Tuesday, June 30, 2009


We hit the road at 10:38 a.m. yesterday morning. Me, my mom, my cat Annie and the last vestiges of my belongings packed tightly into the '94 Camry. By my mother's request, we took the more scenic route 101. We saw trees, the ocean, 8 In-n-Out Burgers, 7 Starbucks and a whole lot of Santa Barbara traffic. We pulled into the driveway of 1631 Carlson Lane at 7:24 p.m. Let's just say it was a long drive. But we made it, accident free in more ways than one (think mechanical breakdowns, traffic accidents and bowel movements of a certain feline creature).

So a new chapter has begun, the chapter of life back home for a month or so while I put the finishing touches on my travel plans and visit some old friends. It's not so much of a chapter as it is an interlude. If I think back to my college days studying anthropology, I may even call it a period of liminality. Liminality is an idea that people go through transitions in their life and the period in between those phases is neither one nor the other. In our society, liminality occurs somewhere between high school and college. It's the time when you're neither a child nor an adult. You've turned 18, but still live at home for the summer. You're about to move out of your parent's house, but still need them to pay your bills. You are betwixt and between life stages.

I have met another liminal moment. I have given up my cute apartment in the city for a room in my mother's house. My fabulously frivolous life in San Francisco has been temporarily replaced by a thrifty existence back home. It's sort of a reverse Rite of Passage. I'm returning, for a bit, to a way of life that is strikingly similar to my teenage summers. Only this time, there is no curfew, no summer reading list, no minimum wage job at the local frozen yogurt shop. I'm transitioning from the responsibility of adulthood to the carefree life of a teenager.

And as I've grown older and hopefully a tinge wiser, I'm realizing that transitions bring the unexpected. When I put myself in situations where I don't have the outcome fully mapped, new and exciting experiences unfold. I open myself up to possibilities not yet considered and the spectacular happens. Somewhere between employment and funemployment, I'm rediscovering my life and my dreams. It's a little cheesy, I realize, but this period of liminality is a time to learn and grow. To not be tied down by obligations and responsibilities. To take life as it comes and not plan every waking moment, so as to be open to the incredible when it crosses your path.

It's a time to choose the scenic route. Even if it means the cat may piss on the upholstery.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Moving is always a journey through time. You find the things you haven't seen or thought about for months, maybe years. Thousands of decisions on what to keep, what to sell and what to throw away are made in a matter of days. Objects I paid $100 for I'm willing to take $5 for in return. The process really makes you question what your Stuff (with a capital "S") is worth.

The value of Stuff is measured in two ways: the going rate for the object itself and the emotional attachment we place on it. My copy of J.D. Salinger's "Franny & Zooey" is a perfect example of an object worth more to me than its original value or the value I could get trying to selling it. This particular book is the 12th edition printed in 1962. It originally sold for $3.50. It was purchased by a friend of mine for probably around the same price at a used bookstore and given to me as a gift. I may get $0.50 at a garage sale for it and absolutely nothing on Amazon.com since it's about as beaten up as a book can get.

But my association with this book is important to me. It takes me back to age 16, when I used to skip school to read fiction and play backgammon at my local coffee house. I remember this book on the dashboard of my 1984 Honda Accord, a Marlboro Light in my hand and a feeling of utter intellectual rebellion, knowing an afternoon spent reading this genius work of fiction was far more valuable than an afternoon spent in Home Economics. I love how torn and tattered this book is, evidence that it was savored by more than a few souls, carried in purses, taken to the beach and pondered over a cup of strong coffee. How could I give up an object imbued with so many memories for just a couple of quarters?

Well I can't. The book is packed up to make the long trip home. But take that book and add another 200 more and all of a sudden I'm looking at $150 in shipping costs to get these paper treasures safely into my mom's garage. So what's a poor, funemployed soul to do with all this Stuff? Make decisions I guess. Give up one object to keep another. Ship some Stuff, store some Stuff, give a bunch of Stuff away.

We are a society of Stuff. We work so we can buy Stuff. We buy Stuff so we can look cool. We get rid of Stuff to make room for new Stuff. Then we define ourselves, in a way, by the Stuff we manage to acquire over our lifetime. In fact, our Stuff is so important to us that we write down what's supposed to happen with it after we die. I'm Stuff-ocating with all this Crap (with a capital "C")!!!

