I am surprised at how unmoored I’ve felt since my unemployment began, on June 13. It shouldn’t be a shock. Say, “I got laid off,” and it sounds bad to most people. It didn't feel terrible to me as it was happening, though. It’s not unusual for a magazine’s entire staff to be jettisoned when leadership changes as radically as it did at The American Prospect. More salient: I’d been hoping to be laid off. In its 24-year history, the magazine has suffered from a serious earthquake every two or three years, and this is only the latest. (I believe it will probably be the last.) After four-and-a-half years there, I considered the possible outcomes for me and reckoned involuntary termination was the best one.
Still, something happens to you when all the money anyone in the world owes you lands in your bank account one Friday, and the weekend rolls past and Monday morning arrives with no place for you to go. I had been, and still am, meeting with a ton of editors, and those coffees and lunches and phone calls and emails have kept me so busy the past month that I feel like a weather vane, turning to a new direction with each potential outlet and each potential idea. I started cultivating a to-do list during my first sentient hour every morning. That sounds like a lot of time to take making a list, but these are the lists of all lists, with everything from “email X” to “explore existential crisis Y,” notes on how to accomplish each task, self-imposed-but-rarely-enforced deadlines, and follow-up to-do’s for each to-do.
I almost haven’t had time to remember I am funemployed. When I do, it is, indeed, fun. I’ve been exercising constantly. I started running again. The World Cup is on. I still have severance pay in my bank account. For a complicated set of reasons related to the Prospect’s demise, I am without a home in DC this summer, which means someone else is paying my rent. I am spare-room surfing, because I am too old for couches. My cat is hanging out with some friends who have two cats of their own—I am furball-sitting this week before getting out of this swamp town for most of July. I’m going to Arkansas to visit my mom. Maybe I will follow Tom Cotton around and think of a pitch about the Senate race there. I will then head to Vancouver to visit a friend, and do some temperate rainforest hiking and glacier-fed sea bathing. I’ve been doing some work, and will keep doing some work, but I think I’ll be able to do more and better work after some real time off, a respite I haven’t had in a long time.
It’s important, though, to keep writing, to keep my diction and grammar muscles toned, and that’s where this little personal blog comes in. I need a way to organize my days. After the to-do-list, and before calls, I need a low-stress place to write. I should, and will, start a tiny letter or column somewhere, but for now I’m enjoying the freedom of being self-employed. Starting a personal blog feels pleasingly old school. I recently finished Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and towards the end of the book the main character, Ifemelu, reads “Postbourgie, her favorite American blog,” and I had saudade for it. Ifemelu’s blog in the book reminded me a lot of Postbourgie, the imperfect unsafeness of it, the renegade, pseudonymous blogging of the early days. Maybe this blog will anchor me again, for awhile.