Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What You Can Do

Maybe this is selfish of me to write. But every time I tell people, at least people I know, about our situation, along with being sympathetic, everyone says "Let me know if there's anything I can do." So this post is in response to those people, whom we appreciate very much. And if you don't want to do anything, well then never mind. No hard feelings. But if you want to help, you can...
  • ...be understanding when we have to turn down social invitations due to budget. We like you. And it's not that we don't have ANY money, but we don't have a lot and we're not getting a lot and what we are needs to be spent on what we need, not what we want. Trust us, it would suck more if we did go and then couldn't afford to pay PSE&G later that month than if we just didn't go.
  • ...continue to invite us out. We are both looking for jobs, both not working, both don't have a whole hell of a lot else to do. And, chances are, we haven't seen you in far too long because we have been so busy recently. So it's actually kind of perfect. Right now we're particularly partial to the kinds of fun that are free or cheap. House parties, physical activity in the outdoors (the weather should be getting awesome soon), coffee/a drink/ice cream, public places where we can wander and have fun without spending money, watching movies or playing games at somebody's house. And it doesn't have to be both of us either. We love each other, but dude we are going to see a LOT of each other for the next little while. A break might be welcome, by both of us :)
  • ...be understanding if we have to cancel plans on short notice. We might get a call for a job interview or might get hired and have to start working (GOD WILLING) at any moment. It's hard to make plans in advance when you don't know what will happen in the next day, week, or month. We'll do our best and we're sorry in advance, but we know you understand this is more important.
  • ...come over and hang out at our house. We love to entertain and it's FREE. You coming over means I get to cook for more than two people which means I can probably make something I wish I could make more often, but don't get a chance to because Kris and I can't eat it all ourselves. Bonus points for you if you bring booze, but your company is really the main issue.
  • ...go over our resumes. Input is always appreciated, there is always room for improvement and I personally hate to send something out before everyone and their mother has told me it's good.
  • ...give us hot tips, send us job listings, pass on our info to people who might be able to use us. Neither one of us really knows exactly what we want to end up doing. While it's sucky to both be unemployed at the same time, it's a little exciting too. We both get a fresh start, both get to try something new. Kris has a lot of great ideas, but doesn't necessarily know what jobs those ideas translate to. I have a little bit better idea of what I want to do (i.e. something in food) but not many connections to get that job. Also, please give us these ideas no matter what they are, you never know. And please don't be upset if we don't like your ideas. We're just trying to figure this out and it ain't easy.
  • ...send us funny links. Seriously. Videos, pictures, articles, whatever. You never know when your little pick-me-up might arrive just in time to be the difference between a giggle and the strength to keep going and a frown, a sigh, and giving up.
  • ...give me candy. I'm sorry. In times of trouble, treats make everyone feel better. I am big into self-denial so I'm not likely to go out and get myself something to make me feel better but if someone gives it to me, it's already there and then well...I'd hate for it to go to waste. (Note: my husband is crazy and is trying to stick to healthy eating so he may not look as kindly on this gesture. Loony.)
  • ...even better, come bake cookies with me. Then I get to bake, which I love to do, we get to split the cookies, so neither of us has to feel bad about having a whole batch of cookies to eat, and...we get cookies! Win, win, win
  • ...allow me to cook for you. Coming over for dinner already falls in this category. However. I am trying to get into the cooking game professionally. I've done this before, cooked for people, and pretty successfully, so you can trust that I have a record for being kind of good at this even when I don't have a vested personal interest. But if you have an occasion where you want to serve food but don't want to do some or all of the cooking, allow me to cater. If you know someone who's doing something similar and they are willing to work with an amateur who will work for cheap, recommend me. It's great experience for me to add to my resume and build my repetoire (and online media presence), and you and your friends get to enjoy delicious food for no work and just the cost of food! Win, win, win AGAIN.
I want to stress again that this is in response to people who ask what they can do to help. We don't wanna run into the streets begging for this stuff from anyone who will listen. We're just trying to let people know what we need. Sort of a wish list for friends in need, whom we love and are very lucky to have.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Contents of Your Desk

We've all seen it on TV, when a character leaves their job and not by choice, they're seen sadly carting an cardboard box containing "the contents of [your] desk." I've only done this once before, and it doesn't count because my last day came in the middle of an illness that left me bedridden and I had to come claim my stuff later when I was feeling better and happy about not working there any more.

