I found out I lost my job while on vacation with our kids.
I was driving back from a bounce house and the little ones were napping in the backseat.
As the phrase “position has been eliminated” echoed through the car’s speaker, I had a surreal moment of relief that the morning’s play meant the kids–who are far too young to understand anyway–couldn’t hear the conversation.
I also knew that loudly weeping, as I really wanted to do after the call, would wake them up.
So I held it in and flipped the radio to soothing lullaby music as I silently sobbed.
By the time we reached home, my tears had dried and the kids, now refreshed from their nap, were none the wiser.
I was laid off one day before my husband, who’d lost his job six months earlier, started his new job.
We’d rejoiced that finally, after months of financial stress and worries about making ends meet, we’d reached some degree of security.
2014 was looking up.
I would later learn that fellow salaried and veteran members of my team were similarly laid off. We would soon join the ranks of the millions of unemployed Americans who have found themselves financially adrift in the Great Recession.
Empirically, things are looking up.
Unemployment is declining, due in part to an addition of thousands of jobs to the economy and the fact that some people have been out of work so long they’ve dropped out of the workforce.
I can not afford to do that.
So, I immediately began job searching, networking, and interviewing.
This period has also given me an opportunity to really regroup, tune in, and think deeply about what makes me most happy.
Here’s what I learned:
First: After years of struggling to have children, I cherish my little family above all else. I pride myself in maintaining strong boundaries between work and home and the work-life balance is extremely important to me.
Second: I also deeply value my creative autonomy and am happiest when I have the freedom to write, edit, and teach as I see fit.
Third: I suck at being poor. Seriously. I can and do budget very well. We buy clothes from consignment sales, rarely take vacations unless it’s to see family or a staycation at free or low cost nearby attractions, and purchase generic food brands on sale. And, now that I no longer work for a cable network, we’re planning on nixing that too.
But I also have a threshold of comfort that I need to feel as if all is well…and I’m willing to bust my hump to make sure my family stays there.
And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing since my layoff.
And with some degree of success.
I’m happy to report that I’m teaching a writing course with offers to teach other writing courses on the table.
I’ve received some very promising job leads which I hope will firm up into job offers very soon.
I’ve had more time to spend with the children. I volunteered to help clean and decorate my daughter’s classroom before school started. We went to her school’s ice cream social where she helped catch and release a frog and made new friends. I was there for her first day of school–she packed a book called “Mommy and Me” as her special item.
I took the baby to story times at the library. I was there when he took his first few steps pushing the baby walker and then, later that week, when he stood on his own. I’ve rejoiced in his infant babble and attempts to say his sister’s name and signing the word “more”.
We’ve all gone to the park, the splash fountain, free outdoor concerts, harvested tomatoes from our garden, and relished our time together.
All of this reaffirms for me a very important truth:
We are not what we do. We are not our jobs.
The measure of our worth, our spirits, our lives is tallied in those experiences in which we bring joy, share sorrow, create, connect, laugh, and love.
That is our true work, the only work that truly matters.