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Thread: For the 'funemployed,' unemployment is welcome

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    Elite Member celeb_2006's Avatar
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    Default For the 'funemployed,' unemployment is welcome

    For the 'funemployed,' unemployment is welcome - Los Angeles Times

    These jobless folks, usually singles in their 20s and 30s, find that life without work agrees with them. They're not sending out resumes, but instead lazing at the beach and taking trips abroad.
    By Kimi Yoshino

    7:35 PM PDT, June 3, 2009

    Michael Van Gorkom was laid off by Yahoo in late April. He didn't panic. He didn't rush off to a therapist. Instead, the 33-year-old Santa Monica resident discovered that being jobless "kind of settled nicely."

    Week one: "I thought, 'OK . . . I need to send out resumes, send some e-mails, need to do networking."

    Week two: "A little less."

    Every week since: "I'm going to go to the beach and enjoy some margaritas."

    What most people would call unemployment, Van Gorkom embraced as "funemployment."

    While millions of Americans struggle to find work as they face foreclosures and bankruptcy, others have found a silver lining in the economic meltdown. These happily jobless tend to be single and in their 20s and 30s. Some were laid off. Some quit voluntarily, lured by generous buyouts.

    Buoyed by severance, savings, unemployment checks or their parents, the funemployed do not spend their days poring over job listings. They travel on the cheap for weeks. They head back to school or volunteer at the neighborhood soup kitchen. And at least till the bank account dries up, they're content living for today.

    "I feel like I've been given a gift of time and clarity," said Aubrey Howell, 29, of Franklin, Tenn., who was laid off from her job as a tea shop manager in April. After sleeping in late and visiting family in Florida, she recently mused on Twitter: "Unemployment or funemployment?"

    Never heard of funemployment? Here's Urban Dictionary's definition: "The condition of a person who takes advantage of being out of a job to have the time of their life. I spent all day Tuesday at the pool; funemployment rocks!"

    It may not have entered our daily lexicon yet, but a small army of social media junkies with a sudden overabundance of time is busy Tweeting: "Funemployment road trip to Portland." "Funemployment is great for catching up on reading!" "Averaging 3 rounds of golf a week plus hockey and bball. who needs work?"

    As frivolous as it sounds, funemployment is a statement about American society. Experts say it's both a reflection of the country's cultural narcissism -- and attitudes of entitlement and self-centeredness -- and a backlash against corporate America and its "Dilbert"-like work environment.

    "Recession gives people permission to be unemployed," said David Logan, a professor at USC's Marshall School of Business. "Why not make use of the time and go do something fun?"

    Jean Twenge, co-author of "The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement," said in some cases, many employees had lost balance between work and life, with too many late nights and weekends spent at the office. When they stop working, they realize how much they had given up.

    Nina Flores, 28, quit her job as a jury consultant in Costa Mesa on Feb. 1 and has no regrets.

    "You figure out how much . . . you miss when maybe you're tied to your BlackBerry all the time or, in my case, traveling for work all the time," she said. "I can't imagine doing that again and sacrificing everything I want to do for me. . . . I think it is a new way of thinking."

    For many younger people, Twenge said, work is less central to their lives. These days, more people than in the 1970s are saying they want jobs with a lot of vacation time, according to preliminary data from Twenge's generational surveys. Younger employees today also are less willing to work overtime. And, when asked if they would quit their jobs if they had money, more are answering "yes," though the majority still say they would continue working.

    "It really suggests there has been that generational shift that work is not the be all and end all," said Twenge, an associate professor of psychology at San Diego State.

    Flores said she finds herself looking into jobs she would have never considered before, even if it means taking a big pay cut. What's more important, she said, is flexibility, lots of vacation time and something that doesn't have "that 9-to-5" feeling.

    Amanda Rounsaville, 34, of Los Angeles quit her job as a program officer at the California Endowment in late March. A self-described workaholic who rarely called in sick or used vacation days, Rounsaville found a certain peace last month during her three-week trek through northern Mongolia with two friends, sleeping in $3-a-night, tent-like gers.

    "I literally found myself smiling uncontrollably at being that far away from everything," Rounsaville said.

    Enjoying the solitude, she found herself contemplating: "Do we work to live or do we live to work? Do I have life goals that are not work goals?"

    Both Flores and Rounsaville discovered that they like themselves better when they're not consumed by their jobs.

    "This is the best version of me," Flores said, adding that she feels "completely healthy," relaxed and focused.

    Rounsaville agreed: "The rat race puts blinders on you and makes time fly, and then the next thing you know, you've missed the chance to be your more exciting self, or to push yourself in a gutsier direction."

    For some in older generations, watching their children embrace an escape from responsibility is difficult. So while a young unemployed person might be saying, "This is awesome. I'm having a really good time," their parents are probably asking, "Haven't you gotten a job yet?" Twenge said.

