HOME PLACE - After loss of job, Internet points way to brighter future

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Today we are getting some wisdom from guest columnist Michelle Morgan, who lost her job in December and is not having any luck changing the situation, but has figured out ways to get around that little factoid.

I can't claim I really know Michelle, who goes by the nickname "Mush" - for Mush-elle. I did a story about her in Marquee regarding her singing talent and I follow her blog, "Goblinbox," which is typically a little feisty for a family newspaper.

All to say, I've followed her journey from being a paid technology geek to being a job-seeking technology geek. I've seen Mush, via her blog, bounce between highs and lows like a ping-pong ball, work out ideas, think out loud and dabble in this and that. Like romantic relationships and spirituality, her smoking habit and flair for cooking.

She wrote something a few weeks ago I felt like the rest of you would want to read, and here we go. With her permission AND G-rated.

Two weeks ago, I was depressed.

I'm unemployed, and have been since the week before Christmas when my company decided to downsize. I'm worried about being able to get another job here in the Valley, because a quick look at the want-ads shows absolutely no work in my field.

I was sleeping all the time and drinking a lot and feeling useless, misplaced and frightened.

Then one day I checked my e-mail. Friends pointed me to an awesome self-help book, the reading of which facilitated my getting my head on straight again. From there I found, with the help of the Internet, the energy, desire, and inspiration to do the other things I need to do.

Allow me to point out that the book - "Love Yourself and Let The Other Person Have It Your Way," by Lawrence Crane - was on Amazon.com and it was free. I didn't even have to wait for shipping; I just downloaded it and began reading it.

It seemed like a cheesy self-help book, but I read it anyway. After feeling insulted by its fourth-grade reading level for a couple of chapters, I got into the message and a change began.

Long story short, I was using up all my energy telling myself that I was lazy and useless and fat and common. I was feeling guilty about not getting things done, all while knowing that if I'd just walk or do yoga or meditate (because hello! I totally know what I need to do, I'm an old hat at this New Agey self-help crap) it would probably help me. But, heck, if I'm not too disassociated even to do the things I know that I really need to do ...

So I read this book I got off the Internet, and I quit beating up on myself (it really was just that simple) and remembered that I have access to an inexhaustible well of love.

It's sounds sophomoric, but I needed the head change. No more situational depression, anxiety, or panic attacks. (The mind really is a terrible thing. I kid you not.)

But the Internet, well, the Internet is full of the win.

I'm feeling interested again and, since none of the 40 companies I've applied to has seen fit to hire me, I've got oodles of wonderful, wide-open free time. In between bouts of job searching and miscellaneous around-the-house projects, I've been feeding my head from the trough that is the Internet.

For instance, I've watched about two dozen TED Talks, including most of the newly-posted ones and the majority of the older ones tagged "inspiring." I've heard from physicists, neurophysiologists, musicians, entrepreneurs, authors, and statisticians.

Ever heard of TED Talks? TED stands for Technology, Education, and Design. It's a by-invitation opportunity for experts to speak for 20 minutes to a roomful of their peers about their areas of expertise. Guests have included former presidents, world-famous physicists, and musicians. Be sure to watch "Bobby McFerrin Hacks Your Brain With Music," if you want to see something really cool in the field of neurophysiology.

TED Talks are free, they're updated regularly, and they're all the proof I need that the Internet is good. Check it out: visit ted.com and get inspired.

Reading tech news headlines, I discovered the MakerBot 3D printer and spent hours learning about how awesome it is: it will obviously change the world when people can print out things they need, including other 3D printers, on demand. Watch the YouTube video entitled "Better Living With MakerBot - Episode 1: Kitchen Lamp" if you don't believe me. A MakerBot is a desktop printer, about the size of a microwave oven, that prints 3D items out of plastic. You can buy a kit for $950 and download patterns off the Internet and then, if you want, you can print two dozen Stormtrooper heads, or Darth Vader heads, or tiny plastic gears, or parts for things you're building, or whatever you need. In the privacy of your own home. And if there's not pattern for the thing you want? Design it yourself on your PC.

The entire 3D printer community is geeked out, engaged and on fire. It's awesome and wonderful to behold people so very into what they're doing. Google "makerbot" (or "reprap" for the UK version) to learn more about this whole thing. Or better yet, download Cory Doctorow's fantastic novel, "Makers," (available at his Web site, craphound.com, for free) and get a sci-fi author's projection of what ubiquitous 3D printers will do to the world.

OK then. That's a few examples of how the world is full of wonderful, intelligent, involved, and compassionate people who care and who are changing things, and I didn't even have to leave town.

With my mind re-engaged, it was time to turn to the body. I found two free exercise programs online and started them two weeks ago and I've been complaining about my quads on my Twitter feed ever since! One program is called 200 Situps (twohundredsitups.com), and the other is 200 Squats (twohundredsquats.com), and progress in both can be tracked either online for free or with companion iPhone apps.

Feeling good seems to draw support from the universe at large. Last week at open mic, a DJ friend of mine asked if I could build him a Web site on the cheap. I said I could, and we agreed to meet for coffee in the not too distant future. Then he said, "Dude, I could get you a lot of business from other DJs. They all need sites, but don't want to drop $2000 to get one. If you could crank 'em out cheap, even if they all had the same layout, I could get you mad business for awhile."

And I was all, "sweet!" There's my summer retreat money! And funnily enough, it's work on the Internet, by the Internet, and for the Internet. I'm really beginning to sense a theme here.

When you're unemployed and have the time, the Internet is full of free, beautiful information, inspiration and even freelance work. Do you dig something, need something, want to learn something? It's out there, waiting for you to find it. On the Internet. I'm even taking a remedial high school-level algebra course that I found for free at iTunes U.

Sincerely ... I simply cannot imagine there ever having been a better era to be alive.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or at blogs.ublabs.org/fromthestorageroom or by calling 509-526-8322.

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