As our 44th President is sworn into office this morning, I, like much of America, and the world, am hopeful for a better future. As the economy continues to spiral downward it’s a tough mantra to follow, but for many, hope is the only strategy.
For those of us who have lost jobs as a result of the economy, hope has to take on a new, or at least more poignant, meaning. As we send out resumes, make calls, figure out how we’re going to pay the mortgage after the severance runs out (if we were lucky enough to get one), hope is the rock upon which we all stand.
So today as I watch the news and listen to the stories of faith and renewal, I’ve posted my view of my lay off experience and why I’m betting that hope will see me (and all of us) through.
In mid-December, I become one of the millions of laid off workers in this country. The company cut 76 workers, 12% of its workforce. They say they feel bad but it has to be done. It is not about performance, they tell us. It is not that our skill sets are no longer required. It is because times are tough and they believe consolidating positions will help.
The phone call is well scripted and rehearsed. They offer me 18 weeks severance and an extension of my health care. I know this is a good deal and I don’t complain. Within three minutes of hanging up the phone, I am disconnected from the company network. A month later, my job is posted on the company’s website. Executive Editor. I hear the salary is considerably less.
We are told to come into the office to collect our things on the following Saturday at 8:30 a.m. No one is there except a company executive who opens the door. It makes me sad that nine years of my professional life fit into two small boxes but I’m relieved there’s not so much to carry out the door. I feel like I have a disease and no one wants to come too close. The executive never looks me in the eyes. I want to say “Fuck You” as I leave, but I don’t.
I get messages on Facebook for the next several days. Many people say they’ll pray for me, which makes me laugh. I think this is a bit over the top. I’ve lost a job, not a child. I suspect they are relieved their jobs have been spared but secretly think it is because they are better than me so I “defriend” them. One former colleague calls and shouts: “Congratulations!” when I answer the phone. I think this is a much better thing to say.
The package that details the “terms of my job termination” arrives via special delivery. My package is bigger than some of my colleagues’ packages because my package also includes information about age discrimination. I can’t help it. I think this is funny, too, but in a pathetic ‘if you don’t laugh you’ll cry’ sort of way. Not only am I out of work, I am old.
I attend a job fair recently and am interviewed by the press. She refers to me as a victim of this economy. I tell her I am not a victim. I have been given an opportunity to redirect the course of my life. Some of this is bullshit, but thinking of yourself as a victim doesn’t help the situation.
I make a conscious decision to approach the job search with confidence and enthusiasm and I do it so well, it feels like an out of body experience. I get calls from friends who ask how it’s going. “Great, I say. Really, really great.” And I mean it. I start a blog. I join a local freelance writers group. I take a masters class. I get freelance work. I contact everyone I know and have ever known. I have lunch with friends. I change the trajectory of my professional life. I have a blast.
I am determined to keep my energy up even though responses to applications have been rather pitiful so far. I have applied for eight positions for which I am perfectly qualified, but I have only heard back from one. I had an interview on Tuesday. I thought it went well, but they have not called me back. It’s hard to be patient.
I am just one among millions caught in the crossfire of a crappy economy. I am a sobering statistic, I know. Still, even though I don’t believe for one minute that this had to be done, it is what it is, and I move on. Instead of a barrier, I see a challenge. More important, I say it’s OK to hope. If hope can motivate a nation, it can motivate me personally. Yeah, I do believe hope is a strategy.