“Let’s not beat around the bush. This is a termination meeting.”
That’s how it all started. Freshly back from a vacation that I had been loathed to take because we were short-staffed and I knew my team needed me, I got called into my boss’ office and told plainly and simply, that I was being laid off. Not just me, but three other members of our close-knit team had been given the exact same news. There’s something to be said for the sheer range of emotions a human being can experience within a split second. For one, I was extremely startled: Where was this suddenly coming from? Then the denial: Nah… this isn’t really happening. It’s a joke! To anger: I’ve been here for almost four years, my responsibilities have more than doubled during my tenure with no raise or bonus in sight; was this to be my reward?
By the end of it I was just numb. My boss was still talking, “This isn’t a performance thing. You’ve been a great asset and your work speaks for itself.” By the end of it, I could see that he, himself, would have given anything to not have to be the bearer of such bad news, that he was just relaying orders from higher up, but it didn’t make the situation any easier to bear. At the end of it, exhausted by the rollercoaster of emotions, all I could do was shrug, sigh and thank him for the opportunity and that I appreciated his support over the years.
I was allowed to gather my things, all the little knick-knacks that I’d accumulated within my workspace, take care of a few loose ends, and then it was all made incredibly official once I handed in my keys and badge to get into the building. The moment I left, I looked back up at my office building. In place of the once welcoming, comfortable constant now stood looming, dark foreboding fortress that I could never again set foot in. (That’s a bit over-dramatic, as I’ve been back several times to catch up with former co-workers)
I sat in my car for another hour, hands gripping the steering wheel so tightly that my knuckles were getting pale, willing myself to be strong, to stay positive, to not panic. I DID, of course panic when I realized I’d have to tell my wife what had happened. How exactly does one tell their spouse that all of the plans you’ve made together, plans hinged entirely on two steady, consistent incomes, were now severely set back? Easily, it seems. There wasn’t anything but to do it. After a brief pause on the other end, my wife simply said that we’d get through this, that God will work it out, and that I was forbidden from feeling like a failure. She’d always been able to read my mind like that. My wife has been incredibly supportive throughout this period, and without her I would have lost myself to despair long ago. AND thankfully I have a part-time job that I’d been doing on the weekends, so we weren’t completely done for, but would it be enough?
And… how does one not feel like a failure when you continually fail at securing work? Everyone says that job-searching is difficult. They’re wrong. It’s surprisingly easy. Jobs are everywhere, if LinkedIn, Indeed.com, ZipRecruiter and all the other job searching sites are any indication. What IS actually difficult is getting one of the many prospective employers to accept your application. In the three months I’ve been unemployed, I’ve applied to possibly over 300 jobs, with only two call-backs. One thing I will say for the internet age, it’s that rejections are a lot more palatable via email. The words: “Thank you for your application. Unfortunately we’ve decided to move forward with another candidate,” or some variation thereof, have become my daily existence. I’ve even applied for retail jobs, to sustain myself until I get something else. But no luck either. They say I’m over-qualified. What?!
My days have become a routine of chores, job-searching, keeping current on the industry and brushing up my skills via LinkedIn Learning. Any attempt to de-stress leads my brain to yell, “Why are you watching TV? Why are you surfing the internet!? You don’t have a job, man! If you’ve got time for this, you should be putting in another application!” Needless to say… relaxation hasn’t really been an option. I sit at home, and feel effectively useless.
Oddly enough, there HAS been at least two positive effects of my unemployment. As I mentioned earlier, I have a part-time job on the weekends. When I was fully employed, that meant I was consistently working 7 days a week. I did that for nearly a full 4 years. I was tired a lot of the time, and didn’t have much time for socializing, or exercising. Now, I’m always well-rested and full of energy. I go to the gym as often as I can, and I’ve actually seen results!
The other positive is that I’ve got more time to get closer to God. As you can imagine, I have a lot of time for reflection… and through this trial, I find myself relying more on God’s Word than I ever have before.
And that’s where I’m at currently. I’ve been keeping this news close to my vest all this time out of equal parts shame, pride and privacy, but I’m finally at a place where I’m ok with it. I’m experiencing what thousands of Americans are feeling every day, and it is most certainly humbling and rough, but I’m trusting in God, and doing everything within my power to gain employment.