There is no doubt that unemployment is tough financially and physically. You pretty much know your financial situation will suck. Consistently. You pretty much know that your physical situation will suck. Consistently. At least there is comfort in knowing that there is consistency in the suckage.
Emotionally, however, unemployment is much more of a nauseating roller coaster than I thought it would be. It’s like the goddamned Texas Cyclone when you’re five years old. Up and down. In a really scary way.
At first, unemployment sucked emotionally. More than anything, it was a massive hit to my pride, as well as real test of my self-confidence. I felt like I had been dumped. *wah wah* How come they don’t want me anymore? Am I not good enough? The sting of becoming unemployed was still fresh in my mind (hey, I wasn’t fired, okay? I simply "became unemployed," and we will leave it at that), and all I could do was nurse my injured pride with Citron, soda, and a twist of lemon. And some very therapeutic blogging.
Then, unemployment was awesome. I didn’t have to work. No work?! Yes, No work!!! It’s like vacation! And though funemployment checks were hardly “compensation,” it was enough to keep me from completely obliterating my savings on frivolous things like bulk instant ramen that would send me into sustained sodium bloat shock day after day.
Then unemployment went back to sucking because even though I had freedom, I had no one “to freedom” (v.) with. It’s just like playing hooky when you really do have a job. Unless your other working friends play hooky, too, there isn’t much to do except stay inside your apartment all day and IM with your friends who are at their jobs, which dammit, you do when you’re at work anyway so it’s a wasted PTO day. Dammit.
Then unemployment was awesome because I realized I could stay out until 3 am every night. Even on a Monday.
But then unemployment sucked because again, I can’t really afford to stay out until 3 am by myself and because my friends who have jobs have to be in bed by 11.
Then unemplyment was awesome because you know what? I have a seven day weekend!
But then it sucked because I realized that not compartmentalizing my (not)work of blogging to a five-day (not)work-week and leaving weekends free to do non-(not)work related leisure activites led me into this strange existence where the line between the real world and the virtual world was blurred and I started thinking that “hanging out with friends” meant IM-ing with total strangers.
And then it really sucked when the funemployement checks suddenly disappeared. Alright, it wasn’t “suddenly,” but six months sure can creep up on you fast like a nasty case of hives induced by some very aggressive shrimp.
As much as I cried, on my side in the fetal position completely under my down comforter at the foot of my bed, in my sweats that I had been wearing for eleven days straight without laundering during those low, super extreme sucky points of the emotional roller coaster ride, I have to say that I am learning and doing new things that I would never have done before when I was actually sane.
I am very slowly learning how to budget what little funds I have managed to scrape together each month. I have expanded my repertoire of things I cook at home; I have even developed the patience to bake. I am finding out what really interests me, and not whatever the “coolest, new thing” is to be interested in. I remembered how much I loved reading when I was little and have been able to sit down for hours on end with a book. I have forced myself to detach myself from the Internet for at least fifteen minutes a day, when I make myself take a shower.
And one thing I have done that I never thought I could ever do is eat by myself in a restaurant.
It's not that I have never eaten by myself. Oh, how many nights have I stood half bent over the kitchen sink with a bowl of Special K after a long day at work? How many times have I barely removed the ruffled paper liner in time before inhaling an overgrown muffin in the car on the way to work, leaving behind a thin layer of muffin crumbs on the front of my business-casual button down, slim-cut-for-ladies button down shirt? How many times have I sat at my desk, hunched over my laptop so no wandering co-workers' eyes can catch me surfing the foodporn sites while mindlessly slurping through an afro of paper shredder residue, aka instant ramen?
Oh yes, I have most certainly eaten alone. In private. By myself, but where no one can see me.
But never out in public. In a restaurant. *scary*
It's an odd fear, really, because normally, my personality weighs much heavier toward the solo side than the social side. I have always been what you might call a loner, Dottie. A rebel. (Do you know the movie?!) I prefer to live alone rather than with a roommate. In school, I did my best holed up in a dark corner of the library by myself, not with a study group. I always did much better in individual sports like tennis, rather than team sports. At the risk of barring myself from any possibility of recruitment via a random landing of an employer on this blog, I will say that I am not a team player. I do not "team" (v. to work in a team setting). Everyone in the working world tells everyone else that he or she is a great team player. I can't say it truthfully because though I can function as part of a team without disrupting any sort of cosmic office balance, I can perform effin' miracles if I am the only person in charge, or the only person.
Eating alone in public is a mentally implosive clash of oxymoronic worlds that is too complicated for me to understand. Alone. Public. See what I mean? Opposites.
I could have gotten something delivered. Heck, I could have ordered pho "to-go." I could have walked into Pho 99 just up the street from me and picked it up as if I were so busy at work that I only had time to run out, pick up something and rush back to my desk to work on some monster PowerExcelSpreadPoint with embedded Visio diagrams. But come on, who are we fooling here? They would know. They would know by the five-day-unlaundered sweats and the un-pedicured feet in flip flops that I don't work in an office. They're not stupid. They would just know that I was a miserable little girl scurrying out for my one outing a day to pick up mere sustenance to consume at home, alone, watching tv. How sad, they'll mouth to each other. She's probably going to go back and watch Maury. Maybe Oprah?
I saved them the guesswork and decided to slink into a chair in the dining room and eat right there. But I still chose a table against the wall. Near the back. Hey, I didn't want to advertise the fact that I'm a total loser. Damn Freudian typing. I meant "loner."
At first, it didn't seem too difficult because I could pretend to be carefully examing themenu that I've seen a hundred times and could probably recite from memory. But then the server came and once I made my order, I think I almost might have held onto that menu a little too long as she took it away. I was at a loss. I had no idea what to do with myself. I didn't have a book or a magazine to ignore the stares, or some printed material to make it look like I was working through lunch.
It was nerve-racking. No, it was terrifying. I was extremely self-conscious. I felt like the staff were huddled behind the counter giggling about the pathetic girl sitting by herself. I felt like every customer in the dining room was looking at me, shaking their heads in pity, wondering why on earth I was sitting there by myself. I looked around at the walls, afraid to make eye contact. I gazed out the window as if in deep-thought. I opened up my purse, as if I were suddenly despeartely in need of something I just couldn't find, even though my wallet, cel phone, miniature notebook and Palm Pilot were in plain view.
In my logical brain, I know that no one, not a single "they" even cared that I was sitting there by myself. I doubt that a single person even looked at me, other than the server who took my order and brought my bowl of tofu pho to me. In fact, there might have been at least one or two others singly enjoying their pho or shrimp summer rolls, or banh mi. But I felt self-conscious the whole time.
Once the food was there, it was better, since I could turn my eyes and attention toward the bowl, but it's not easy keeping your face down in the rising steam for ten minutes. I had to come up for air every once in a while, and I'm sure my face, bright red and glistening with condensed steam and sriracha-induced sweat wasn't a pretty sight. That made me even more self-conscious.
It was all over in probably less than 12 minutes, but it felt like an hour. I paid the check and practically ran out of there. I am such a dork.
But at least I can say I did it. I ate by myself. Yay for me.
Now as far banh mi is concerned, I tried it on a separate occasion, eating at Pho 99 with another person. I know that people are wild about banh mi, but I don't get it. It tasted like pho, without the broth or noodles. To me, banh mi just a sandwich with a slightly different flavor that comes from the pickled vegetables. Nothing more.
I'll stick with pho. But let's go together, okay? Eating by myself just isn't fun.
11819 Wilshire Boulevard (@ Granville)
Los Angeles, CA 90025
** a year ago today, i made a HORRIBLE CONFESSION by adding water **