Surviving Unemployment by Going to Disneyland

A few weeks ago, I drove down from Los Angeles to Anaheim to meet Reitz and Mickesh in their natural habitat. Reitz, a fortyish fellow with wireless frames, waited for me to pay $87 to get in and took out his smartphone. He was wearing a tan hat and a black t-shirt with a picture of Mickey silhouetted in front of the moon. “So, okay, at $649, divide that by 366 visits, brings it down to a $1.77 a day,” he said, showing me the results. “Or, if you turn that around, do 366 visits times $140 for Park Hopper and parking each day, it’s $51,240.” I agreed that an annual pass would be more economical for the 366-day-a-year visitor.

There were a few months during the recession when I joined the ranks of the unemployed, and I forced myself to treat each day like a work day. I set my alarm, got up every morning at the same time, and showered and dressed as if I were heading to work.

I spent my day applying for jobs, or looking for freelance work, and when I had neither, I’d write in my journal to keep the creative process going. I did not allow myself to watch TV, or do anything leisurely until after 5 p.m., because I felt like there was something wrong with having fun while unemployed. Folks, I was wrong.

Yes, having a routine helped me tremendously, but the idea that you must have work to enjoy play was, well, an unhealthy way of thinking about things. This is why I enjoyed this story in The New Republic about two unemployed friends who had annual passes to Disneyland and made it a habit to apply for jobs, and then meet up at Disneyland every day for a year (one of the friends was able to find full-time work). It gave them purpose, rather than leaving them feeling helpless and aimless. As the piece says, “Going to Disneyland is, sometimes, a way to persevere.”

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