The layoff, one year later

Last weekend was LiTFUSE–a fabulous three days of poets and poetry in Tieton, Washington. Plus a chance to see my aunt and uncle, a quick visit to the horses, a trip to see my grandmother’s old house. And poetry in the air–everywhere.

Last year, three days after LiTFUSE, I was laid off. People have asked if I’ve written about my “time between jobs”–what one person called my “fluid time.” Given the recent round of RIFs, it seems time to share my experience.

First, it was devastating. It felt like a death–but having been widowed in 1993, I knew that it was not a death. It was a huge loss, but nowhere near a death. By the second day, it felt like a divorce. I’ve never been divorced, but I imagine it might feel like that. On the other hand, this was not the love of my life. It was a job.

My family was amazing. “Now you’ll have time to write!” they said. I did write, starting with my resume. And filling out paperwork–a lot of paperwork.

Gradually, I was able to walk through the neighborhood in the afternoon–in broad daylight–and not feel like a total loser. I went to the gym every day. I wrote on the bus. I did not unpack my boxes (I still have boxes to unpack). I attended the induction ceremony when my son joined the Marines. I searched the job aggregation sites (like indeed.com and idealist.org). I spent a lot of time on LinkedIn (it turns out that LinkedIn is important, and you need to have a lot of connections, and they need to be people you actually know). I also read novels and looked for cover art for In Both Hands, and read through four proofs. I thought about what I wanted to do next, what I wanted in my next job, what my next career might be. I made a list of all the places I applied (this was useful).

But I still carried a lot of fear–especially as that last list grew longer. What if I couldn’t find a job? What if no one would hire me? And I realized that I am a person who gets up and goes to work–it wasn’t so much the specific job, it was the doing, having that place to be, that way to contribute.

I started my new job in March, at a place where I get to use my skills and also learn a lot of new things.

Many people helped me through my transition, my fluid time. You know who you are–and I am so thankful for all that you did. People helped me with that resume, people met me for coffee, people sent job leads my way, accepted my invitations to connect on LinkedIn. I learned a lot about how to look for a job during the 21st century–but the biggest thing I learned? Generosity. Now it’s my turn to help.

I feel terrible for the people who are losing their jobs. Uncertainty is exhausting–even if it’s good for developing new neural networks, it’s tiring. But I also feel hope. And I am here for you.

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2 comments

  1. Julene’s avatar

    Ah, to read your words and remember my times of unemployment. I am glad you had the time to focus on your writing, to publish your book, to find a new aspect of yourself. This is exactly what such breaks can do to help us refocus and clarify. Thank you for sharing. During each of my periods of unemployment I made major changes, in my first one I went back to school full time to study creative writing, in my second I moved to Seattle, and in my most recent I had time to study and pass the test to become a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and start my own practice that I had for four years until I landed a new position in a different disease state than I had worked in for nearly 25 years. We grow and change and the condensed time when we are unemployed can be rich periods to grow. I am glad to get to know you better.

  2. joannie’s avatar

    Julene, thank you for sharing your story. It’s inspiring to see the paths you’ve taken.

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