Letting Go


Being “let go” from a job is unsettling, disruptive and just downright strange.  I could feel it coming and fully understood the inevitability, I even packed and brought a bag of things from my desk home the night before I expected that dreaded call to come from the boss’s office.  Before I left for work on Friday I grabbed an extra duffel bag so that I wouldn’t have to ask people for bags or boxes and drag out the awkward “packing of the desk” for those around me.  I’ve seen many layoffs over the past nine years.  Some fueled by the dot.com bubble burst, some acquisitions, some related to the economic downturn after 9/11, and many in the past year.  I was prepared in some ways, but couldn’t allow myself to fully accept it in regards to my own harsh financial realities

 

The conversation itself was surreal, made slightly less painful for me as I had chanted a silent pep talk to myself during the commute and while I wondered when the call would come or if I was just being paranoid.  I had an amazing opportunity to work with and for people I genuinely like and respect.  I was very lucky for that fact alone, let alone all that I learned during my tenure with my former employ.  I was determined to stay positive and almost wanted to make them feel better about it as the four of us sat there awkwardly having “the talk.”  I smiled.  They probably thought I was a lunatic or happy to leave, which I wasn’t.  I know how difficult it is to end a relationship, any relationship, and I just didn’t want them to feel any worse about it.


I packed up my desk and personal files quietly, and thought of all the times I wasn’t the one who had been given a manila folder with a separation agreement; sitting at my desk in the craze of the grind, acting like all was well when clients called,  trying to think of the right things to say, how I could help, and dreaded when someone broke down crying.  I was stealth, I sat in front of my computer with something like 60,000 emails filed in Outlook.  I started to delete them and then realized they were backed up on servers anyway and that I had nothing to hide, and so I left them.  I cleaned the cache of my browser for any saved passwords, picked up my bags, and headed toward the door.  There were hugs and words of encouragement, but mostly I honestly felt okay and tried to resolve putting off panic until the next week.

 

Since I knew I’d be leaving early one way or another, (summer fridays = early dismissal) I had made lunch plans to meet some friends at the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park, but first had to head to Brooklyn to drop off the contents of the nearly 3 years of my last work-life.  I lugged two big bags homeward and felt as though I was wearing the working wounded equivalent of the scarlet letter on my chest.  When I got home I broke the news to my cat, she wasn’t impressed.  I tried to respond to all the heartening replies and direct messages sparked by stating I’d lost my job on twitter (from my phone as I had been in the elevator leaving my former office.)  I called my Mom at work and probably ruined her day.

 

As I left my apartment, I grabbed a package of “Hello My Name Is” badges.  On the first one I scribbled UNEMPLOYED.  That felt harsh, so while I was on the subway I struggled with a concise title for what I “am.”  First I thought, Media Marketer, but that seemed too generic, Then I thought Media Production and Strategy…hmmm, sounded a little trite, Project Manager, yes, but that could mean anything. I thought about the titles I’ve held in the past – Creative Operations and Marketing Intelligence, but still wasn’t satisfied and I was running out of labels to write on.  Finally, once I’d made it to the park and run the dilemma by my friends, they chose the one they liked best, and we scribbled MEDIA STRATEGIST FOR HIRE on the label and slapped it on my shirt. 

 

My friends’ sense of humor and kindness inspire me to keep mine on straight.  They accept me and even appreciate me for who I am, job or not.  I spent the afternoon with amazing women, some of us gainfully employed, some of us not.  I never imaged I’d be laughing so soon after basically having begun the second, different sort of break up of the past few months.  The afternoon wore into happy hour and then dinner, and I was astounded as more friends joined us, the generosity of everyone as they treated for cabs and drinks and dinner.

 

I think of people with homes, cars, and things they saved up to buy and are at risk of losing, and families with children they have to worry about feeding and clothing.  It’s hard to feel bad about possibly having to leave my beloved apartment and neighborhood and possibly needing to move in with my parents, even though it is and will be fundamentally unpleasant – I refuse to lose track of how incredibly blessed I am.