    Flores' decision to quit her job was initially met by concern and worry by her parents and some friends, but she thinks it's partly because they simply can't relate. By the time her parents' generation reached their late 20s and early 30s, most were married with children.

    Van Gorkom's father had a similar response. Since being laid off as Yahoo Music's director of user experience design, Van Gorkom said has purchased a laptop and started shopping for a new couch, "which my dad doesn't understand." As he spends money, his father is nervously asking Van Gorkom whether he needs any money.

    USC's Logan isn't convinced funemployment is unique to this generation. The notion of slackers -- or whatever label is in vogue -- has been around for decades. What's different, he said, is the new social media that allows the unemployed to find each other and make plans through Facebook and Twitter.

    Andy Deemer, one of Rounsaville's traveling companions, points out that they went to Mongolia with "someone two people removed from me that I had only met once two years ago at a cocktail party." The 36-year-old New Yorker and college pal of Rounsaville's, said they connected with that third travel mate through Facebook and word of mouth.

    The daily lives of the unemployed have never been more public. They can post online photos of globe-trotting vacations, blog about their long lunches and broadcast via Twitter the day's weighty choices, as @james6378 did last week when deciding between Lucky Charms and Frosted Flakes cereals.

    By thumbing their collective noses at employment, they also are sending a message to corporate America, Logan said.

    "People are saying screw it and they're leaving companies," Logan said. "We need to figure out how to make companies work better for everybody. Until that happens . . . early retirements and furloughs are going to continue. People are going to opt out of the system."

    Deemer, an independent filmmaker who also worked at CNET and Welcome to About.com, said he actually enjoyed corporate America, up until November when the Internet start-up he was working for failed to get financing. After it tanked, he sold his New York apartment, put his belongings in storage, turned his parents' Beijing home into base camp, and embarked on a spiritual quest to find various mystics and shamans around Asia.

    "I'm a little worried," he said of his future financial stability. "There's a nagging sense of fear that does gnaw at me when I consider it."

    But Deemer has taken big risks before in the name of fulfilling a dream. He quit his CNET job to make the low-budget cult movie "Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead," which still makes him "smile big." He expects no less from his Asian adventure.

    With his friends in tow, Deemer has already managed to visit a fortuneteller in Myanmar and a tarot card reader in Thailand, and to spend a few days with Saffron Revolution monks near the Thailand-Myanmar border. In Mongolia, he searched 10 days for a reindeer-herding shaman, finally tracking her down on his last day.

    She wore tight jeans, a glittery purple sweater and a rhinestone headband. She typed on a laptop. He found her both mystical and authentic, though when he returned from his Trans-Siberian adventure to Beijing, he felt unchanged.

    But since he was seeking answers, the Mongolian shaman had one for him. On a Post-it, she wrote his fortune in Cyrillic. The last sentence, in a nutshell: Go back to work.

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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    that's nice for people who have money to fall back on.
    I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.

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    Gold Member lonestar's Avatar
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    there was a point right after college two years ago that i was unemployed for like 2 months and in the process i drained my savings account. i sure as shit had a blast doing fun things then, but i absolutely wish i could have had a job sooner. i got bored real quick and now, i don't have that money when i need it. if given the option again, i wouldn't do it. well maybe for like 3 weeks. but not any longer.
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    Elite Member McJag's Avatar
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    Yeah-I wouldn't be playing with that money!
    I didn't start out to collect diamonds, but somehow they just kept piling up.-Mae West

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    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
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    i think it depends on what you do with your time. and the article has a point: a lot of people in their 20s and 30s are doing this.
    i have a friend who has been travelling around south america for over a year now. he worked his ass off for years at a really demanding job, saved like mad then said fuck it, if i don't do this now i never will. he's been trekking his way through the continent for a while now, doing some freelance writing and photography when he wants and has no intention of going home until the money runs out.

    another friend quit his job and bought round-the-world tickets with his girlfriend and took off for a year. backpacking and camping their way through central america and then asia, etc...

    yet another friend got a really good UN job, saved like mad, and then took a year so she could work on her writing. she does the odd consulting job but nothing like a full time job.

    i admit i love the idea. i have to start being better at saving money than i am now but ideally i'd like to work for another year, year and a half and then i'd like to take a year or two off and go back to school. and before that, take 3-4 months to go backpacking.
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    Elite Member kingcap72's Avatar
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    I'm single, in my 30's and now unemployed and I sure as hell wouldn't be like 'fuck it' I'll just travel. It'd be nice, though.

    Although some of the other people at my job that got laid off, some in their 40's & 50's, said they were just going to take the summer off and figure things out.

