, cheap, incredibly versatile Canon camera. I've used the pocket-sized Canon SD940 IS to shoot about 30 videos. I still can't believe how good it is, most especially in low light.
The second is Apple’s iMovie, a tool that comes at no extra charge with every Mac. It’s made for enthusiasts, not professionals, but it’s met or exceeded my needs and desires nearly every time.
Third — maybe first — is the best bargain I've found, ever. It’s Apple’s One to One program. When you buy a new Apple computer, you're given the opportunity to sign up for One to One. Take it.
Costs a hundred bucks for a year. For that hundred, you get to meet with an expert once every week or two to work on any aspect of Macology you like. Just about everything I know about videography, I've learned at the Chestnut Street Apple Store. Costs me, oh, $1.50 an hour.
Do good things. Last time I was in New Zealand, the earth moved. It moved in Christchurch, which experienced its first quake ever. This time, a few short days after I got off the plane, Christchurch had its second. And this was the big one.
On the theory that it might be me, I did what I could to ameliorate the horror. Through my Jokers list, I kept friends and relatives up to date on our safety, our friends, and what was happening in Christchurch. Because I'm a member of Ski Club of International Journalists, I did the same with the 200 or so media mavens I'd met only the week before. I used both lists to raise funds for the victims.
And I volunteered to go to Christchurch… I volunteered three times to three organizations. And while none took me up on it, I couldn't have even made the offer if I’d been gainfully employed.
Stay in touch. The Christchurch quake was only one way of many I've been in closer touch with friends and colleagues since those monthly checks stopped rolling in. I've used the down time to pick up lapsed relationships and to start new ones. That’s been nice.
Hasn’t always worked out the way I planned, though. When I left a message for an old friend who’d moved to L.A. asking if he was ok, he admitted “My first thought was — what’s he want?”
I suggested he'd been in Los Angeles too long.
Hard times roll. Renewing my freelance ‘career’ has reminded me how bloody hard freelancing really is. For instance, from New Zealand I wrote what I think was a pretty fine oped piece about the quake, Why it’s good it happened here. Sent it to, oh, seven or eight papers and three magazines in five countries. My hometown paper didn’t bother replying — thanks a lot, San Francisco Chronicle. Others said no, not for us. In the end, one paper and one magazine took variations on it, but it was hard yakka getting the thing sold.
That’s all, folks… except for one thing. Remember: Life is what's left when you're out of work. Better learn — or re-learn — to enjoy it.
Jules Older is an educator/author/journalist who lives in San Francisco. He lived and taught in New Zealand for many years, mainly in Dunedin. He has family in NZ and is a regular visitor here.