 

I had sent out my draft resume to a few friends before I’d left my apartment and before I even got back I had feedback waiting for me.  I had one friend tell me she spent the day wracking her brain trying to find ways she could help, she and husband, unemployed as well, offered for me to use their washer and dryer in order to save money at the laundromat.  I did my weekly grocery shopping and keeping in mind that my paycheck will run out and I cannot live on unemployment alone, I tried to buy as much food as possible spending as little money as I could.  I sacrificed quality and though I’d thought about it before, it really terrified me that people make those decisions every day for themselves and their families.  I attempted to eat my first cheap pot pie and literally couldn’t stomach it.  I made a comment on a twitter and immediately had an offer for a tokbox conversation and brainstorm.  I caught up with a friend across the country and she gave me great actionable advice.  I took notes about how the grocery sales start on Tuesday and that the tilapia at Trader Joe’s is not as bad as their salmon.
(post on all the tips I received and find myself coming soon)

 

When I finally had a good cry out of total exhaustion, it wasn’t out of feeling sorry for myself of self-pity or even panic, I cried out of being so overwhelmed with how fantastic, amazing and wonderful my friends and family are.  Don’t worry about saying “you’re sorry” about this, if you’re close to me, you’ll know there are and have been far more upsetting things in my life – but like everything else in all our lives, we’ll get through it.  Personally, I hope to always choose grace and appreciation over bitterness and wallowing (though I won’t say I won’t have my moments) and everyone around me has taught me, it’s not exactly my default setting.

 

Enough of the sap, I have to get my résumé in order.

 

As my wise friend Laura once said:
“F-this Oprah nicey-nice puppy dogs and ice cream stuff. I’m all motorcycles and machine guns."

 

photo thanks to @bronwen


  • http://www.filmosity.com Chris Cavs

    Nicole, I love your attitude. You really are an amazing person. I know you’ll be back to business very soon.

  • http://RickWolff.com Rick Wolff

    Let me be among the “second wave” of well-wishers, this coming from a guy between jobs himself. When it happened to me, the circumstances were weird enough that I couldn’t even tell people, much less blog about it. Having read this, I think I’ll screw up the courage to summarize my career slump in my next podcast (which I feel bad pimping on someone else’s blog post —— oh, okay, if you insist: The Caged Ox Follies, only on iTunes for now).

  • http://www.sean808080.com sean808080

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us. So many people, as you said find themselves in similar situations. I think the positive attitude is really the most important thing to keep the waters steady.
    Namaste

  • http://www.thegavinshow.com/ Gavin

    Awesome post, Nicole!

    I can’t imagine what it must have been like to ride to work with a strong suspicion it would be your last day. When I was let go from my job in February, they completely blindsided me with it.

    It was the Friday before President’s Day weekend, and my head had exploded with a miserable head cold and what was probably a sinus infection. I rarely get sick, and it’s even rarer that I feel so sick I need to leave work.

    My immediate boss, who was almost exactly my age if not younger, acted kind of funny when I popped into her office and asked if it would be okay for me to leave for the day. She didn’t make eye contact with me, but I assumed that was just because I sounded and looked awful. She acted like she wanted to say something, but instead just said, “Oh, no, it’s okay. You can go.”

    I got to work the Tuesday after the long weekend and, after I had taken off my jacket, poured some coffee and got settled at my desk, my boss sent me an email, asking me if I could chat. That was a red flag. It was a small office, and if anybody had a question for me, they’d just stop by.

    She pulled me into a small conference room/large storage closet combo and broke the news to me. She was trembling. It was clearly her first firing, and I spent the whole time trying to convince her it was alright.

    The weird part was, after the conversation, I had to go clear out my desk. Nobody else in the office had any idea what was going on, and I suddenly felt myself overwhelmed with shame. Here I was, packing up my few belongings, and nobody had any idea. People were asking each other about their weekends. They were smiling and laughing. My boss went back to her office to hide. Was I supposed to break the news to everybody? It was gut-wrenching and terrible, so I smiled and laughed with everyone else as I put on my jacket without explanation, grabbed a bag full of my things, and left. I don’t think anybody noticed or even figured it out by the time I was back home trying to keep myself from losing it.

    Okay, this is already way too long, and for that I’m sorry. But the point is this: you are super-talented and smart, and you’re clearly motivated to grab ahold of the situation and not let it push you around. Also, with all the time at your disposal, I’m sure you’ll find yourself working on some really cool projects. And if you get bored, we’re all here for you!

  • Brian Ginn

    I am moved. I also see you’re an excellent writer. You should become the next J.K.Rowling.

  • Jersey Todd

    I dig the “Namaste” quote above.

