My friends have all asked me about my new job. I’ve been able to answer them but it’s been bothering me that I hadn’t written anything down about the whole experience. There’s this nagging feeling that while I was laid off I should have been writing fifty thousand words a day, painting a new masterpiece while still tracking down work. I don’t know why I feel this, but it’s there floating around in the back of my mind, lurking, waiting for something to pop up and say “told you so”.

It doesn’t work that way.

So, here are some of the things that have been rolling around in my mind with regards to my time off from work and my time since returning to work.

A friend of mine said that losing a job was the most emasculating thing that could happen. I thought about it for a long time after that statement. When I was laid off it was out of the blue. There were no indicators. My direct supervisor didn’t know how it was going to happen. As I look back at the way he stated things when he called the following week to apologize to me I suspect he may have known more than he let on. I was in shock really. I had no time to consider it – I just had to turn in all my stuff and go. I didn’t have to go home, but I couldn’t stay there as the old saying goes. I would get one more paycheck and that was that.

Emasculating? I don’t think it’s the right term. It’s not the right way to state it if that’s the intent. I do know there are ways to handle it, and there are ways to handle it. I didn’t rage or scream or cry or whatever. I drove to the house trying to figure out what to do next. When I got home there were guests over and lots of activity. I bypassed all that to see my wife first. Just as I walked into our room she kicked off a shoe and it thumped against the closet door really loudly.

“What the hell was that?” I asked.

She swiveled her head toward me and said, “The body in my closet. What the hell do you think it was?”

“Well, does the body in your closet have a damn job?” I asked.

“No. Do you?” came her immediate reply.

“UH… no I don’t.”

Pause. Pause. “Oh shit… you’re serious.”

So – like I said, there are ways and there are ways. Sometimes you need to laugh – even when it’s got that slightly hysterical edge to it. So we laughed a little and then spent some time talking about what our next steps were. It’s all we could do.

I don’t wish for the time to work on things anymore. Careful what you wish for – you might get it.

I scoured the paper, job sites, Craigslist, whatever I could find looking for a job to jump up and present itself. I had 3 folks ask me to send a resume the day after I was laid off. I was really hopeful. I had an interview just a couple of weeks later. Not so bad I was thinking. I’ll get this all wrapped up and we won’t need to cancel Christmas.

Then I didn’t get that job. Or the next one. Or the next one. I sent at least 3 resumes out every week looking for anything related to my field. It was emotionally draining, that’s for sure. I don’t think I realized that’s what it was until just now. Emotionally drained. I would work on projects, but my heart wasn’t in it. I got a lot of stuff done around the house. We didn’t have dirty dishes or un-swept floors or much in the way of dirty laundry – but all that felt like busy work. I was treading water and still not making any progress on my creative work.

I had “all the time in the world” and didn’t finish a damn thing. Not one creative project got done.

Maybe that’s what my friend meant by emasculating? Not sure. It certainly took the wind out of my sails, no doubt about that. We have always lived, financially speaking, below our means. We’re not in any way rich but we actually create for ourselves something I call “artificial poverty”. We plan our budget based on what if only one of us has a job? or how do we figure it out with less money? One of the most important things we did a long time ago was decide what the few things are that we won’t compromise on. We stuck to those things and started trimming down all the other stuff we were willing to compromise on. Our diet went out the window. The least expensive foods out there are not the healthy ones. We cut our grocery bill in half almost immediately though.

We tried to keep things as normal as possible for our daughter. We kept the special program at the school running for her as long as we could. We wanted her to know that this would mean a change but that we would all be OK no matter what happened. She shrugged and said, “OK” and that was that. I love her to pieces. Totally unflappable. Right up until we had to tell her we had to cancel the special trip we had planned for Christmas. That sucked a lot.

I had, insanely perhaps, clung to the notion that I’d not miss a beat and bounce right back into my specialized kind of position and no worries. Not so much. Christmas was very Whoville for us. It was still wonderful, but it came without the same level of boxes and bows.

Three and a half months. Not the worst amount of time off I’ve heard or the worst even of folks I know. Still not a fantastic amount of time to be out of work. Particularly not right through the holiday season. Then I had an interview that was not only encouraging, but downright hopeful. It sounded like one of those “too good to be true” situations. Turns out – it was just true.

I got picked up at a firm about 3 ½ miles from my house. When the weather clears up a little bit I could probably walk to work without a problem. It’s exactly the kind of mix that works best for what I like to do. I get a little bit of everything and not too much of any one thing.

My first week back was exhausting. Despite keeping to a strict time schedule and continuing to get up early every day the change of going back on the job was a big one. No more 2 hour movie lunches. No more naps when you might need them. All the cleaning that was handled so easily before got bumped right back to the old way of getting to it. I was happy to be exhausted.

The new place is quirky and weird, but is growing on me. I’m hoping I’ll be there for quite a long while. Six weeks now and things don’t show any signs of slowing down.

Did I learn anything? I think I did. I remembered that when things go wrong the people closest to you pull together and help you get through. I learned a number of techniques for slimming down the amount of money spent each month. I learned that a lot of places not only understand, but have plans in place for when people lose their jobs. I learned that some places don’t understand – or if they do, they don’t care. Most of all, I learned that the right mind set will carry you a long way. It was very easy to become deeply depressed over all the things that were “wrong” while I was out of work. It wasn’t as easy, but it was much more rewarding to stay positive and work toward getting back to work.

I also learned that I really do value the things I do outside of “the day job”. I like writing here. I like getting my stories out there for consideration by publishers. I like working on my artwork. Working on these things isn’t really work at all – it’s just a question of finding the time now that I’m back on a full and busy schedule 😉

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