The other thing non-employed people do a lot of besides reading is thinking.
I’m developing this idea. Tell me what you think. You see: we all talk to ourselves all the time. The question is, when you talk to yourself, what do you say?
I have come to the conclusion that you are the stories you tell yourself. Everybody has an endless media loop running in the head. Embedded on it are the beliefs and attitudes that form the “attitude drivers”–what makes for the habitual response patterns to life. These “attitude drivers” include ideas about self, the world and how we fit in the grand scheme of things. You start building it very young and create it throughout life. It’s like your “emotional root file”. I call this “internal tape” with all the attitude drivers on it your “existential story”. Your existential story can be positive or negative; it can work for you or against you. The task is to be aware of what that story is, to understand how it develops and to learn how to make it work for your good.
Let me tell you one way to find out what your existential story is. Think way back to when you were a kid. What was your favorite book, story or fairy tale? My top two favorites were Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. I identified with the dispossessed heiress, reduced by circumstances to servitude, who dreamed of regaining her fortune and getting vengeance on her abusers. I identified with the princess given beauty and talent at birth, but because of a curse was rendered impotent. The only way she would become effective again was to get a kiss–affirmation–from “the prince”… “Mr. Right” or some job title. There she was: talented, beautiful, and asleep; waiting for a century; waiting for that kiss.
I dreamed of singing with the Metropolitan Opera once upon a time, but I hugged that dream in silence all to myself so nobody ever knew about that desire. I never looked for opportunities. I had no understanding of how dream careers really come true. I never observed anybody in my lower middle-class neighborhood actively striving for anything. I thought it “just came” after you graduated. The Prince would come looking for the girl whose foot fit that glass slipper. Nobody in school ever suggested that successful people worked hard to get success; that it wasn’t just “luck” bestowed like a magical gift at birth. As did many pre-feminist girls of my generation, I thought the only way I would have any meaning in my life was to attach myself to “the prince”. I put my life on hold, comforting myself with saying, “some day” I would be “discovered”. I told myself, “some day, my prince will come”. Years went by. The prince never showed up. I ended up being bitterly disappointed. “None of my dreams ever come true” was written into my existential story. It took years of thinking, praying, working and therapy to come to the place I am today. My existential story still has vestiges of the ancient tale, but I’m proud to say, it has drastically changed.
Now, look at your general approach to the job search. Maybe the tape you play in your head sounds like, “I never win” or, “nothing good ever happens to me”; “I’m a looser”. Are you too waiting for a “prince” to rescue you from evil outside forces? Are you full of barely concealed resentment, just waiting for the first opportunity to “get what is rightfully yours”; to be avenged and regain your lost status and fortune? Are you waiting in ladylike, righteous silence, hoping someone will “discover” your brilliance? If you want to go to the Met, are you taking singing lessons? Are you looking at Julliard’s student catalog and filling out your student loan papers? Is your existential story–the story you tell yourself about you–a story of victory or of defeat?
Listen to you talking to yourself in the coming week. You may be surprised at what you hear.