On Monday morning around 11, I got a call on my office phone. When I answered, I heard the VP of my company on the other line. “Hey, Spring, could you come down to the front conference room?”
With those words, I knew exactly what was going on. I’ve seen layoffs unfold before. I’d never been the one being laid off, however. I was always the person wondering where a certain coworker had run off to and not realizing what was happening until we were called into the survivor’s meeting. This time I wouldn’t be a survivor.
As I made the walk through the office for what I knew would be one of my last times, the walls seemed to tilt. I entered the conference room and saw the VP with a woman I’d never seen before and a red (WHY did they choose red?) folder with my name on it sitting on the table in front of them. The VP shut the door behind me and said, “So, this isn’t fun.”
At first I thought, “I’m handling this so well. I don’t even think I’ll cry.” And then I immediately began to cry. The HR woman told me about my severance package and that I was absolutely not being fired, the company was undergoing some drastic changes and they had to eliminate my position along with several others. I think that was supposed to be comforting, but it wasn’t.
I cried and cried and she handed me a tissue. After a while, she said someone would be arriving with the stuff from my desk. “ALL of my stuff?” I asked. She asked if there was a lot of it, and I said no, but thought to myself that that wasn’t the issue. The issue was that it was the office where I’d spent 40 hours a week for the last ten months, and someone else was going to disassemble it? Someone else was going to take down the pictures that I had gently pinned to my bulletin board, the manifestos and quotes I’d taped to the wall by my monitor? Someone else was going to remove Phil the philodendron from his spot in the corner of my L-shaped desk? No. I wanted to do those things. On the walk back through the office, though, carrying my sad box with Phil’s tentacles poking out the sides, tears streaming down my face, I realized why most people are okay with other people doing this part for them.
I called Boyfriend as I was pulling out of the parking lot for the last time. He was at work, so he couldn’t talk for long, but he was encouraging and soothed my tears away. Actually, he was so excited that I would be free to move to Austin, he could barely hide his enthusiasm. I stopped crying after talking to him for just a minute. His enthusiasm was contagious.
I made the 25-minute drive home in silence. I will never again drive that commute I know so very well. Once I exited the highway, I texted my mom, “I just got laid off.” She texted back, “call me.” She said she knows it’s scary, but she also knows I’ll land on my feet. I said I know. And believed her. And myself.
The really weird thing is that I’d kind of been hoping for it. I’ve been trying to move to Austin for over a year now. Boyfriend and I have been conducting our relationship 210 miles apart since two Januarys ago. I’d drive to Austin on Friday night, we’d spend the weekend being social with his friends, and then I’d drive back to Dallas on Sunday night. He would drive down the following Friday, we would spend the entire weekend in bed, and then he’d drive back to Austin on Sunday night. We took to calling Dallas our “vacation home,” since our weekends here alone together are so rejuvenating and peaceful. But those 210 miles have been especially difficult lately with the awareness that the distance is keeping our relationship from deepening in important ways (we haven’t even had our first fight). Not to mention the fact that gas prices have skyrocketed, and the $300 a month I’d budgeted for gas wasn’t going to cut it anymore.
When I was recruited for this position last May, it was with the understanding that after a year I would move to Austin and work remotely from there. And then the company had a merger, and my proposal to move to Austin was rejected, and I was told the two were related. People began leaving. I knew something was up.
My attitude was overwhelmingly positive. I wasn’t upset. I filed for unemployment and began networking, putting the word out to former supervisors and coworkers that I am actively looking for anything at all. Sarahthe made me dinner, and we got blitzed on margaritas. I said it was a blessing. Not even in disguise. Just a big, fat, plain blessing that was also a little scary but mostly all blessingy. I finally get to move to Austin.
Today it’s mostly scary. Reality hit. I don’t know when I’ll find another job. I don’t know what I’m going to do if it takes longer than the 26 weeks it will take me to hit the maximum unemployment benefits for one year. I don’t know if I can afford to pay Cobra $315 a month for health insurance, but I’ve got certain things going on health-wise that put a private plan, with those infamous preexisting condition clauses, out of the question.
