“Aunt Chris, did you get fired?”
“No, Nugget (as I lovingly refer to my 8 year old niece). I got laid off”
“What does that mean?”
And so the conversation started with the Nugget. But what exactly did this all mean? And not just as far as my niece was concerned?
As far as the Nugget discussion, I really did not know quite how to begin – or where to even go – when she first brought this up. What’s even appropriate to bring up, especially to a child? I guess I just attack it in bite sized pieces? Explain it just enough for a kid to understand and digest? And in a way that doesn’t keep the kid up all night worrying about when or if I’ll be able to provide her next fix from Toys ‘R Us again sometime soon? I certainly did not want to be the cause of a Nugget’s sleepless nights – or withdrawals, for that. As I started thinking about what to say next to her, I actually started thinking about some of my own feelings on the subject. And decided that maybe I should digest it in bite sized pieces myself.
The fact of the matter was – as prepared as I could have been for this “development”, it was still a jolt to my system. A resume? No, I didn’t have one on the back burner at all times – and yes, perhaps I am lame. I haven’t had a resume in years; where do I even begin (on a side note – before you judge, how many of you guys do? Yeah, I thought so…)? Interviewing? That’s the equivalent of preparing for a first date – and while I have enough practice at that – it can clearly be (quite) painful. Ironically, as dreadful as these two parts of the process were to me, they were actually two of the easiest things I was able to tackle. And long before I even officially got the boot.
Even after a couple of months into my newfound state of unemployment – my mind was still racing. And not necessarily about the resume or the interviews. This job wasn’t just a gig I had for a year or two. It’s where I started my career. It’s where I was nurtured and grew as a professional. It’s a place where I made some of the best friends of my life. It was a life line so to speak, when I really needed one after my Plan “A” failed miserably. I could not have been more proud of the work we accomplished, our team, or all “my girls” that this mama bird took under her wing. I had a lot invested here – and I’m not just talking about a 401k. This job was more than a job to me. It was my second family. A family I had been a part of for over 20 years. There was a sense of security and belonging. There was a support system for not only professional but personal needs as well. In between all the work – we had all become a part of each other’s lives. We shared highs, lows, tears, laughs and love. And like any other “normal family” there were even some crazy aunts (yep, admittedly I was guilty of that at times) and even a dose of dysfunction here and there. Despite that, it really was an amazing place to work and a truly special team to be a part of. So, in between resume writing and interviews, I realized I needed – but more importantly that it was okay – to mourn the loss of my second family in order to really move forward.
With my work family, a new part of my identity was born too. When my Plan “A” had gone to hell and I threw myself into work, a newfound confidence was born. I really liked my job. I was good at it. I enjoyed the position I held. I worked hard and had earned people’s respect. I was incredibly proud of the professional level that I had risen to (and I’m not going to lie – I really liked my office). As I reviewed my personal list of professional achievements, I found that I accomplished everything I hoped I would. But – I realized once I finally stopped moving, how much I had really needed to do so. I was on overdrive for probably 8 years or so – timing synonymous with the loss of my “wife” label. I had let my “manager” label step in, and probably take over to some degree. Through times of personal turmoil, work can honestly be a blessing for us; it certainly was for me. Yet, it wasn’t until I stopped moving for just a little while that I realized how tired – and honestly how burnt – I really was. I thought I had always done a good job balancing my work life with my personal life. But, after just a short time not working, I literally felt like I finally came down, grabbed my life back and caught my breath after an 8 year sprint. And I have to admit – it really felt terrific and I didn’t feel an ounce of guilt about it. Isn’t that crazy, to say “I didn’t feel an ounce of guilt about it”? Why would I? Because as professionals – and especially as women – we are all programmed to constantly “be doing”. To be taking care of something – or someone. We almost feel like a lazy sack to sit back and just breathe for a minute – and actually think about ourselves. I was getting a respite now – albeit, a forced one – but one I honestly do not think I would have been brave enough to take at my own will and volition. Why would I quit my job and “fix” something that wasn’t broken? Well, with the benefit of hindsight, I had finally realized that while the car may not completely break down, you can literally run out of gas when you don’t keep your eye on things.
So what’s next? Do I find something else similar to what I had been doing? That’s certainly an option and one I’d always keep open. But maybe it was time for a break – or for even a bit of a change. I may not have asked for this respite, but I decided at this point, that I would make the very most of it. I decided that I would take some time for me. To reach deep and really think about who I am, what I love and what I want next. I probably would not have an opportunity like this again, so instead of hiding under those covers looking for labels – I think I’ll try to find ME instead this time, at least for a little while. And not feel an ounce of guilt about it.
“Aunt Chrissy? Hello? What does ‘laid off’ mean?”
“Well, Nugget. I guess it means Aunt Chrissy actually has a lot more work to do now. And I think I’m really going to have fun doing it.”
And so, Plan “C” begins.