My previous reflections on the past six months compared those six months with what I might have done in six months of full-time employment. I might also compare the past six months with six months of unemployment.
I was employed only sporadically over 2008 and 2009, after I’d completed my last contract at the University of Wollongong and before I started full-time work at the QUT Library. This was a learning experience of its own, partly in re-acquiring job-hunting skills after spending seven years in the same job, partly in how to keep oneself occupied without work, and not least in how difficult it can be to find white-collar employment (Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Bait and Switch (2006) aligns well with my experience).
One thing I recall well from that time is the sense of uncertainty, and feeling unable to commit to doing any significant projects when paid work might be just around the corner. Knowing now that I ended up unemployed for the best part of two years, I see I might have done all manner of things with those two years—but I didn’t, because my thoughts and energies at the time were focused on finding paid work, and because I grossly under-estimated how long it takes to find employment (I later on read that the average is somewhere between three and six months depending on the state of the economy; my experience was made worse by being laid off a job at the end of 2008 and having to start all over again).
I did write a book chapter or two, and of course I completed a lot of job applications. I did some travelling and I started in Bushcare. But if I’d known I’d have eighteen months or so free (after book chapters and job applications) I might have set my sights on a full book or a major software project, or I might have started studying for my Graduate Certificate in Communications two years earlier (and perhaps making it into a masters degree to boot).
Without needing to find work now—at least not urgently—I’m able to set my sights on those larger projects. Too large to be completed in six months of part-time work, maybe, but hopefully within a year.