The last time this happened, 17 years ago, I was a Federal employee and handled the Agency’s allocation of funds (think of it as “budgeting” and “ensuring that we never ever committed more than our total”).
My job was important, but not “essential” during a shutdown. What this meant is that I had to remain available to come in the moment we were no longer shutdown — after all, there were funds to allocate.
From a practical standpoint it meant that I couldn’t leave the DC area. At the time I had just gone through a rough break-up, was single and my family/close friends were 500+ miles away in Massachusetts.
I had also drained my savings getting my apartment. So there were no personal funds to rely on.
To sum it up:
- no friends/family nearby at a time when you paid for long distance phone calls so I wasn’t really calling anyone and had no real support system
- living paycheck-to-paycheck and, with the Government shut down, no checks would be coming for an unknown period of time (it ended up being 3 weeks)
- all the fr.ee stuff to do in the area was closed due to the shutdown
While I wallowed in self pity for a few days, I realized that wasn’t going to help. So here’s what I did:
- Went through my apartment and pulled out all the books and resources I thought would be helpful in improving my skills overall (combination of self-help and customer service/sales) and stacked them in the order I was going to read them.
- Of the $136 I had in the bank, went to a gym and spent $33 on a monthly membership (talked them into waiving the joining fee given my situation). Then got in the habit of going every day as if I was going to work afterwards (meaning I was there at 5am).
- Decluttered everything I no longer needed — clothes, attitudes, expenses, beliefs.
- Created a vision board (although I didn’t know what it was called) of my goals and hung it in my bedroom so it was the first and last thing I saw each day.
What’s the point?
The point, quite frankly, is that even when things seem at their worst, there are things we can do to take control — even if that control is of ourselves and our mindset — and those things don’t need to cost a fortune.
The above taught me that. It made more self-resourceful and it gave me faith that I have the ability to react and improve my circumstances. As odd as it sounds, that shutdown changed the course of my life — for the better.
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