It’s been four years since I sat in a conference room with two other adults crying my eyes out. It was the first time I heard the terms “severance,” “COBRA,” and “position elimination.” Well, maybe not Cobra, but that sure did not turn out to be what I was familiar with. What I did know was that it meant the job I moved to another state for and spent three years doing didn’t exist anymore. My job had just broken up with me.
I had uprooted my life for them, slogged through policy change for them, and even saved them thousands of dollars and streamlined processes for them and now they didn’t want to keep me?! They told me I was valued, but sales were down and they were forced to reorganize. So it’s not me, it’s you?!
Reorganization was not something I recall being prepared for in high school or college whilst learning how to craft the perfect resume and shake hands like I meant it. So basically, I was great, but they couldn’t afford me and as I later found out, they planned to outsource my whole department. So they were cheating on me, too.
Been there, done that and bought the t-shirt.
No matter, I was a great employee with a solid career path in event and conference management under my belt. I had solid letters of recommendation and even more contacts than I had when I started there. I even had my professional certification to prove my commitment and knowledge in my field. Those three letters proudly stood behind my name announcing to the world that I was a polished, professional person. I might as well have had rainbows and gold bars on my resume.
What I didn’t fully realize was that times were tight everywhere. I know well enough that when that happens, events, meetings and conferences are the fat that starts getting cut. You can’t be the Director of Fat and expect to get a job in a world of Lean Cuisine. I couldn’t even find an events job to apply to. I wasn’t even proud about it. I couldn’t get an assistant job because the rare ones I could find, I was too overqualified for. Their words, not mine.
The woman at the transition consulting firm my company graciously supplied me with couldn’t even find one for me. We branched out to other industries and focused on translatable skills so other possibilities not in the events world could be considered. She helped me craft a shiny new Office Manager resume. After two months, my time with her ended and I was left on my own, armed with a refreshed resume, more possible job titles and unemployment assistance. Fortunately, I was well paid when I was employed and I had no children, so we were able to keep afloat pretty well…at least financially.
Emotionally I was a wreck. Hubs had only a few months earlier ended his eight-month bout of unemployment and we were just getting back on our feet from that hit. This was almost a knockout, but we figured I had such a strong career behind me, I’d be down for a bit, but certainly not out. Right? Wrong.
I was out for two years. Two. Years.
In the beginning I had a sense of humor about it. I was a lady who lunched. I searched for jobs in the morning, reconnected with old friends and colleagues for lunch and I networked my bum off through phone and email the rest of the day. I did yoga to stay calm and focused. I did some scrapbooking to keep my mind occupied. I read so many books. It was actually really nice. I even got a great short–term contract gig consulting and planning with a colleague of mine. He was so gracious and I am thankful for him everyday. He allowed me that opportunity twice and it saved us both times.
During that time I also explored other careers. I looked at my skills and tried to figure out what other industries I could work in. At one point I had five versions of my resume. I taught myself CSS and toyed with designing web pages. I thought about learning to code and took a class. I opened an etsy shop and began selling some of my hand-sewn bags. (Shameless plug: House of Holding) I even started one of those home-based businesses selling jewelry.
I was enjoying the hell out of myself, but I knew I needed to do something that would last so we could stop scraping by. Quite frankly, I learned I am not a good stay at home person. I need people. Beans is not a great conversationalist and watching old shows on Netflix while job hunting is not the most stimulating project work.
Unfortunately, the hole we were in got bigger and bigger and so did I. Apparently, being unemployed agreed with me and I was so relaxed and happy that the universe decided it either really hated me or felt I could handle anything, because I got knocked up somewhere along the way. That’s when I started to panic again. Panicking is not good for pregnancy.
At least I had myself together enough that I hadn’t stopped looking for jobs. I calmed down and reminded myself that many positions are posted after the New Year. We had some time. I would just keep going and work the heck out of some holiday parties. Maybe no one would notice my belly?
The holiday cheer came to an abrupt halt the day I received notice from the government saying I no longer qualified for assistance. That was two weeks before Christmas. It was the sucker punch I didn’t see coming. I collapsed on the floor and my heart died. I was four months pregnant and had no income. After crying every last drop of water out of my body, I picked myself up, told myself women do this every day and started drafting an even slimmer budget than we already had. I looked at WICK, food bank eligibility and welfare. I found more tears. This time for other people. We didn’t qualify for any of it. Hubs made too much money. I can’t imagine how people live on what you have to make to qualify for any of those programs. I was ashamed of myself for thinking we needed it. I felt spoiled and rude.
I sucked it up and applied to more jobs. It was a hard holiday season. We couldn’t afford to do much and the only real gift I had to give anyone was the little life inside me. I was thrilled to have her and our family was so supportive. My little girl was all the hope I had and she drove me to keep going.
I was sad all the time. I felt worthless, but I was resolved to figure it out. I wasn’t sure anyone would hire me after watching me waddle through their door, but waddle I must. We needed the money and I really wanted to work. I really don’t sit still well and I was starting to get cabin fever from being in our apartment all the time.
By some divine grace, I found the one person who saw past my belly and I was finally employed two years to the date I was initially set on this path. I have never been so grateful. I actually called her to make sure she realized I was pregnant. We had a good laugh over that one considering I was six and a half months along at that point and HUGE. No one in his right mind thought I wasn’t pregnant. I think that more than anything bolstered me back up. She knew my maternity leave was looming not so far in the future and she took a chance on me anyway. I gave her my best self every day, even when I was so hot and tired I could have fallen asleep on my keyboard.
The peace I found at that job was amazing. Surrounded by young people, fresh out of college and ready to take on the world, their energy and enthusiasm was infectious and the perfect cure for my dwindling confidence. I was close enough in age to relate, but far enough away to be their mom older sister. I had found my place again and I could start filling in the hole we dug while trying to stay afloat. I was even developing some new skills. I discovered a lot about myself. Hubs and I learned a lot about each other and our marriage, and thankfully, we’re stronger for it. It was a long road, but I’m better for trudging it. I just hope I never have to trudge again.