Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Pretty sure it’s always awkward

I got laid off last Friday. And not in a good way.

For one, I was completely clothed. For two, I cried. (NOT sexy).

OK, jokes aside. I got laid off for real. And I did cry.

Google “economy” to figure out why this happened: Budget cuts, a shitty economy, journalism jobs falling by the wayside. (Oh how I love being a statistic!!)

No matter how much I try to put the scene out of my head – you know, the scene where I get laid fully clothed -- it still comes back, eerie, like a flashback Dumbledore conjurs up in Harry Potter with smoky mist all around it.

I often think about it while viciously squinting my eyes.

“There’s no easy way to say this…” the boss started.

Of course this all happened on a Friday. Beware of Fridays. Just like in the movie Office Space.

“We find it's always better to fire people on a Friday. Studies have statistically shown that there's less chance of an incident if you do it at the end of the week.”

And Friday it was! A Friday before a long weekend, too.

It was barely 9 a.m. when I was called to the boss’ office, with my boss and the HR lady sitting there, solemn.

It was casual Friday, we were all wearing jeans.

I won’t get into their sound bytes about “corporate cuts” and “eliminating my position,” because those are reserved for another other scene in my head entitled “panic attack 2011.”

But I was told this was effective immediately.
“What about the stuff I was in the middle of working on?” I asked, since I’m a sucker work-a-holic.

“We’ll take care of it,” my boss said. “But I appreciate your integrity.”

Then: “You can go clean out your desk now.”

I stood to my feet, shaking, when the HR lady told me about trivial things like how I need to return the parking lot pass and file any expenses.

And then she said the other reporters and editors had been shuffled away from where my desk was so I could clean it out in peace.

OH MY GOD. THEY PLANNED AN ENTIRE OPERATION. I wondered what the others were told.

Did they know at that moment I was throwing mountains of papers into the trash can?

I wondered if someone had brought in donuts to lure them away from watching me.

I cleaned my desk in record time. If someone had gone to the bathroom for a…uh…number two…for example, they wouldn’t have even seen me leave.

I’ve had plenty of enough time by now to go over what happened (and over and over and over and over). I’ve compared notes with other friends who have been laid off (AMERICA!!! EFF YEA!!!) And I’ve come to the realization that there’s really no non-awkward way to lay people off.

One friend said he got an email that he was laid off. WHILE HE WAS ON VACATION. Another friend, who’s five feet tall, said she was actually escorted out of the building when they told her they didn’t need her anymore.

I suppose I should be grateful that I was laid off at the beginning of the day, not to waste another minute chasing down interviews, even more grateful for the severance package I got.

But the whole thing still doesn’t sit well. Because, while they said it was a “recent” decision by corporate to get rid of my position, why did my boss OK a big feature story for me two days before???

Whose idea was it to quarantine me from everyone else???

My dad says it doesn’t matter and I need to move on, which I’m trying to do. Have you ever been laid off? There’s a range of emotions, almost like a breakup. Sad, anger, fear, resentment, a hit to my pride.

What do I say when people ask me what I do? That I’m “retired?”
What about all those work clothes in my closet again??
How the EFF do you even file for unemployment??

And now, I’m shocked with boredom.

I’ve been working full-time for the past six years, see, ever since I graduated college.

I don’t think I’ve ever been at home at 2:30 p.m. on a Tuesday with quite literally nothing to do, no one to answer to.

But here I am, 2:30 ON A TUESDAY, with no one to answer to, in pajamas, figuring out my new life.

I’ll try and blog about my new job search, in case you, too, have been laid off, or worse, and we can navigate the unknown together.

In the meantime, if you wanna buy me a beer…I’ll let you.



  1. Jenny- your post totally hit home with me. I was laid off last summer, almost a year ago (yikes, has it really been that long?) also from a journalism job, also for similar reasons.

    In my case, there were 33 people let go across Canada, we all knew something big was up but we honestly thought there was a good chance certain stations in the family were being shut down... instead, they were reformatting the news program and thus eliminating certain positions (namely sports reporters and editors) but, as luck would have it our sports reporter also had a news background and had seniority over me. C'est la vie.

