Tag Archives: free time

Volunteering: Leads to Diseases and Happiness

19 Jun

Lately, I’ve had kind of a warm, floaty feeling in my chest and abdomen.  My first thought was, “EBOLA?!”  www.WrongDiagnosis.com tells me that, unless I’m vomiting blood, suffering from diarrhea, and have got a bad case of hiccups, Ebola was, as promised, the wrong diagnosis.  Undeterred, I turned to the WebMD symptom checker to determine my condition.

How could I neatly plug this feeling into the pre-approved symptom checklist?  It’s that kind of sensation where you radiate zen, but also feel capable of doing backflips on a waverunner. This must be what it feels like to be Angelina Jolie, which, in all honesty, is medically concerning to me.  I did my best to translate these concerns to my Internet doctor.

WebMD Sarah is modest, and apparently owns a princess pony. I don't know why.

The two clear possibilities for my new condition was either Supraventricular tachycardia, or Constipation (adult). (Presumably, this advanced form can purchase cigarettes and naughty magazines.)

Which one is it?  Admittedly, my diet is pretty light on the Metamucil, so adult constipation is a strong contender, and likely the true culprit.  However, Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) shouldn’t be ruled out entirely.  According to WebMD, “SVT means that from time to time, your heart beats very fast for reasons other than exercise, high fever, or stress.”  Ahh.  So Doctor WebMD,  could SVT also mean that I’m riding a high, enjoying the rush and satisfaction that some newfound activity has given me?

It didn’t answer me, so I’m forced to conclude that yes, this was definitely the case.

Is it obnoxious to talk about how awesome and life-changing your volunteer work is?  Probably, and you can also probably tell what I’m about to do.

Recently I’ve been volunteering as an adult literacy tutor, and working with my two students has been invigorating.  They have different needs, and it takes ingenuity and creativity to handle both of them.  I don’t know if I’m a good tutor, but the process of learning how to effectively teach is surprisingly enjoyable.  It’s inspiring to see the dedication my students put into obtaining their goals, and knowing that they depend on my help pushes me to produce the best lessons I can.  This experience has also settled me on a career path: educational reform, something I’ve always believed in but never quite committed to pursuing until I saw the harsh realities of life without a basic education.

I haven’t worked this hard at something since college, which ended five months ago.  I went from spending 12 hours a day thesis-writing to doing nothing.  To have goals of my own again made me, in a word, happy. Having not been happy for a while, I wasn’t used to feeling it, so I was surprised when I noticed.  “Huh, I’m not miserable or even apathetic.  Cool.  What do you call this again?”

What’s really surprising is my attitude shift.  Suddenly I’m not in a total rush to bust the hell out of Florida.  I’m okay with letting my big cookie of life crumble however it pleases, and not just because I now have two good reasons to stay.  Stressing about my future got me nowhere, so why not try the opposite and see what happens?  This doesn’t mean I won’t actively pursue my job hunt, I just won’t keep at it like a dog in heat.

My point is this: Volunteering is the best thing for the unemployed. Not only are you doing something again, but you’re doing something that matters.  Having an impact will in turn positively impact you.  It’s re-energizing, and maybe it’ll help you sort out some of your priorities.  And if it leads to Supraventricular tachycardia, well, then you know you’re really doing something special.

Funemployment Ideas

25 Mar

A friend of mine, Lijia Xie from San Francisco, wrote up a list last year of things to do in what she called “funemployment,” after graduating from University of California Berkeley (pre-protests). I suggest making your own list. Here’s what she wrote:

after attending numerous job interviews in the last month and drinking too much coffee, i have decided to look into alternative temporary careers:

  • design a board game, prospective themes – Communism: The Multi-Player Table-Top Strategy Adventure (includes domino board pieces), Diagnostic Medicine: A Family-Friendly Game of Chance
  • sell vintage clothing, hats, and home-made jewelry on Etsy
  • freelance writer
  • write/edit poems, submit & repeat, perhaps funded by Kick Starter
  • grant writing for the Berkeley Free Clinic
  • start yet another funemployment blog which documents all of the above activities and links to a PayPal account for advanced investments in my board game
  • do something with the 3 volumes of medical textbooks from the 1950’s I just purchased for $1 each from the SF Public Library because they were $1 each
  • start a blog documenting things that cost less than $4.99 in SF, including entire outfits, books, booze, and entertainment
  • start my own food cart selling hand-made dumplings with exotic dipping sauces, like ginger creme fraiche, pickled garlic puree, balsamic vinegar & sesame oil, filling a much-needed niche in the SF street food scene for Chinese comfort food for hipsters
  • join the Floating Doctors!
  • take sailing and windsurfing classes at the Berkeley Marina co-op
  • attending a two-week artist residency in Michoacan, Mexico

Guess what? A lot of her ideas are legit. Take the food card idea — someone is making a dim sum cart happen in Los Angeles. 400,000 people sell on Etsy with the average sale being $15-$20. Kickstarter.com helps find you folks to fund your ideas.

As my colleague Sarah writes, put some pants on.