I Didn’t Work For Two Months and It Was Great
Recently, when I have gone out to a bar and seen those friends who you are friends with but not that good friends with and you have to do the conversational dance of updating them with your life, I’ve had this frequent exchange:
“Hey, so what are you up to now?”
“Well, I was working as a Project Manager, but I was let go recently.”
“OMG. I’m so sorry! That sucks! What are you doing now?”
“Nothing. It’s pretty great.”
“Oh. OK….” (This is usually the point at which they think I am a delusional slacker who should be institutionalized.)
I was in my former job for just about a year. It wasn’t the work that I didn’t enjoy—it was the atmosphere. It was a family-run business and, as the months went by, it became increasingly difficult for me as an outsider. My ideas and opinions were often ignored and by the end, my contributions just felt unwelcome. The office became a place I dreaded going to, and they did me a service in letting me go. I had wanted to quit months before I was let go, but because of my convenient circumstances at the time, I couldn’t pull the trigger. I was living with my parents, and the office was only a 10-minute drive away. I wasn’t paying any rent or bills, so almost all of my income went into my bank account. I was putting a quarter of every paycheck into an IRA—a move that feels especially great in hindsight.
Saving money helped me get my financial house in order and see out this two-month stretch. Being an avid reader of this site for most of this year, I’ve become quite frugal. I have fun and go to shows and movies and eat out, but I don’t spend frivolously on material items that doesn’t improve my life at least in some small way. I attempt to cook for myself as much as possible, and I still go home to see my parents for at least one dinner a week.
Living at home is becoming much more common for people my age. And if it’s a realistic option for you after college, I encourage everyone to at least think about it. No, it’s never cool to meet a girl at a bar and tell her your roommates are your parents, but there’s a good chance that she lives with her parents, too.
Taking some time off while between jobs allows you to really think about what is important to you—not only in a job or career, but also in life. It lets you breathe slowly and refocus your energy. It lets you read all those books that have been stacking up in the corner. It lets you make plans with people who you might not have been able to see when working on a regular schedule. It lets you take glorious, energy-building naps that extend your day not literally, but figuratively by giving you a chance to re-charge your battery and resume work with more focus and productivity than you might otherwise have had.
That being said, I am well aware that taking time off in between jobs is a luxury. When I started the job, I was in the privileged position of living at home and incurring few expenses, which allowed me to save for this current period of unemployment. I am also well aware that this is not a position that many people find themselves in. But I did, and I am taking advantage of it in the hope that it will lead to my long-term independence in a career I really want.
Admittedly, though, I have lied to you—a little. I have worked two separate, one-off jobs these past two months. The first gig was DJing a friend’s mom’s wedding. I used Spotify (I am a premium subscriber) and had a few non-ordered playlists that I combined with the queue feature to have them play seamlessly. It was a Sunday morning affair, but I still ended the day with Fetty Wap. I was paid $150 for this service and am available now to DJ at your next event.
My other job was part of the Artist Relations team at a major electronic music festival in the U.S. This was a gig I picked up last year for the same festival. I worked mainly as a golf cart driver to shuttle the artists to and from the stages throughout the festival, but it was so much more than that, and the experiences and people you encounter make sleeping in a wet tent not the worst (although I will be opting for the off-site hotel next year). I was paid about $600 for this and I loved it.
Through this time off I have been reinvigorated to follow my goal of becoming a music supervisor—whether in TV, movies, commercials or video games. It was my goal to do that the day I found out it was someone’s job to place music into film. I look forward to getting back on sets (I was a Production Manager on hip hop music video sets before my last gig) and being happy (for the most part!) at my job. The people I have met while working in music and film have been some of the most interesting and fun people I’ve encountered in my life. Just being in that environment—even if I am the least important person on set—sounds like a dream opportunity.
Michael Tumey is an aspiring music supervisor and freelance person from Atlanta, GA. He likes to attend live music shows and play soccer in his spare time. Follow him at @tum3y.