Piles of Pizza Boxes.

Piles of Pizza Boxes.

I am 26 days into my unemployment journey. I’ve tried to write about a zillion other things in that time, but this is what is on my mind and it’s hard to think of much else.

What bothers me most about this is that I’m spending so much time thinking about what I could be doing that I’m not actually doing it. It turns out that 5 am is still my best writing time even when I have all day to write but the notion of having all day to write has me hitting snooze and wasting precious productivity time.


This is a true representation of the alarm settings on my phone.


I’ve been spoiled in that almost all of my jobs, in particular my full-time jobs, have fallen into my lap. It’s all about who you know and I knew people. In the last 26 days though, things haven’t really been falling into my lap. My luck may have run out. That’s a bummer and when the thought crosses my mind approximately 175 times per day, it continues to be a bummer. Stop saying bummer things to yourself, you may say, and I will reply that I’m trying. I really am.

The truth is that this is not the enormous disaster my brain keeps trying to convince me that it is. I really do have time to write and if one considers unemployment, technically I’m getting paid to do it.

I’m not not writing. I wrote a poem this week and a microstory. I’m writing this *right* now! And on the keyboard shelf directly below this laptop is two inch thick stack of manuscript papers that need editing (editing isn’t writing, but it kinda is and I lost my job so cut me some slack, wouldja?). I’ve written a few articles in the last 26 days and I have a few more to write. There is writing and pre-writing happening and, in fact, there’s some post-writing that could happen shortly.

So what’s my problem then?

Every time I see a pizza box, I think about how much fun it would be to work as a pizza box folder. Folding the scored lines, fastening flaps into slots and turning what is essentially an oddly shaped sheet of cardboard into a vessel that will be used to delight a future pizza-eater seems like the perfect task because when it’s done, I would see a pile of pizza boxes stacked high and say look at this wonderful pile of boxes I created!

What that is, if I may analyze my own thought processes here, is a deep need for immediate gratification. I like to see my work pay off. I like to see a pile get bigger. I like to see my progress. In the last hour, I have created 72 pizza boxes. That’s an accomplishment to be proud of right this minute.

Today I looked for work and thought about writing. This is not progress. I mean, maybe it is and if you told me that’s what you did I would tell you, quite seriously and honestly, that I was proud of you because this is work towards a goal. But there’s no growing pile of writing and certainly not one of cash, so I’m not feeling in a position to pat myself on the back over here, you know?

I need to start talking to myself like I’m not me. Maybe I need a sticker chart.

Clearly I need something because I don’t know if I can go a 27th day like this.

Featured image credit: www.dreamstime.com

26 Responses to “Piles of Pizza Boxes.”

  1. Let me tell you – I’ve been paid to fold pizza boxes. You think a paper cut is bad? Let me tell you about the cardboard cuts you get folding pizza boxes. Plus, that’s filler work. You fold boxes when the phone isn’t ringing, there are no pizzas to cut and the dishes are cleaned. Yes, you have a stack there showing your progress, but it is not fulfilling work.
    Now, if you do decide to go with the sticker chart, maybe you can reward yourself with a pizza when you hit a certain number. Let someone else fold the box.

    • michellelongo says:

      Cardboard cuts are definitely the worst. I used to fold cake boxes at DQ (why did I not think about that until just now?!?). Box folder is probably not a sustainable life goal, but I don’t think I’ll ever lose my love of repetitive tasks like this that allow my mind to wander.

  2. Natalie DeYoung says:

    That was my life for 13 months, so I get it. I hope hope hope you get something soon, if only so you don’t wind up like me.

  3. Don’t fold pizza boxes. Get yourself a sticker chart with little PIZZA stickers. Just finding that little combo can be your job for the next few weeks.

  4. Sam Merel says:

    I have so been there, and I get it. I think that there is very little in the world that can’t be fixed with a sticker chart and some good snacks. Like pizza.

    • michellelongo says:

      Pizza is my cure all. Except that it only cures all until I finish that last slice. Then it’s a job for ice cream!

  5. inNateJames says:

    It’s funny that when we’re employed we fantasize about what we’d do if we didn’t have to go to work everyday. When the reality is unemployment just means you’re worried about *not* going to work everyday. There’s no rest. I hope your mind can stop racing soon!

    • michellelongo says:

      Truthfully I’m the kind of person who invents things to stress about without even realizing it. At least this is a legitimate thing to worry about. I need to find my groove. Once I do that, I should be okay. I hope.

  6. Christine says:

    Folding pizza boxes does have a certain appeal, minus the cardboard cuts. Personally, I like alphabetizing. Give me a huge stack of papers to sort, and I’m a happy girl. I like the idea of a sticker chart. Or maybe one of those chocolate advent calendars, only you’ll need to stock up on a few, and if it turns out you don’t need the extra months because a job comes along, you can eat them all at once. What?

  7. Stacie says:

    Oh Michelle, I just know you’ll do great things. It’s hard now but you have so much writing talent. You’ll get there!

  8. Nancy Lowell says:

    I am once again looking for work myself. I hate it, I suck at it, and I keep hoping for something to magically appear… Hah!
    Good luck to us both. Meantime I love your writing.

  9. Asha says:

    Oh Michelle, no pizza box folding work. Your brain will melt into a puddle of grey matter and ooze out of your ear. And then we’ll loose all that fabulous writing talent. Hang in there, the right job is surely just around another corner. This was such an honest, pragmatic look at your situation, and so well told. Buy the stickers and make a chart.

  10. I used to fold pizza boxes like a champ at my job at Pizza Hut. It was very satisfying – having that big stack of accomplishment. The rhythmic repeated motion of it, too, was very satisfying, too. Someone has to fold those things.
    But, as someone who has routinely aimed low with employment (until recently) and has worked as a kitchen laborer and a housekeeper for some evangelicals with more money than sense (until that suddenly reversed. Hint: They didn’t get smarter), I can speak to the power of just doing a job that’s both physical and repetitive. However, it will make your brain revolt after a time. I once threatened violence if I had to make one more bed or clean one more toilet.
    The cash at the end of the week didn’t help, but it kept me trapped there because that drip feed was all I got.
    So, what I’m saying is: Day 27 might be hard. But you can do it. I believe in you.

  11. The Lonely Number says:

    Man. Unemployment has been about the worst thing for my writing. Good on you for plowing through

  12. Meg says:

    I thought you said people think you are humorless. Lord, no. And I’ve done the pizza box thing. It is immediately gratifying. So is writing. <3 More, please!

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