    I just had to comment about the "quarantine" line - I think it's common to do it that way; at least everyone was ushered out and not around when myself and my coworker who was also laid off were packing up things. They said it was so there was no awkwardness, which I guess makes sense - I was bawling my eyes out (totally professional, right?) and was actually kind of grateful there was no one there to witness it besides the woman from HR and the manager.

    One thing I remember vividly I did not appreciate was, apparently, those who were not laid off were told not to contact us - THAT bothered me a lot (and still does, to tell you the truth), as I spent the first night sitting around alone, sad, and crying wondering why my friends/coworkers had not messaged me or called. I moved 8 hours away from my family, friends, and boyfriend for that job - so my closest friends WERE my coworkers, and other media folk - so I was truly alone in the experience and couldn't understand why no one had reached out... until my coworker and friend texted me later in the evening and said something to the effect of "they told us not to contact you, but I wanted to see how you were - are you okay?" Oh well... these things happen, I guess. It's never easy being laid off/laying someone off, so people make silly decisions. I had to fire someone once, THAT was a terrible, terrible experience for me; so I kind of get the other side of things too. I also remember I refused to take a box. I kept dropping things on the way out to my car, but I refused to be one of those people that had to put everything in a little brown box they give you. It just seemed too... sad.

    I took a few days to mope around and cry and be sad and angry (you're right, JUST like a break up), than got my act together and filed for unemployment, started changing mailing addresses, and packing up my apartment (as if I was stay 8 hours away from my, well, life without a job! ;)... which was nice, in a way, since it kept me busy and I had the excitement of being able to see my boyfriend more often than every 6 weeks and see my friends regularly again to look forward too.

    I still tell people I'm a journalist. Often, they don't inquire farther. If they do, I tell them I'm "freelance". For the first month or so, "freelance" was a way of saying "Yes, I'm unemployed but I'll call it something fancy" - and then I ACTUALLY started getting a fair number of freelance gigs, so it wasn't so much a lie anymore... though I'm sure some people still think it is, since I do a fair amount of ghost writing.

    Anyway, I am going to stop because I fear my comment is getting longer than your post, lol... but yeah, I relate BIG time! And I'm still also, on the hunt for a new full-time job (though admittedly, I took a few weeks off from looking here and there when it was getting frustrating and was being a little TOO picky about jobs/locations, haha)


  2. ugh. i'm sorry to hear that jenny! i've never commented but, thanks to your brother, i've been silently stalking your blog for awhile. good stuff!

    lauren is totally right. freelance. and it's a mindset, rather than a label. as an actor, i am perpetually and sometimes voluntarily (ek!) unemployed and the word "unemployed" will make you want to lock yourself in an insane asylum and poke tacks into your forehead until you bleed like christ on the cross if you have to keep repeating it to everyone (i am not religious, but this is how tragic it feels sometimes). because they will respond (more times than not) with a seemingly sympathetic, "oh, i'm sorry," and then promptly scurry away to talk to someone in a more "fortunate" situation. fun times.

    but "freelance" has been a good reminder that i am my own boss in life and that i better get my butt hustling for work or my "business" is going to go bankrupt. sometimes i try learning a new skill while i'm between jobs so that i can make my resume more impressive. or i ambitiously try up my running from 25 to 45 miles/week (delusional btw). sometimes i'm less productive and just watch entire seasons of outdated reality TV shows on netflicks and emotionally bake myself into a coma. regardless, there is no right or wrong way to deal. the best thing about being "out of work" is that you have no limits as to what you can do with your time (literally). sometimes that's terrifying and sometimes that's insanely empowering.

    of course, when things do look bleak, a little pep talk that my mom used to love to tell me:
    "well at least you're unemployed now while you have the expenses of someone young and single rather than someone with 2 kids, a dog and a mortgage." granted, that comparison never really helped me...but maybe that's just because my own mom said it. and she would secretly rather i had a "real" job. with a family. and a mortgage. ;)

    hang in there!

  3. I'm really sorry about your job - I can't imagine. And I doubt that you're feeling super motivated during your forced retirement, but maybe you should write a book. I would totally read it.


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