I need to get away, just for a few days, close to the soothing sound and motion of the sea, inhaling salt air and unwinding. I have to restore my mental, emotional and spiritual inner resources. I’m running low.
So why does this idea create such a tangle of conflicting emotions in me?
For one thing, part of me feels that spending money now on a vacation is a wasteful extravagance. (“You’re unemployed,” my practical boyfriend likes to remind me, as if I may have forgotten this fact.)
Another part of me feels guilty because I’m able to come up with the rent for a no-frills week at the Shore when so many others can’t. Even people with jobs find that money is tight these days. Who am I to take a few days off and rent a Shore house?
Yet another part of me thinks it’s horribly selfish to spend money on a summer break. These are tough economic times for so many people; instead of spending money on a getaway, I should be donating it to those in truly dire financial circumstances.
I should be frugal and save the money I’d spend on a vacation. I could use it for groceries and electricity and unanticipated expenses. But spending it instead on a little escape won’t doom me to homelessness down the road. And I realize that I’m fortunate that this is even an option for me, that I’m able to make this financial choice.
“Fortunate” is actually a terrible word to use, since the primary reason I still have something of a nest egg remaining after the 2008 market crash is my husband’s premature death in 1996: he left our little son and me the proceeds of his life insurance and 401(k).
And for anyone who might be thinking that the government would be subsidizing my respite from the job hunt, my unemployment insurance benefits ran out a long time ago. Personally, though, I wouldn’t begrudge anyone who’s collecting these benefits but desperately needs a little breather during the course of a lengthy job search.
To help me manage my inner conflict, I’ve been searching for the least expensive place I can find that would still allow me to find a little psychological respite from this grind.
Of course, I understand that some people view unemployment as one big endless vacation. I suppose it does depend on what you do while you’re unemployed, how much effort you’re making to put an end to this state. I suspect, though, that people who think the unemployed are living “the good life” have never actually experienced chronic unemployment. It’s pretty much the opposite of recharging, renewing, refreshing.
To me there’s no question that long-term unemployment and the state of constant up-and-down stress it creates is grueling. I may not be “working,” but I certainly feel drained. And I really don’t see a distinction, in terms of taking care of my health, between things like getting enough sleep, eating healthfully and exercising and taking some time off.
I do think that the therapeutic effects of some seaside relaxation would make me a better jobseeker and candidate. Instead of being tired and worn out after doing this for two-and-a-half-years, I’d feel invigorated, rested and ready.
So what’s the price of my mental health, of my ability to be strong and to face life’s challenges – of which unemployment is only one – intelligently and effectively? If doing something that’s good for my health means that I’m selfish, then I’ll just have to accept that I’m selfish.
From experience, I know that endurance is critically important in a lengthy search for employment. What I don’t know is how close I am to the end of this long-distance race.