Time to unload, unleash and move on. The future has nothing but a backpack in store for me, so it's time to disperse my belongings and simplify my life. I will, however, bring this copy of "Franny & Zooey" along for the ride. It's clearly aching for another loving rip in the cover, perhaps somewhere between Hanoi and Hong Kong.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Nostalgia for the Now

This was written 4 days ago when the sun was actually shining, unlike today. Sorry for the delayed post, but funemployment makes for a busy life!

It’s days like today when I ponder why on earth I’m leaving one of the most beautiful places in the world. The sun is shining. Birds are chirping. Dogs are frolicking amongst the daisies. I’m sitting in Alamo Square Park, with views of the Transamerica building, the painted ladies, and weeping willows dancing with the summer breeze. People save money for months just to spend a few days in this amazing place and I am eagerly catching the midnight train to elsewhere. How is it that this trek to unravel my life and unearth myself of all my possessions has come so easily?

Well, it hasn’t. Every time I see a friend or go to a favorite restaurant I secretly wonder if and when I will experience that moment again. I have early-onset nostalgia… nostalgia for the present, if you will. So why in the world am I leaving this place that holds so much enjoyment, so many friends and so much comfort in the familiar?

It’s exactly the notion of the familiar that is the reason I must go. I remember a sociology class from my sophomore year of college where we discussed the concept of upward mobility. I couldn't understood why the “lower class” perpetuated itself. Why were there only a handful of individuals who had aspirations beyond their pre-ordained social plight? The answer, which I could barely begin to understand at age 19, is complacency. The idea that people are creatures of habit and are apt to take the path of least resistence is a notion that unsettled my nerves even then. I thought to myself that I never want to become complacent. It’s too easy to settle into the life that’s given instead of challenging yourself to attain what's not. A comment a friend’s father made at my college graduation has stuck with me for years. He said that the best things in life never come easy. It may be trite, but it’s true.

So where does that leave me? For now, it leaves me sitting in Alamo Square with the feeling that it may be months or days or years before I sit on this same patch of grass and appreciate another beautiful San Francisco day. And I may travel half way around the world only to realize that everything I need and want is right here. Ironic indeed. But if we all paid attention to a Nissan ad campaign from years ago, we would wisely know that life is a journey, not a destination.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Musings on a "Stupider" Workforce

I've gotten used to my funemployed status pretty quickly. My days go something like this:

Wake up. Make coffee. Shower (or not). Check Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, etc. Run errands. Take nap. Check Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, etc. Exercise. Have dinner. Check Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, etc.

You get the point.

Somewhere between checking Facebook for the first and second time, I try to get out and about so that there is some live social interaction (as compared to the online kind) that occurs in my day. No one wants to become the unemployed hermit who hasn't exchanged slippers for sneakers in more than a week. And what I've noticed after 3 whole, big days of not going to work is that there are a TON of people just like me out and about.

Exhibit A: I went to Trader Joe's at 11:30 today. I had to wait in a line to get into the parking lot for just as long as if it were a Saturday afternoon.

Exhibit B: My neighborhood is buzzing with 20 & 30 somethings sipping their coffee at one of the local cafes all day long.

Sure, some may be grad students or have occupations that require odd hours (think hospitals or restaurants), but I can't imagine those people constitute the entirety of the full parking lot at TJ's this a.m.

Okay, I'll get to the point already. It seems probable that many of these individuals with plentiful weekday free time are the recent wave of layoff victims. So, what isn't being accomplished if all these people aren't doing whatever it is they used to do? And given that many of these people may ultimately decide to change careers, what is being lost in the shuffle?

Take the advertising executive who is fed up with the churn and burn culture and decides to catch her breath while making smoothies for a living. Or the mechanical engineer who worked for Ford for 30 years and can't find a job in his industry, so he decides to start a dog-walking business. These professionals have knowledge and experience that will be lost forever to their respective fields. What is the impact of this phenomenon on the American workforce? Will we slip even further behind in the race to make efficient automobiles, cure cancer or develop the most innovative social media ad campaign??? Is this the beginning of the decline of the American industry? Will a less experienced workforce steer us into mediocrity?

These are big questions and probably too much for one unemployed soul to take on in a single afternoon. If anyone has any thoughts on the matter, please chime in. In the meantime, I better take a nap and check Facebook.