IRVINE, CA–Calling his current jobless status "an exciting, much-needed opportunity to reassess my direction in life," former Porter Novelli public-relations executive Josh Wallace has great things to say about unemployment.

Unemployed public-relations executive Josh Wallace enjoys his current "occupational freedom."

"Bringing closure to my relationship with Porter Novelli was the best thing that could have happened to me," the 36-year-old Wallace said Monday, his kitchen table piled high with classifieds sections and drafts of cover letters. "It opened up my future to any and all options. I now have the chance to reconfigure myself literally any way I dream."

Despite his excitement over his current situation, Wallace admitted he was surprised when he was laid off from Porter Novelli, where, since October 1995, he had been "helping clients meet their brand-building and reputation-management needs through creativity in thinking and execution."

"That particular move on [Porter Novelli's] part definitely was not expected. But in the post-economic boom, the company needed to streamline operations and free up certain employees to multitask," said Wallace, who on May 15 was given three weeks' severance pay and asked to return any company-owned materials to the first-floor receptionist. "I wasn't fired so much as my job was one of the positions phased out through the outsourcing of certain activities and the restructured insourcing of others."

Eager to "reassess my career path" and "concretize my goals," Wallace said he is "thrilled to be offsite."

"Occupational freedom is exactly what I need at this juncture," Wallace said. "A few days of just sitting back on the couch made me see how much I needed some time to visualize exactly where I wanted to go with respect to my career."

Added Wallace: "After much serious thought, I'm confident in saying I eventually want to go back to work in public relations."

In the 10 weeks since his layoff, Wallace has sent out nearly 100 resumes, all without luck. But in spite of the lack of job prospects, Wallace's spirits are high.

"I'm completely recharged and rejuvenated," Wallace said. "When I do land my next job, I'll be going in with so much more energy than the people already at the company. There's a fresh, outsider perspective I bring to the table, thanks to my spending this time as part of the non-working world."

Unemployment, Wallace said, has enabled him to do many things he'd never found time for while working 40 hours a week.

"For one thing, I've had the opportunity to see some top-flight daytime programming I never knew existed," Wallace said. "I also went out jogging several times, and I plan to go more, now that I've discovered how great it makes me feel."

"I've really rediscovered the simpler things in life," Wallace continued. "Who knew the pleasures to be found in just taking a walk around the city? Or walking around the mall for a few hours? Or driving down to the gas station for a sandwich? That's what I did earlier today, and it was great, absolutely great. There's lots of tremendous stuff to see at the gas station, if you just take the time to notice."

Recently, Wallace took advantage of his "freed-up schedule" by visiting his parents in Bakersfield.

"Josh just showed up in the middle of the day and surprised us," Wallace's mother Elaine said. "He kept saying something about wanting to 'touch base and make sure the whole family's all on the same page,' which I didn't really understand, but other than that it was a nice visit."

Added Elaine: "A full week was maybe a little long for him to stay, just sitting up there in his old room like that. But I wasn't going to say anything. Not when he's having such a terrible time of it."