  • http://www.cc-chapman.com C.C. Chapman

    *hugs*

    I’ve been through this before on both sides of the table and it is never easy. I hope you bounce back quickly. Knowing you and the good network of people around you I have a feeling you will.

    Please reach out if there is anything I can do to help you.

  • http://adelemcalear.com Adele McAlear

    Darlin’, you are amazing. As someone who’s lived through my share of bad times, I can’t stress enough how vital it is to maintain such a open, count-your-blessings, positive, hopeful attitude. As hokey as this sounds, positive energy attracts positive energy. Keep it up and you’ll find the next great thing in your path in no time. Sending you the best of luck.

  • http://dianecharno.blogspot.com/ Diane Charno

    Great post. Great attitude. Something tells me you’ll end up on top sooner than later. Hang in there.

  • http://otir.net/dotclear Otir

    I definitely missed your tweet otherwise I would have added to the outpouring of messages back to you, but I surely don’t regret I missed it because it allowed me to take the time to read your great post here to learn more about how you feel, and how you cope.

    You are such a luminous person, I feel like I could comfort you just for the sake of feeling your warmth and positive fill me in return. I wish you the best in order to go through the times that are ahead, and would dare add that I will also be there for you in case of need.

  • http://www.FreidasHat.com Freida Wolden

    Hugs & Kisses for you my dear! Enjoy ever minute between jobs! It’s like being retired for a while! You deserve only the best! You have a heart of gold! Love you!

  • http://danpatterson.me Dan Patterson

    My most sincere apologies on the job – you have my sympathy. However, your post brought a smile to my face – any employer would be lucky to have such a talented, hard-working, and resilient employee. Needless to say, let me know what I can do to help.

    – DHP

  • http://www.sukhjit.me sukhjit

    It’s a new Beginning MissSomething and the only way is to look forward. I have quite a few budget tips myself. Having had many, many, many shows end I have had to learn to live lean but I do believe in doing it well. I also feel like almost every ending has brought me to the doorstep of something better.

  • Deb912

    To my darling daughter, you are tougher than you know. As I always say, “things really do happen for a reason”. Your blog surely expressed your inner strength and you even showed compassion for the other side. As always, you make me proud and I see you have a wonderful support behind you. Not to mention, you brought a few tears to my eyes. You know that Dad and I are behind you 100% and will be here for you through what ever it takes. Keep up the positive attitude and great things should come your way. All our love, always :-)

  • MissSomething

    Chris Cavs – Likewise. You have been a very bright spot in the past year and I’m really glad to know you.

    Rick Wolff – Thanks so much for the well wishes. Can you talk/blog about it without non-specifically? Now I’m curious.

    sean808080 – Namaste :)

    Gavin – I love story time! Thanks so much for sharing your experience in detail. I am very thankful that I didn’t feel blindsided.

    Brian Ginn – Heh. Thanks, I’m no writer.

    Jersey Todd – Me too. Extra special thanks for the offline resume help and always being a super honest point of view to bounce ideas off of. You were the first of my “podcast/online media” friends and I’m so glad to know you.

    C.C. Chapman – *hugs* to you too! Thanks for your immediate and constructive feedback on my resume.

    Adele McAlear – Thank you for the incredibly kind words (BLUSH). Thanks also for the many tips/links you sent me as well. I really love your linkedin tips and links – http://delicious.com/adelemcalear/linkedin

    Diane Charno – Cheers and thanks for the compliment.

    Otir – One of these days we absolutely must meet. You are always so encouraging and have really impacted my life.

    Freida Wolden – I am so buying one of your hats with my first paycheck! FreidasHat.com I look forward to hanging out with you in your garden one of these days.

    Dan Patterson – Sing On! Thanks for taking HOURS tonight to brainstorm with me, give me advice, allow me to get cranky when I got frustrated, and really get into the guts of my questions. You are a truly appreciated and respected friend.

    sukhjit – You made “the day of the canning” something to be remembered with your support and your fantastic accessory shopping advice. I felt like I had TOO MUCH fun with you and Bronwen only two short hours after leaving my former office for the last time. I am really glad to have you in my life as a friend and your personal and professional insights are not taken for granted.

    MOM! – You’re not supposed to sit in your car and wait for me in front of the school doors! Just kidding, you already know how much I aim to the very high standard you have set as a mother and mentor. You are the gold standard and I love you very much. I feel like I should say something rebellious for good measure ;)