…or at least I hope I’ll laugh again
There are ~14 million people in the US today without employment and, as of a week ago, I am one of them.
This is my story.
I know there are hundreds of thousands more stories out there and all are different, so please feel free to share your experience too. I think standing together and leaning on each other is the only way we can get through these hard economic times.
My lay off went like this…
I worked for a nonprofit I LOVE with people I LOVED working with, but the funding for our organization was not what it needed to be, so something had to change. As a result my position was eliminated and with it my income, my family’s health insurance, a big piece of my identity, the means to our daughter attending pre-school, and my career plan.
When I was told I was being ‘downsized’ I felt millions of emotions in a matter of minutes. It went something like this:
- Emptiness. (I felt I’d maybe heard wrong. The words came from far away and sounded so quite that I could almost not perceive them.)
- Denial. (It couldn’t be true. I was a good worker. I was needed. My boss is saying these words of praise to me and all I can think is, “It can’t be true. Who would run my programs? How would my clients be served? This can’t be happening because I did my job well and was well liked.”)
- Shock. (It is happening. Despite my ever-present fear of failure driving me to work over vacations, strive for perfection, and try to please everyone all the time, it is happening. I am being ‘let go,’ ‘laid off,’ ‘downsized.’ This is my new reality.)
- Sadness. (I love this job. I don’t want to leave. What will I do with my life if I’m not here?)
- Shame. (What did I do wrong? How could I have prevented this? What about me brought this on myself? I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m a failure.)
I was told on a Wednesday and left early, but I worked a full day Thursday. I spent that day at work (ironically) writing a grant to fund my program. That Friday I came to work, made edits to the grant to fund my program, and talked to some colleagues (all of whom had offered to take pay cuts if my boss would keep me – bless them). And then proceeded to have a breakdown. All of a sudden I felt mad. I had done nothing to bring this on myself I realized and yet here I was. As I took the pictures off my office walls, a colleague and friend encouraged me to leave early and deal with this later, so I did.
And I’m glad I did, because I didn’t need to rip down my office. I needed to cry. I needed to drink a beer, and hug my husband, and watch my daughter play, and cry for the life I thought I’d have. I needed to feel the reality of this change.
Writing lists helps me relax
When I got home I wrote the following list while I drank a beer and cried. I titled it, Reasons it’s Good that I got Laid Off:
- I get to spend more time with my family
- I can stay home and raise my daughter
- I can help my husband with his business
- I will have time to pursue the things I’ve been neglecting (working out, writing, creating art)
As I wrote this list I realized that the fact that I could find silver linings at all was in itself a gift. And slowly, I began to sober up as I realized this was most certainly not a ‘why me’ situation, but a ‘why not me’ situation. I am lucky that my husband still has a job, we have family who could help in an emergency, and I can look for what I can learn from this situation instead of just jumping right into survival mode. These are gifts that so many people do not have and at no fault of their own.
What’s next? Who knows?!
My family has always taught me that to whom much is given, much is expected. So I felt from that moment of realization on that I had a responsibility to use this experience to make something better in the world.
Now, what does that mean? What exactly am I going to do? At this point I don’t really know. I’ve started this blog as part of my journey to figuring out how I can use my lay off to help myself and others. This is step one. The rest is yet to be discovered.
All I can say for sure at this point is that I hope one day to look back on this time and see the humor. I’m not there yet, but I hope one day I will be laid off and laughing.