Recession 2.0: Recovering From a Job Loss

Getting laid off leads this reader to her next adventure.


Alix McMurray of Sterling, Colorado responds to the question: How has the financial crisis affected you?

A couple of your friends find out that you were laid off and call you to gossip about it. Like getting any scary diagnosis, you are instantly attractive because you have been infected with something they have not, and that difference makes them feel all the healthier. They are eager to find out vicariously what it feels like to be a workforce zombie, to observe how you are alive yet also dead. Your resurrection (that is, potential for becoming re-employed) is not nearly as interesting as your being a zombie. You make it a point not to give those friends that particular cheap thrill, and so you do not return their calls.

You keep your employment status a secret from your family, but feel liberated when telling this to perfect strangers, such as grocery store clerks. You pick your audiences carefully, either bringing up the recession yourself or allowing them to do it first as they scan your purchased items and drop them into bags. Every one of these perfect strangers is completely on target with their empathy, and wholly without pity, as they look you evenly in the eye and wish you “good luck” or “a change for the better.” These feel like outright gifts, and it seems as if, as you accumulate them, that you are accumulating the magical properties necessary to actually hasten your own resurrection.

One friend to whom you divulge your laid-off status writes back that now “it is just a matter of time for your next adventure to manifest.” You like this comment very much, it becomes your mantra and you feel understood because that’s how you felt, in your gut, when you were let go. You were being freed to wander and eventually find the next doorway, and that is undeniably thrilling.

Like any good zombie, you reflect sentimentally on the times when you were fully alive, and compare this aliveness to that of others who seem to have done well for themselves, who have resumes and blogs and stretches of years during which they have walked in gardens of their own achievement. You are pleased with your own memories of the gardens you’ve walked in and realize that you are somewhere on a continuum of average-ness--some high points, some low points and ultimately on balance, have cultivated a perfectly good garden.

As you are writing this, one of your cats jumps up on the desk and puts her paw on the “on” button of the radio. A program comes on and a voice comes out of the radio which scares but intrigues her. This is exactly what you are feeling about this laid-off business—you are scared but intrigued by the unveiling of your own fate.

One night you make up some elaborate story about Santa Claus and Christmas night and unexpectedly make your husband laugh the hardest you’ve seen him laugh in over six years. This is not something you can study, this is something spontaneous, a chance encounter with something wonderful which pleases and succeeds. This is how you will wander in that garden, with a completely open mind, and eventually find the door you will walk through to your next adventure.

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