My Story Part 1: A Devastating Job Loss
November 11th, 2012 by Katie Morton
Shame went out the window as I sat in a conference room, my face in my hands, and sobbed. The HR manager who just delivered the news that I’d been laid off from my job wore an expression of pity on her face. My freshly-minted ex-boss sat there looking helpless and dismayed.
Despairing thoughts whizzed through my mind: “Oh my God, the mortgage, will we be able to pay the mortgage? How are we going to eat? The economy is in the shitter, how am I supposed to find another job? I just had a baby. How will I interview for jobs with a newborn? How can I start over somewhere else when I’m up all night with the baby? How are we going to afford this? Who decided it was a good idea to lay off a new mom!?”
What I didn’t know yet was that this was the best thing that ever happened to me.
“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.” – Tyler Durden, Fight Club
Mourn the Loss, Then Go Do Something Awesome
About 10 years ago, my good friend, Glenn, was laid off from his job as a cameraman for a Silicon Alley startup. His job involved filming things like IPO roadshows and investment bankers’ boring speeches. While far from being a barrel of monkeys, at least it paid the bills.
On the side, Glenn pursued his true love: he worked as a camera operator for televised sporting events. It was obvious to me that this layoff was his ticket out, his means of going fulltime into shooting sports. In my mind, the guy should have been dancing a jig. He was just handed his freedom on a platter.
But of course, it’s not that simple, is it. We have to mourn the loss, even though it’s highly likely that the job we lost was not something that brought us gobs of happiness or fulfillment. Regardless of the circumstances, change is hard. It’s bewildering. It’s unpleasant. And getting laid off feels like a donkey kick to the gut.
Soon after the layoff, Glenn did what he always wanted to do. He became a sports cameraman, covering New York City professional sports for real – not on the side, but as his means of making a living.
In Glenn’s own words: “Though I initially took it personally and was angry, the company did what they should’ve and ultimately did me a huge favor. Eleven years later, I see my being laid off as nothing but positive. I learned that I was not a Dockers-wearing, 9-5, cubicle guy. The commute for me was terrible. My weekends were spent decompressing. Fulltime freelance live TV camerawork has pros and cons like any career. But the freedom to choose the dates and events I want to work while never hating going to work reminds me that I’m one lucky guy.”
What Do You Really Want?
After being laid off myself, it took me a long time to figure out that this life event, which felt tremendously destructive at the time, was a blessing in disguise. At first, I set off at a trot to find essentially the same exact job I’d had, for the same exact salary, within the confines of the same scenario in which I’d been working, which is your typical corporate fulltime desk job. I was even offered exactly what I was looking for, but after having some time to process what my life had been like before (prison) and what my life was like post-layoff (freedom!), I had no choice but to reevaluate what I wanted in an employment situation.
Take a Moment to Check in With Yourself
It’s so easy to keep doing what we’ve always done; it often takes something as jarring as unemployment or a serious illness before we make positive changes in our lives. But what if you decided to take charge of your circumstances, minus the drama of a pressure situation? Whether you’re at an employment crossroads or not, if you aren’t fulfilled in your career, give yourself the gift of scrutinizing how you spend your time and whether it might be better spent figuring out how to do what you love.
One life is all we have. It was a sad state of affairs when I was employed fulltime, yet I found myself holding my breath until the weekend or the next vacation. I realized I didn’t love my life, and to me that’s an unacceptable way to live. It was time to take stock of how I was spending my days before I didn’t have any days left to complain about.