Urban Dictionary defines “funemployment” as: The condition of a person who takes advantage of being out of a job to have the time of their life.
I’ve been earning a paycheck since I was 15 years old. Even before then, I mowed yards (mainly my neighbor’s and our own) for extra money. I can count on one hand the instances I was unemployed for more than one month. First time was my first semester of college back in 1995…to allow myself to settle in to college life and being away from home. The second time, in 2015.
For 20 years I worked in some form or fashion and always had a job in the hopper when I did get laid off. On August 25, 2015 – as bittersweet as it was to get laid off, it was a blessing in disguise. It was just over two months after my father’s stroke and just under two months before my big race in Kona. I was at a job that I hated making the most money I’ve ever earned in my life, but I was absolutely miserable. Although there were a few colleagues I became close friends with, for the most part I endured working in the “good ‘ol boys” environment.
I spent the next two months trying to focus on training and reconnecting with friends, but found myself stressed about what I was going to do next for work – most likely attributed to pressure from my mother. She even went so far as to offering to pay me my old salary in exchange for moving home. When that didn’t work, she suggested I go to nursing school (and offered to pay for it), had my aunt call me to nudge me further…even though I had no desire to go to nursing school or go into the profession of nursing. She said it was “stable” and I would never have to worry about getting work.
After racing in Kona October 2015, I came back and freelance work opportunities started to
make its way into my life. It was something I was willing to pursue given they were related to triathlon or coaching. But what I learned very quickly was that I was busier than ever, working on average 16-18 hours a day, and making very little money. Not that money was ever a motivator, but being a single-income household and taking a 75% pay cut takes time to adjust.
There was definitely a trade off between having the freedom to make my own schedule, but I found myself falling into the trap of working all the time because if I wasn’t working, I wasn’t making money. Sure, I found creative ways to cut expenses, but at the end of the day I was running myself ragged staying up late and not working out like I used to. Plus the added stress of making sure I could pay my bills with an income stream that fluctuated like the lunar tide was starting to wear on me.
2016 was a whirlwind. The freedom that came with funemployment allowed me to get in
about 25 days of skiing, go to Disney World for the first time (finally!), support one of my athletes at IRONMAN 70.3 Puerto Rico, serve on a support crew for my friend Sandra racing the Badwater 135 Ultramarathon, race at the inaugural Casco Bay Islands SwimRun and go camping with my friend Steph in Maine, attend Interbike, cover news at the IRONMAN World Championships (#bestassignmentever) and IRONMAN Arizona, and spend a lot of time up in the mountains riding my bike. I would never trade any of these experiences.
Sometimes I hate the saying “all good things must come to an end” because it’s a matter of perspective. Just before I left for Arizona, I received an email from a industry contact from my former career with a full-time opportunity with a mid-sized company. I was very reluctant, afraid that I would lose the flexibility and freedom, but always a firm believer in keeping my doors open. You never know. They were very eager to meet me in person, and after my interview with the hiring manager, for the first time in my professional life I felt I had connected with a leader – not a manager. What a refreshing feeling.
To this day I still have friends that tell me how much they envy all the fun adventures they get to see me post on Facebook. My answer is always the same…it’s not all roses, it’s exhausting and stressful, but I am grateful.” So while my days of “funemployment” have come to an end according to most, I think it has only begun. Having the structure back in my life has allowed me to define boundaries for my time and energy…an avenue of finding the balance between work and play. Most importantly, the space and freedom to make the choices of engaging with the work and people I find meaningful with the free time I do have.