A Brief Digression

Physical Work is Good for the Mind

One of the things I struggled with when it came time to actually begin my period of unemployment was, simply, deciding how I was going to spend all this time I had. What I quickly discovered, though, is that time evaporated even more quickly when there was endless reams of it than it did when I had a job and knew exactly how every fifteen minute increment of the day was to be allocated. There was the usual list of things: Search for and apply for jobs, network with people who could get me a job, keep writing, fight off a lingering sense of existential dread caused by the fact I was a massive failure and all that.

While I didn’t get to everything, I also found it was important to *do* things. Physical things. Project things. So at the urging of someone in particular I spent one day a week at my parent’s house helping them with things they needed to get done.


That turned from one day into three (and counting) that have been spent over there. We’ve cleaned out boxes of knick-knacks (of mine and everyone else’s), toys, clothes and other items from closets and other storage spaces, making a big dent in the piles that accumulated over the course of 40+ years of living in the same place. Some went to a resale shop associated with the high school my father went to, some went to the trash, some came home with me. We’ve spread mulch under trees, pulled countless weeds from gardens in the front and back yards and laid down pea gravel around empty, unused spaces.

The productivity hasn’t been confined to their house, though. Around my own property I’ve also pulled countless weeds, cleaned up spots that have been neglected for years and more.

At the end of each day I was stressed about what I hadn’t been doing during the day while I was getting other things done. How many jobs hadn’t I applied for? How many blog posts hadn’t I written that could have led to a new freelance opportunity? What was the opportunity cost of not being actively working on finding something new?

What I found, though, was that I got just as much out of those “off” days as I did the ones where I was tied to the computer obsessively trying to think of new ways to search for “content marketing director” on LinkedIn. In fact, for as anxious as I got about them, those days helped my overall mindset in ways I wasn’t even aware of at the time. They were the breaks my mind needed but that I wasn’t taking because of the tunnel vision I’d developed on the other days. It was pure, good, honest work that had a clearly observable deliverable at the end of the process. In other words, a good way to spend just about any day.

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