Ouch. Well, not really. Seriously, after the third time in my career, you kind of get used to you. It doesn't hit you as hard as it did the first time.
This time, though, I was prepared. I mean, the handwriting was on the wall. And despite all the reassurances by staffing (we're looking for a spot for you; that's what they get paid the big bucks to say) you know when you're billing zero...zilch...nada...they're not going to keep you around based on your good looks. At least not these looks.
Sue and I even talked about whether or not we should have gone to Arizona, given the precarious nature of my work. The money I would have been given for the two weeks of accrued vacation time, plus the hard cash in the savings account that we had saved for the trip might have come in handy for the long, cold winter of this depression. (Yes, I said it: worldwide depression, too; let's not mince words, okay? Again, the politicians are paid big bucks to say one thing when it's another.) But we figured we should live, and not let the problems of the world get in our way. When they're lowering us in our graves, nobody is going to say we shouldn't have gone.
And we talked a bit in Arizona that if or when I did get laid off what we would do. I'd try to get as much freelance as I could and work on acting. Before I was hired by the agency I was freelancing and acting for five years, and by the time I went back to a legit job I was doing okay for myself.
Like I said, it gets easier, especially when you're prepared. The first time I had drank the kool-aid. Back then, my job defined who I was, accomplished corporate writer, career businessman, provider, and it getting axed put a hole in me at the water line. I had nowhere to jump. After that, I swore I'd never let me or my family be vulnerable again.
The second time was a pretty day in June--June 11 to be exact. This time it was December 11. What is with that number 11, anyway? I didn't even listen to the director as he let me go. All I know is I stared out the window over his shoulder and thought to myself, what a gorgeous day for a bike ride. It was, and I rode about twenty miles that day, and thought, I always wanted to be on my own; when I'm eighty and look back and didn't do it I'd have regrets. So, back in 2002, with the economy in the dumper (but not this bad, admittedly) I started my own business with no clients. By the time digital central called me and asked if I wanted to work on an automotive account, I had a nice little stable of clients plus a couple of acting gigs that kept me busy. And yeah, it's true: When you're working for yourself you get to work half days. And the great thing is, you get to choose which 12 hours you work.
So, this time around when I got the call to come to the conference room, I pretty much knew what was up. You know, I even felt sorry for the two on whose shoulders this job fell. It's a dirty job. I liked where I worked, and I liked the people. They weren't responsible for this economic shit show we got going right now.
And I got some nice goodbyes and even a couple of hugs from some of the people I worked with. I think it hurt them more than it hurt me. There is a bit of survivor's guilt that happens to people, and for some I'm not sure they're prepared for what lies ahead for them as they continue in their same jobs and when the axe finally falls on their heads. I learned a long time ago that my work does not define me. And just like there are certain people who I refuse to give power to over my life, a series of events is not going to control my feelings or actions. Am I nervous? Of course, especially about money. I'd be an idiot not to be. This is a worldwide depression. It is. Trust me out here.
But you always got to look on the bright side. I missed the freedom I had freelancing. I like being my own boss. I like knowing, at the end of the day, that if something went well or something screwed up, I was the one responsible, and no one else. I don't like someone setting my schedule for me. Life is easier for Sue and me when I have freedom--to make dinner for my sweetie, pick up the dry cleaning, do laundry. And my old buddy, Bob, gets his playmate back. I've had that dog since he was twelve weeks old. He's eleven and a half now, and for all but the last two years he and I were inseparable. He'd even go on client meetings with me. (Remind me someday to blog about the one at Eastern Mountain Sports.) Today, like old times, he and I drove down to Hyannis and interviewed an artist for a profile for Cape Cod Life. Now it's a little after five on a Friday, and I'm sitting on the floor blogging, with a beer by my side and Bob snoozing on the other side of the room, like the Aussie that he is. (They're not cuddly dogs, just one reason I like them so much. They're their own dogs.)
And one last note: Sue and I live pretty simply. I see real fear in people's faces. Yeah, we're nervous, but when Wall Street crashed we kind of looked at each other and said, we don't have any money to lose anyway. I've been working hard to be debt-free. All my debt is consolidated on two credit cards--one with 0% interest and the other with 1.9% interest. I've been slowly paying this off, and one of my biggest fears is that I'll start picking up debt again. I want to leave this planet owing no one. My pickup is beat up, but it's paid for. I don't have a mortgage, a car loan, or a second home. Sue and I don't even have a television. I see other people and know their lives are screwed down tight. And that's what scary.
More to come. Every day will be bring something new, I know that. Like the Chinese say, may we live in interesting times.