During my last week of work, my coworkers and I had a beer-soaked evening together at a local bar. It was a lovely night, but one comment keeps coming back to me. I suppose I had spent the past few weeks gloating, making sure everyone in the office knew that they did not need to feel sorry for me, that I was not just OK with being laid off but thrilled. So that was the context. But anyway, one of the members of senior management said as he was leaving that night, "I hope it's as great as you think it's going to be." Maybe you had to be there, but his words sounded to me like, "Enjoy your fantasy land while it lasts, because your bubble will burst soon enough." Now, I suppose this is only my fourth week of unemployment, and my vacation pay has not even run out yet, but I want to grab that guy by the neck and say, "It is every bit as great as I thought, more so!" But I guess the best revenge is living well, right?
Remember all those years of feeling stuck, of thinking that I needed a change but not knowing how to effect it, of applying and being rejected for jobs, of making lists of goals and accomplishing none of them? They're over. Suddenly, all the possibilities of the world have revealed themselves to me again. I am energized, perhaps too much so. My list-making is a little out of control at the moment. But I have heard laid-off people say that they don't know what to do with themselves when they are out of work. Really? Do you want to come to my house? I've got about 138 jobs I can assign you. So far, in my almost four weeks of being laid off, I have: gone skiing, stripped all the wallpaper from my bathroom (yes!), cleaned our closets and pantries of junk that has been collecting for seven years, read two novels, reconnected with about a dozen friends that I rarely saw before, meditated daily, cooked good meals, started an online course, spent many lovely afternoons with Mia reading, making art, baking and strolling museums, taken the first steps toward volunteering with refugees, signed Mia up for an art class and prepared four years worth of Mia's clothes and baby gear (which have been moldering in garbage bags in the guest room) for a consignment sale next weekend. I am on a roll.
Oh, and somewhere in there, I got a job. This week, I accepted a part-time job. A job that pays significantly better (on an hourly basis) than my old one, and will allow me to work from home on a flexible schedule and do something I believe in. It could not fit my life circumstances any better. After years of desperately wanting, and not finding, a new job, it suddenly feels like they are raining from the heavens. I hardly tried for this job; I told myself I didn't want it, and still I ended up with it. Then, yesterday, I got an email about a job I had applied for months ago and given up on. They hadn't filled the position yet, and did I want to interview? I said no. Not interested in a full-time job right now. And later that night, the US Census called to ask if I wanted a full-time temporary job. I said no again. Sorry, but these afternoons with Mia are too good to give up. So here I am turning down jobs! How can this be, after those long years of desperation? I suddenly see that maybe I can have more of what I want in this life. There are options other than the full-time office job. Lots and lots of options. Earlier this week, while Mia was in her art class, I took a walk around a lake on a beautiful spring-like afternoon--and I felt almost bowled over by my good fortune. I feel like I have made it to the mountaintop, after a long trek through a dark valley.
I know that I am in the honeymoon phase. I haven't even started the job yet. Surely, old problems will be replaced with new ones. And even with this job, my pay is down by about 25 percent, so if I'm not able to bring in any freelance writing, money will be tight. But right now, I just can't see how any of it will be as bad as working at my old job, swallowing misery after misery, sliding backwards, working the night shift, living in fear of what will come next, hanging on by the skin of my teeth while receiving no recognition for my work. This new life has got to be an improvement, doesn't it?