big questions life writing

Laid Off

It’s been too long since I wrote something in here last, but I’ve had a bit of a trying few months – both good, in that tomorrow is my one-year anniversary with a lovely young woman I adore, some more personal issues, actively working hard to have stories worth publishing or requesting representation for, and good old-fashioned procrastination. But never fear, today I’m posting something I wrote in the aftermath of a fateful Monday morning, when I received bad news in public.

That’s always a good time, ain’t it?

You’ve probably guessed what it is from the title of this post, but I wanted to put some thoughts together after it occurred – crystalize what’s going on in my head, how I’m feeling about it, what I’ll be working to do going forward. This one isn’t a “good” post, but it is a reflective post, and one the likes of which I’ve (sadly) written of before.

Should you choose to, thanks for reading, friends.

For the lucky majority that haven’t experienced it, being laid off is an interesting sensation: knowing you did nothing wrong, but essentially feeling “punished” for it anyway. Millions of people have been let go for various reasons outside of their ability to have done anything to avoid such an outcome… maybe their department was closed down or outsourced, maybe their position simply became obsolete. Maybe a robot was doing a better job at the cost of the monthly electrical bill.

Me, I know why I was let go, and it wasn’t my doing. That relieves some of the tension, but not enough of it. I’m a person who carries a lot of anxiety, so being told “you’re done here” in almost any tone of voice bothers me. No matter if I’d been the top person in my department, it’s easy for me to feel the weight of “not good enough” and send me crashing into a depressed heap at the foot of my bed. And I’m the type to hold there sans blankets because I feel I don’t deserve to be warm. Failure hurts. Even if it’s not MY failure.

As I type this I’m not released yet, I still have most of two weeks to go before I feel I’m out on my butt. In my beginning typing this it’s only dropped on me the day before, so I’ve had maybe 36 hours to think about the situation. After a sort-of breakdown at the local Starbucks where I was doing some minor editing on a story I’ve considered either selling myself to trying to publish in a magazine somewhere, I got the phone call I didn’t expect on my day off, telling me that my services would no longer be required. I don’t know for certain if I’ve used the word “dismay” in my life before then, but the meaning was fresh in my mind as we ran down when my last day will be and what I should expect in all areas of my workplace life.

I’m not technically unemployed. At least not yet. But the flood of thoughts and expectation from my previous situation (I don’t like the “u” word) that lasted over a year and ended only four years ago is fresh in my psyche. I can look back now and learn from it, but the sensations of seeing my environment differently came back. Everything the last time was bathed in a film of shame; anything I touched I felt I didn’t deserve, from my cell phone to my meals. I bought a laptop last year, which is still pretty shiny, and it feels like both a point of pride (I bought a nice, not-quite-lowest-end model of Macbook) and disappointment knowing I’m still working it off of my credit card.

My instincts from then have come back as well, like not wanting to be out in public before about six in the evenings – though I guess I kinda hold to that one already, even when working full time Tuesdays through Saturdays. I’ve flashed to every book I’ve bought in the past few months and reconsidered every one of them as purchases, no matter that the majority were two-dollar Kindle books (they were still usually impulse buys). I’ve checked my bank balances online at least six times since I got the news just to make sure all the money I do still have is still there. I bought four boxes of mac and cheese knowing that I’ll get through all of them over the next week and a half, and I’ll do the same with eggs and rice (my healthiest cheap-o meal of choice). I’ve considered how many razors I have left. I’m glad my hair’s grown out a bit since my last mohawk-ing.

But it still feels new this time. Last go-round I was responsible for my leave from that workplace, so I had more personal baggage to work through. Before, I was left lost without breathing room, dumped into the ocean with a whistle and told to start swimming. This time I’ve got a small-but-useful life preserver, some swimming training, and what the hell, some un-dampened trail mix in a plastic baggie in my pocket.

Metaphors are hard, people. And I’m still coping with bad news, so if you hated that one and me for using it, feel free to write your strongly-worded letter to my-butt@growup.stuff and I’ll be SURE to respond.

Point is, I’m not going at this from zero this time. Since I got the news I’ve already turned in three or four applications, with an email in my inbox with five or so links to more once I’m more awake. I’ll be trying to wrap up at least one short story that I feel is nearly good enough for submission somewhere, I’m still trying to sell my completed manuscript (still editing because it’s never quite done OF COURSE WHY WOULD IT BE), I have further story ideas and two other novels in some form of completion to draw from if not finish… there’s lots to do that I already have on my plate, no matter if I’m working 40 hours or not.

Add to that, last time I was in this sort of position, I had a blog that I contributed to every day of my “unwanted time off”. Unless I’m lucky to find myself with a position again quickly, I expect I’ll be doing that again. Keeping my fingers flexing and exercising through differing regular posts was fulfilling in a way I didn’t fully appreciate until it was gone. The fourteen months I spent on the proverbial shelf was some of the most creatively fulfilling and productive I’ve ever spent, even if it was tinged with depressive and uncomfortable reflection.

On that note, just a comment to anyone who’s ever watched FOX News and thinks all people searching for work are mooches or slackers or “takers” from the taxpayers: I’ve paid my taxes for as long as I’ve been working, and I’ve worked my ass off to stay as employed and employable as possible to continue to contribute to society. If you think I’m living “high of the hog” or excited to be on the “government teat”, you too can email me at my-butt@growup.stuff as well. I feel bad enough when I SHOULDN’T, I don’t need your spiteful bullshit in my ear at the same time.

The last few years of my life have been rough in patches, but the one constant I’ve found is that I have good friends that have helped pick me up along the way. I’m by nature a stubborn man, intent on picking my own self up and refusing help (I don’t like to burden anyone else when I don’t feel I have no alternative), but feeling like I can open up to people I trust that are openly… willingly… ready to help me through the worst any way they can is an amazing realization. I have friends I love, a girlfriend I adore for every reason under the sun, a family that’s supportive and constructive, and even when I feel punched in the gut by life itself I still feel like the luckiest man alive.

Getting knocked down hurts. Having people there to help you stand back up again is incredible. And I couldn’t be more thankful as I revert back into the job hunt. I’ve taken to heart the very thought that if you’ve done something before that you can do it again. That’s something that, dare I say it, has kept me alive when I felt like I’d hit bottom.

Stand Tall, my friends. And know that others, should you let them into your life fully, will stand with you.