For All the Casualties…

mid2I’ve been there…trust me.

More than once, and on both sides of the coin, I’ve been there. I’ve sat in an office, listening to the hum of computer monitors and neon lights, while long faces stared back at me.

I’ve been given an empty cardboard box to fill, and I’ve been escorted to the door. I’ve felt the numbness that follows for the next few hours, followed by the washes of fear, rage and sadness.

I’ve woken up the next day, wandering aimlessly around the house trying to figure out what to do first.

I’ve done my weekly check-ins, and cashed my government checks. I’ve taken the occupational downgrade, reverting to my college-aged vocations, to not make ends meet.

Believe me, I’ve been there.

I remember, at the peak of my dissent into the underbelly of recessions, I found myself laboring in a kitchen. Prepping, cooking, serving and washing dishes. A twenty-year-old was my boss, and I was trained to clean a toilet and mop a floor.

fork

I remember one night, a particularly busy night, I popped out of the kitchen, wet apron from my belly to my knees from scrubbing lipstick stains off coffee mugs, only to find myself face to face with one of the survivors of the layoff that left me a casualty.

He seemed genuinely glad to see me.

All I saw, however, was the job I didn’t get to have anymore. I saw someone who could afford to hang out where I earned my minimum wage.

He was pissing in the toilet I had to clean.

I don’t recall what I said, but I know it was said with a scowl, before retreating through the kitchen and out back to sit and smoke a cigarette, quietly taking stock of what was left of my soul.

So, yeah. I’ve felt the hopelessness.

rings

I’ve sent out the resumes and made the cold calls. I’ve contacted my friends in the industry, none of whom could help, as they were too busy trying to keep their own jobs.

I’ve been there, and if I could give any advice on the matter, aside from stressing the importance of filing for unemployment, it would be this:

This isn’t your fault. You weren’t fired for being bad at what you do. More to wit, a lot of you were laid off for doing too good a job—for earning your bonuses and raises, year after year.

You were never expendable, just your salary.

You are no less talented than you were before the layoff, you are no less of a person. You’re just another casualty of the cola wars, of which there are many.

You are not alone.

Things will turn around, eventually. It may take years. It took about seven before I clawed my way back out of the service industry…

…and there’s no guarantee I won’t be back someday.

It may be a long while, but corners will be turned.

In the meantime, get a hobby or two. This is the free time you always pined for when you had none. Unemployment is punishment enough; don’t avoid what might give you a moment or two of happiness in an otherwise stygian time.

Follow your muse, while you still can.

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