Second Layoff: A Year Later.

Screen Shot 2018-06-02 at 9.16.13 PMIt’s officially been a year since I was laid off for the second time in my life.

If you have ever experienced what it’s like to have your job eliminated, I don’t have to tell you what a blow it is– to your sense of security, to your sense of self, ultimately to your sense of your place in the world. It’s never fun to be unwanted.

Even more so when you have a house and kids, and are the provider of your family’s health insurance. Add to that a healthy dose of postpartum anxiety, Trump-rage and sky-high daycare fees that you can’t afford anymore (but have to maintain to keep your spot in, so you CAN get a job), and you’ve got yourself one helluva perfect emotional storm.

Having said all that, it’s been a year now and I can look back with that kind of clarity on it. But in the moment, all you can feel is panic. Panic at night, panic in the day, panic in the shower, panic in the car… a black cloud that won’t leave you alone. Even the second time around, even though I knew what to expect emotionally, it was the cliff I could see coming but couldn’t dig my heels in enough to keep myself from going over yet again.

The first time I was laid off, I was a 31-year-old newlywed in Florida also looking after my 92-year old grandfather. Both my husband and I worked at the same newspaper we’d both worked really hard to get hired on at. We were both pushed out of a shrinking industry that we were so passionate about that it had been hard to separate our lives from our careers– they felt one in the same. And we will always be passionate about journalism. But it was, looking back, probably not healthy to know be so closely related in both our personal lives and our work lives, but we were young and didn’t know anything else. After all, we worked alongside other couples as well, and like many of them, we’d met at work ourselves years before.

I took a few lessons from that experience:

  1. Don’t work at the same place as your significant other.
  2. Don’t work in the same industry as your significant other if you can help it.
  3. Don’t move to a place for a job that you wouldn’t want to stay and live without the job that originally brought you there.
  4. If you find a dead rat in the ceiling above your desk at work, chances are things are going well, so get on that plan B, stat.

So when my second job layoff anniversary came around a few days ago, I decided instead to celebrate with my co-workers and brought donuts, celebrate the lessons, celebrate the triumph, celebrate my survival through yet another one of life’s 1-2 punches. I’m still here. I’m still me. I didn’t give up even though it would be the easiest thing to do and I wanted to a million times each day.

I’ve grown accustomed to loss in a way that few have. Losing both my parents at a very young age, losing my first home in the recession, losing 2 jobs, losing a hard-fought journalism career– but one of the most foresighted things my father taught me at a young age is that loss is a part of life, not the end of it. Everyone loses things, and it sucks every time. It’s how you manage to keep living that counts.

Reclaiming My Time: A Mantra for Life

Maxine Waters, you get me. You really do. If only life worked like a congressional hearing. Sadly, unlike Steve Mnuchin, kids generally give zero sh*ts about The Maxine Stare.

I sometimes wish I could tell my kids “RECLAIMING MY TIME” after a morning of screaming that their pants “aren’t soft enough” challenging moments, so that we can leave for school just 20 minutes late instead of typical 30. But sadly life with little humans doesn’t work that way.

Time is short and precious and not to be wasted. And yet so much of it is– out of fear, other commitments, meetings that should be emails, layoffs, or arguing about stuff that doesn’t matter. I kind of wish more of my time would be wasted by someone praising my accomplishments, but hey– please somebody do that that’s beside the point.

My point is that wasting time can be terrifying to us. It can be a cycle of paralysis, perfectionism, and procrastination. When a burden weighs heavy, it takes Maxine-level guts to speak up to it and get going on something– anything– productive.

Creatives are typically passionate people, but that passion is not an on/off switch that can be easily worked with 100% of the time. Everyone has off days not Maxine Waters but they’re the days to recharge and scope out the next step to get over that bump.

So today I’m digging for my inner-Maxine and trying to remember that the time spent these last two months occasionally taking naps in my job search was not wasted. I’m reclaiming my time as being part of the process.

Go forth and give the world your Maxine Stare, folks.

Stand up. Be productive. Take the step. But also remember to take time to reclaim that time as your own.

Maxine Waters (J. Scott Applewhite:AP:Lily illustration)