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    Elite Member cmmdee's Avatar
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    ^^ Here's hoping you find a job soon, King.

    Buoyed by severance, savings, unemployment checks or their parents, the funemployed do not spend their days poring over job listings.

    Well they don't have to if they have income and no desire to find a job.

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    Elite Member RevellingInSane's Avatar
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    Sorry to hear about your situation KC and hope you find something soon.

    Any time I have been unemployed, I spent hours a day tweaking resumes, sending them out, going fill out apps.

    Must be nice to have the fuck-it-all attitude. I wouldn't know.



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    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
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    i don't think it's necessarily a 'fuck it all' attitude, more like 'fuck the rat race for a while' attitude. there is more to life than your job and if you save up a bunch of cash, why not see the world? that's an experience you'll treasure your whole life and traveling while you're still young is not the same as dragging your arthritic bones around once you're retired.
    i don't get the eyerolls or sarcasm either. what's wrong with taking a summer off? free time should be treasured. once you're working, you don't get a lot of it...
    I'm open to everything. When you start to criticise the times you live in, your time is over. - Karl Lagerfeld

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    Elite Member Beeyotch's Avatar
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    ^^It's the resentment of not having that luxury. I do understand that on some level, because many (not all) people who do enjoy those luxuries of having someone provide a "backup income" like their parents, well they often turn out to be spoiled, entitled a-holes. But mostly it's just not fair and that understandably chaps many people's ass.

    However, this is totally different than taking whatever time off because you've saved your own $$, which is what you're talking about sput.

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    Elite Member kingcap72's Avatar
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    Thanks, RIS & C.

    Quote Originally Posted by sputnik View Post
    i don't think it's necessarily a 'fuck it all' attitude, more like 'fuck the rat race for a while' attitude. there is more to life than your job and if you save up a bunch of cash, why not see the world? that's an experience you'll treasure your whole life and traveling while you're still young is not the same as dragging your arthritic bones around once you're retired.
    i don't get the eyerolls or sarcasm either. what's wrong with taking a summer off? free time should be treasured. once you're working, you don't get a lot of it...
    There's nothing wrong with people taking a break from the rat race. Hell, I wish I could do it, but the workaholic Capricorn in me won't let me, which is why I'm still doing freelance work. But some of the people I know who are taking the summer off haven't even bothered to think about what they're going to do when the summer is over. And they knew about the layoff almost 2 months in advance. I'm taking a few weeks to clear my head, but I've already formulated a plan about what industries I want to go into.

    Now, they've lost their jobs and haven't even bothered to think about the future. Now, that's not smart at any age, but it's definitely not that bright if you're in your 40's or 50's, and the industry that you've spent so many years in is crumbling.

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    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
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    ^^^^
    yeah if you're just taking time off to bum around, and you're right about it not being particularly bright once you're in your 40s and 50s and you have no back-up plan.


    Quote Originally Posted by Beeyotch View Post
    ^^It's the resentment of not having that luxury. I do understand that on some level, because many (not all) people who do enjoy those luxuries of having someone provide a "backup income" like their parents, well they often turn out to be spoiled, entitled a-holes. But mostly it's just not fair and that understandably chaps many people's ass.

    However, this is totally different than taking whatever time off because you've saved your own $$, which is what you're talking about sput.
    i can't even imagine asking my mother for money at this point in my life, unless i had no other choice. i certainly wouldn't ask her for money to go back to school or to fund my travels. i only think this is a good idea if you're the one funding your time off.
    at the same time though, if i had a trust fund, i wouldn't be wasting any time feeling guilty about it and would use it to do what i want, and would thoroughly enjoy the luxury of not having to worry about where my next paycheck is coming from. and i don't resent people who do have that luxury.
    I'm open to everything. When you start to criticise the times you live in, your time is over. - Karl Lagerfeld

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    Gold Member frecklered's Avatar
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    good for them...less competition for me.

    I think it's stupid to not be saving for retirement in your late 20s/early 30s.
    here I am, rock you like a hurricane.

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    Elite Member sparkly's Avatar
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    I see both sides. It's so necessary to start saving for retirement as young as possible, so we don't have to work when we're elderly. But it would be nice to take some time off and go around the world. Personally, I'd like to have a balance where I spend my vacation time going to a different place every year, and pay for the trip using extra money I have saved, instead of touching any retirement money.
    Everyone is entitled to be stupid, but some abuse the privilege.

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    Elite Member Mr. Authority's Avatar
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    With my savings (around $5000 now), I could afford to take a bit of time off. But with my ever-dwindling job at the gym and my last few months of college, I can't afford to waste my time and money to go off and dick around.

    There's plenty you could do to relieve stress without going off into some unknown city for "fun". Some people could handle it but for me I'd be even more worried about life if I was dreading about it while on vacation.

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