One Year of Unemployment

Solomon Osinloye
8 min readMay 15, 2024

Working, not working

I have never rushed through an article like I did with Jasmine Wu’s “How does it feel to be unemployed for a year?”. I was in a hurry to read what it felt like for another, maybe it would help me validate and potentially appreciate my journey around the sun unemployed. It was an excellent read, Something she wrote that stuck with me:

It’s a privilege that you can take a rest now assuming you’ll have to work for decades in the future. Why rush back to the job market?

Try to savour and enjoy your life more!

I could relate very much to many things Jasmine said, so I decided to write my version of being unemployed for a whole year.
As I wrote, I thought, ‘How many people have written about this?’ I hit search and found a ton of articles. I spent the next couple of minutes reading about a dozen articles, and here are some of my favourites: What I Learned From One Year Of Unemployment…, and What I wish I’d known about unemployment.

The Origin Story

I submitted my resignation on the 31st of March 2023, after spending a little over a year doing interesting work with some very amazing people. I led efforts on very cool projects, and for once in my professional life, I was doing work that I was fully in control of (well, almost fully in control). You can imagine why it was a thing of wonder when I announced my resignation.

For context, before I joined the studio, I had just gotten out of a super intense engagement with some tech startup in California. My primary goal after that was to recuperate from the mental exhaustion that was a residue of leading design at that company. It was only my second month of funemployment when my friend reached out and shared his vision for the studio. Knowing my strengths, he wanted me to help fxxk sxxt up. I was so sure of creative liberty because we align on too many things, life and design philosophies especially, plus he had some slightly out-of-the-corporate-box clients, so I said yes to 3–6 months. One project led to the next, and I ended up doing way over 6 months. The work was fun, but my mind needed rest, so I quit at the point where I could leave without negatively impacting any outputs. What followed was the big white blank.

The Big White Blank

The first 3 weeks were just amazing, proper funemployment. I cleared out my backlog of to-dos, and I went out a lot until I ran out of places to go to (It’s prettier to say I ran out of places when in reality, I had to cut my coat), and then I slept until I ran out of sleeps to sleep. Every turn I made brought me to the big white blank. I didn’t know how to be idle. Where is the long list of things I blamed my job for not allowing me time to do?

With no full-time job, every time was me-time. I was spending more time with myself than I’d like. For the first time since Uni, I had time for everything I previously put away for later: art, drums, DJ-ing, industrial design, getting more social, and the list goes on, but I was just blank. I was addicted to my routine. I was aware of it, but I have plugged into it for years and used it as a source of strength. All that free time messed with me in ways that I am unable to communicate with text.

The fusion between my job and my sense of self was profound, and the process of disentangling the two proved to be far more agonizing than I could have anticipated. I felt a loss of identity. It felt like falling into a void, unable to grasp onto anything that could assure me of safety.

Earn a living or die

I knew I had to find a fix that wasn’t getting back into the system. The days were depressing, and I would look forward to the next day after many failed attempts to make something of the present. Most of us are conditioned to pursue a single trajectory. The painful paradox of modern life programs us to sacrifice living to earn a living yet leaves us with no time to truly live. The stark imbalance between work and life is fueled by societal values that perpetuate this imbalance.

Working not working.

During our school years, we pursue good grades. Post-graduation, we aim for decent jobs, seek competitive salaries, and join the race to buy houses; next is the quest for the right partners, build a family, and produce the next best hamsters to run the wheel. Pathetic! This treadmill-like existence.

We’re hard-wired in a way that makes us feel lost and disoriented when we don’t have a job that consumes the majority of our time. Free time overwhelms us, especially when surrounded by others who are occupied for 40+ hours per week. I grappled with a sense of guilt. What’s wrong with me? Why am I not similarly engrossed in the daily grind that is a job, and earning my living?

How would you introduce yourself outside of what you do for work?
“What do you do?” is one of the most common conversation starters, and people nearly always respond with their job title. I’ve had dozens and dozens of these conversations, and they often eventually reveal what they would rather be doing — something they love. What I find interesting about these interactions is how people often prioritize their jobs over their passions. Society places significant importance on one’s occupation as a validation of their worth, relegating passion to second place or no place at all. I don’t think it has to be this way. Imagine a world where people lead with what they love to do, something they are passionate about. There would be more genuine human connections, less driven by opportunism and the societal role one occupies in the system.
(I’m not saying there aren’t people who are passionate about their jobs).

Not having to think of what I wanted to do but how I would love to do it was more difficult than I would imagine, realizing what was good for me, and daring to go for it. I have been described as many things, but the most accurate definition of me was when someone said my head was always in the clouds.

Staring at the Sun

Although I’ve accomplished getting through the roughest part, some days are better than others. I carefully combed through things I had put away forever and made a list of things to prioritize. I fixed my workspace, I started reading some self-help books to help me with procrastination (maybe I’ll finish it tomorrow). Ready to take on the world, I got on my computer at 9 AM on a Monday after tending to my plants, doing some home workouts, making my bed, taking a cold shower, and having breakfast as the book suggested. I sat at the table staring into my laptop for at least 5 hours with no significant progress from 5 hours ago. My extra black Americano was now cold like the bath I had. This was the routine for the next couple of weeks, adding social media distraction into the mix in the name of reference searching Lmao. I soon fell into my second wave of depressing series of sleep. I knew what I must do, and I had the will to do it, but for some reason, it was not happening. The strongest wave of doubt swept through my studio daily, and I stopped leaving my bedroom to my studio to do any work because I was sure it would be a wasted effort.

Erin Anne couldn’t be more correct when she said, “Creative energy may not be flowing during this time for you.” There were all the things I wanted to do, and they were just not happening, and because it was easy to link my personal value to my productivity, I felt utterly useless. However, this connection couldn’t be further from the truth.

”Inspiration Exists, But It Has to Find You Working”

I was caught up in this depressing cycle of barely trying and failing for about a month. Then, on one particularly lacklustre afternoon, inspiration struck. I followed it and went on to do productive work for about 16 hours. I was so proud of myself; finally, I was back in action. This sudden surge of inspiration brought to mind Picasso’s famous words: ‘Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.’ I decided to be at my work table for 8 hours daily, whether or not I felt inspired. I would stare at my screen, day after day, till my creative block started to melt away. Although I’ve accomplished getting through the roughest part, some days were better than others. I constantly reminded myself that not having a job didn’t mean being idle. I approached each day with the discipline of having a boss, tackling tasks like they could not be pushed over. I did something daily, no matter how insignificant, even if the results weren’t immediately evident.

Moving Forward

I am aware that the best time to publish this kind of article is when you are out of the thick and doing some ridiculously amazing things. Meh! I am still gainfully unemployed, and this article may or may not have a sequel (2 years of unemployment).

I have learned so much about myself; this process has taught me to find meaning in my work or forget fulfilment. Prioritizing my ‘whys,’ and they don’t have to be a ‘making the world a better place’ calibre why. Just because it makes me happy is a good enough why. I am learning to permit myself to roam; I love too many things to limit myself to a single means of expression.

Introspection didn’t fix my issues, but it showed me how small they were. In addition to doing introspection, I got into spatial experience design, did 3 exhibition designs, got into interior design, and did about 4 projects. I got into industrial design, and I’m gearing up to release a debut product in the coming months. On the top of the list of things I got to do is starting an initiative with the primary purpose of making creative ideas happen. I am looking forward to bringing that to life in the coming months too and many more things that tickle my fancy.

So, how do I feel being unemployed for a year?
It wasn’t the funemployment I would have love it to be but it has been one of the most transformative and fruitful times in my life.

Applauses 👏 or comments would inspire me to share