I’ve kinda known it was coming for the past three weeks. By kinda, I mean that work for the projects I oversee has been slowly running out. There was talk of things picking back up in the beginning of May, but in the past week or so things quickly moved in the opposite direction. Projects were delayed, suspended or canceled on a daily basis and the question became how much work would come back and when.
I found out the answer on Friday. By mid of next week I’ll be on furlough. I have a couple projects that I’m winding down and then, other than a daily check in of email for new updates, I will have a lot of free time on my hands.
As much as I complain about being in a dead-end job for several years now, I’m fortunate in that I work for a very good company that takes care of its employees. I won’t go into the financial details, but I’ll be okay for at least the next couple months if the furlough lasts that long.
So what do I plan to do with the time off?
I’ve been thinking a lot about that question. It’s not like we can jet to someplace interesting for a vacation: besides the stupidity of spending money that may be needed in the future, there’s literally nowhere to go.
I think getting more sleep is a first priority. For those who’ve been reading my personal diary on discovering I’m fat and my attempts to right the ship, you know that insomnia has been an unwanted friend that’s been making numerous appearances since the pandemic began to dominate the news. And when I’m sleep-deprived I tend to eat a lot more. It’s a vicious cycle, which is why today is going to be a write-off since it’s four am as I write this.
Beyond sleep and continuing to lose weight, I don’t have huge goals yet for the time off. There’s a huge demand for data scientists in my region of the US. It’s concentrated in one industry and any position would require a strong science background in addition to programming. So I certainly will have the time to focus on learning those skills and expanding my knowledge base.
Am I scared of being furloughed? Not really. If I had stayed in sales I would be scared beyond belief. As much as I’ve talked, in the coronavirus discussion, about my anger towards the people who are protesting to go back to work, I completely get the fears of not knowing when you’ll be back to work and worrying how long your savings will last: I once spent a year without salary to try to be a writer, and living on a financial tightrope, even when it’s by choice, is stressful.
But my current situation is such that I know I’ll be getting a call back to work as soon as one of the projects resumes. My dad grew up in The Great Depression and his generation learned to play it safe, find a good job with a big company and stay there for thirty or forty years. He almost lost it all in the 1990s when those “guaranteed for life jobs” started disappearing due to massive layoffs. I think he would’ve stroked if he had been alive when I chucked a good paying job with a big company to live as a struggling artist for a year. And now I’m in the situation where I’m grateful to have a more secure job.
As I wrote that last paragraph, I keep feeling that the fates are waiting to smite me for saying that I’m safe: “You think your job will be unfurloughed? Hah, we’ll bankrupt the company.” But that’s like my grandma saying when someone died, “It always comes in threes.” It could take two years for a third person she knew to pass away, but she’d still swear that proves her claim.