To Find a Living
An important component of maintaining psychological health while unemployed is to have rituals and other outgoing activities that are cheap and can sponge up the slow, potentially depressing hours.
Every day I get out and purchase the Chicago Tribune, and enjoy a pastry and two cups of coffee at one of the local coffee shops. Between the newspaper, the crossword puzzle, free newspapers and others that might be found at the coffee shop, as well as whatever book I’m carrying in my backpack, and the occasional visits from friends and my own muse, this is a good, inexpensive way to pass a few of the morning hours.
The afternoons are for writing, cleaning, or one of my other favorite activities: walking. I’ve done this around the world, and even in the quiet of Champaign-Urbana, I can enjoy myself by taking off in one direction, and returning a few miles, and a few hours, later.
In case anything hits me, I always have a few pens and a paperclip of index cards on hand to catch a passing thought.
This past Saturday I started at Kopi in downtown Champaign, and walked North along the Railroad right-of-way. The weather was fantastic: warm and dry. I noted to myself:
I would take pictures, but I’ve lost my camera.
I’d write poetry, but I can’t find my muse.
And I recalled another recent walk along the railroad tracks, when I saw a guy wearing blue jeans, combat boots, and a white tee shirt with the American Flag on it. He looked up when he saw me coming, hesitated, and then turned to walk away from my approach. He called out an explanation. “Were you wearing another shirt I might receive you, but I don’t like sunflowers.” I was wearing a black shirt with a sunflower print. I am usually complimented for it.
I sat down on a box beside the railroad tracks to commit these thoughts and memories to paper, when I had a weird moment:
I read in the paper today that over 30,000 Japanese ended their own lives last year. That is more than the population of Urbana. Many were jobless and at a loss for something better to do.
I look up from the box I’m sitting on beside the railroad tracks. There is a stack of pre-fabricated railroad switch track segments sitting before me. On the iron rails is a marking: “115 RE VT NIPPON 2002 10”. And I wonder how many Japanese kept their lives last year by building the railway equipment that sits before me this year, rusting in Illinois.
Coffee, computers, iron rails, or walking around the railroad tracks, chasing the phantom muse, we are fortunate to find a living.