But there are blessings still too. I won’t have to worry about paying rent: I’m very lucky that I have a place to stay for free until I find a job. When I told Boyfriend that I was laid off, we didn’t even talk about whether or not I would move in with him; it was understood. He’s got a me-sized space in his bed that he’s been offering free of charge for several months now. I finally took him up on it. I gave my landlord 30 days’ notice.
I spent the morning applying for every job I could find, and then I spent the afternoon outside reading a book titled, no joke, What Does Somebody Have to Do to Get a Job Around Here? 44 Insider Secrets that Will Get You Hired by Cynthia Shapiro.
According to Shapiro, I have been doing absolutely everything wrong in my job hunt, from my resume to my interviews to my very own BRAND. I guess that’s why none of the FIVE (!) interviews I had last week panned out. Also, not only have I been doing everything wrong, but now I was unemployed, and, according to her, this meant I would never find a job, ever, in a million years.
And then I started to cry. I’d blown a couple incredible jobs. I sent Sarahthe, who lent me the book, a text: “This book says I’m never going to get a job and am also a dumbass.” She replied, “You aren’t a dumbass and you will get a job. You have gotten jobs before! With that style! No stressing!” She’s an expert at the pep talks.
So I stopped crying, and then I rewrote my resume according to Shapiro’s suggested formula: a one-sentence summary centered under my (centered) name describing my skills and experience (in the third person, but with no nouns); job titles centered down the middle and bolded; and achievements listed under job titles, not duties (duties are implied in the job titles).
Then another reality hit. One day, not very far from now, Rufus and I will leave Dallas and won’t be coming back to our vacation home. Ever. We will technically be homeless. And that thought? Scares and saddens me more than just about anything else.
I woke naturally at 7:45 and sprang out of bed. That was weird. Usually I drag myself out of bed, but now I’m springing. Either I’ve got a fire lit under my butt or I’m more eager to face a day that involves going to the dentist and laying out with a dear friend by her pool instead of going to work for eight hours. Maybe both.
However, I put on the same dress that I wore Monday, so maybe the concept of motivation here is a bit relative.
I went to the dentist (no cavities!) and was shocked afterwards to find that it was only 9:45. I thought about what I would be doing if I were at work. I would still be settling in to begin my day, catching up on e-mails, going through my blog feed, eating my Kashi oatmeal. I couldn’t believe it was only 9:45. I felt liked I’d lived a million years already.
It was stormy weather, of all days (we’ve been in a drought for over a year now), so it was too chilly to lay out. We soaked in the hot tub instead. And got coffee. And an indulgent lunch at an Italian restaurant. And talked and talked and talked. We decided that I would spend most of my days with her until I moved to Austin, a plan that pleases me to no end. It also pleases me to have a plan.
By the time she was cooking me dinner, I was so relaxed that I was almost falling asleep. When you haven’t been relaxed in a while, it’s difficult to distinguish it from feeling sleepy, I realized.
I ate and left to attend a happy hour for a former coworker from a past job who was laid off a week before me. We spent the evening asking our former boss for job-hunting advice, which he happily dished out and we gobbled right up.
When I got home, I took the first steps toward deleting my Twitter account and making a new one that new employers won’t be able to find via google search. I’m a brand, and having tidbits such as “Jesus Christ, Dallas court system, could you suck any harder?” ranking under a search for my name, well. It’s not ideal. So I’m taking charge.
People keep saying “It will work out.” But what if it doesn’t?
Today I awoke to an e-mail. They want to hire me back as a freelancer with a contract that lasts through the end of the year. I can work remotely from Austin. I’ll be making the same amount as before. So, basically, my proposal to work remotely was accepted, just in the most roundabout way possible. And with no benefits.
Also: I’m no longer unemployed!
And now I’m leaving for Austin for a very, very long weekend, a new life in which I essentially have everything I wanted sprawling out before me.