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The Upside of Downtime

Updated on December 3, 2008

Investing Time Wisely

About eight years ago, I had a great job that I loved. I had started out part-time (3 days a week, Wednesday through Friday) as a temp. Actually, I was the "assistant to the assistants", meaning that each day I would help 3 or 4 of the secretaries with work that they found too overwhelming or just too boring.

This is not quite what I went to college for, but in many ways this was the perfect job. It was an easy commute from where I lived, everyone at the office was very nice, and I was so grateful for the income that my attitude was quite positive. I greeted each new task as a pleasant challenge and treated everyone with respect.

And on the flip side, I made enough to live and still have time to devote to my art. At the time I was doing a lot of open mike poetry readings and was getting involved in the Washington, DC arts scene. Some of my friends had bands (and they were really good!) so my weekends filled up quickly. It was wonderful to have Monday and Tuesday off each week, so I could do laundry and buy groceries and take walks in the park -- without the noise and crowds that are around on the weekends!

Word got around about my "excellent work" and soon I got promoted! A new executive was brought in from New Jersey and he needed.... an Assistant.

I will always be grateful to that man, his initials are F.H. When we first met, he looked at my resume and asked me what my goals were. He said "You know what, I need someone to work with the Knowledge Management Team on an important project. Would you like to do that?"

Would I like to get a real desk, do interesting and important work, and get a raise? Yes, please!

That was a real turning point in my career and in my life. Mr. F.H. didn't cop an attitude about my interest in the arts, in fact he said that it made me a more well-rounded person.

Some of my "colleagues" made it clear that they looked down on me, but I simply smiled and said I was happy with my life. It was a little tough when I realized a kid 4 years younger than me was make about 3 times as much as I did -- but he had to work 40 hours a week and I didn't.

Even with the promotion, I was able to keep working part-time. They gave me a laptop and sent me to take classes in New Jersey. I even took a business trip to San Francisco!

That glorious job came to an end abruptly, though, when the company moved from downtown DC to a place called Chantilly, VA. On paper it's about a half-hour away but with all the traffic it take about 90 minutes or 2 hours each way. So for a while I had a part-time job ( 10 hours a week) just commuting.

When I couldn't take it anymore, I decided to leave the company. Even with working 3 days a week, the commute was just too much. The corporate culture had changed, too. There was nowhere to go on my lunch hour. Back in DC I could go to the Post Office, choose from several cool restaurants, or do some window shopping. In Chantilly, we were surround by fields of weeds (or wildflowers, if you prefer).

After leaving that job, I spent 4 months unemployed. That was a challenging time. I kept looking for work, and had very little success.

So I made a decision that I was going to use my time wisely. I would spend about an hour a day looking for work, then went to the public library once a week and checked out famous books and movies. Reading good literature and watching Academy Award winning movies helped me become a better artist. There is a lot of great art out there -- movies that are so beautiful they make you cry, books with characters that live in your memory for years afterwards.

Books are like friends to me and I generally end up underlining the good parts. So when a little bit of money started coming in, I quickly upgraded to buying books second-hand. This way they are mine to keep forever!

My goal here on Hubpages is to share what I've learned to take some of the guess-work out of it. Yes, I have read books that in the end I considered "bad" or "poorly written", and I have seen some movies (even by great directors) that were clearly a "waste of time".

So here is my promise -- if I ever post information about the books and movies that I did not like, I will make it very clear. Sometimes you need to taste some "bad art" to truly appreciate the good art!

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Inspiration from Nature

I spent many hours in Malcolm X Park in Washington, DC.
I spent many hours in Malcolm X Park in Washington, DC.
View from the bridge, walking to the National Zoo from DuPont Circle
View from the bridge, walking to the National Zoo from DuPont Circle
The National Zoo!  No entry fee!!  Our tax dollars at work...
The National Zoo! No entry fee!! Our tax dollars at work...

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