I decided to clean out my desk today, to avoid the awkwardness of carrying all my crap home on my last day. There wasn't much, since we just moved into a new office* and I hadn't had time to accumulate the crap you accumulate. But, for what it's worth, here it is.

*The wisdom of moving to new offices 6 weeks before you find it necessary to lay off half the staff escapes me, but that's another story for another blog.

  • a framed snapshot of my husband and I from when we first started dating
  • another of our niece, a year out of date, which happens now that people don't get pictures printed very often anymore
  • A "The Office" page-a-day calendar, I somehow got addicted to these. Even though they're not that funny, there's something comforting about marking the time by tearing off a page.
  • Splenda, chai tea, popcorn, peanut butter, boxes of raisins, and a few stray teabags
  • plastic cup and plastic bowl for my own personal highbrow lunch-at-my-desk tastes
  • gum, lotion, contact solution, and a nail file, every girl's essentials
It's not much, just a few things to make me smile, a few things to keep me comfortable, and, in the end, a lot of things so I can have just the food I want the way I want it.

I thought I would be sad about this, but I just feel numb. That and the fact that most of what I cared about at work was what and how I was eating are good indications that this will be a positive move for me.

So what about you. If, God forbid, you had to empty out your desk today, what would it look like? What do your personal effects at work say about who you are?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

American Nightmare

This is gonna be a tough one for me to write. But it's part of my life and the story needs to be told. Last week, I was told my company was laying off three of our seven employees, including myself. You may or may not be aware that, a month ago, I got married. My husband is also currently unemployed, having lost his job about 2 weeks before the wedding. That's right, ladies and gentlemen, we are the American Nightmare.

I could go on about the circumstances, how it happened, why it happened, how I feel about it, but the point is it happened. Essentially, the company has been in trouble, business has been slow for a while. Publishing in general and educational publishing specifically has been changing rapidly, but it seems to me that no one really has a handle on what will become of how our kids are taught in the future and a lot of people who help create textbooks are suffering job loss as a result. I was one.

What happened isn't as important, to me, as what I went through. That's the story I want to tell. The day we were told, I felt like a train hit me. My entire body was in shock. I thought, "I haven't felt like this since they told me Dad was sick." (My father had a brief battle with terminal cancer 13 years ago.) Then I thought that thought was silly. But the more I thought about it, the less silly it seemed. Blood rushing, heart pounding, whooshing in my ears, hyperventilating, feeling nauseous and generally experiencing all the physical feelings you might feel if the floor opened up underneath you without warning and you were suddenly falling, which, metaphorically, is exactly what happened. So I looked up Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's 5 Stages of Grief, which I found out was not only remarkably similar to what I've been going through, but is commonly applied to job loss as well as death. Not so silly after all, I suppose. Let's have a look.

Denial - They sent us home early that Thursday and gave us the option of taking the next day off too. I spent the intervening time from then until about Monday night carrying on with my life as normal. Sometimes the reality of the situation crept in and set me crying but for the most part I tried not to think about it, didn't do anything to help the situation, and just went about my business. I did errands, I kept social engagements, I did a lot of things for other people as I usually tend to do. When I had a bedtime breakdown on Monday night, I felt I had been stupid for doing all those things, that I should have stopped what I was doing, cancelled my life and focused on processing and moving on with the situation. In retrospect, if Denial is part of the process, I guess it wasn't so stupid after all.

Anger - Oh man was I mad. So mad. I bitched to everyone I told about it. There were times when I seemed more mad that it happened than upset about it. I had long ranty screamy conversations with people until I realized I was just tilting at windmills at my poor loved ones' expenses and had the good sense to open up a blank document and pour all my rage into it. I went off on tirades against the world, the economy, the industry, my company, the former president, and just about anyone else I could think to blame for this. Including myself. I was mad at myself for not seeing it coming and acting accordingly. I knew business was bad, I should have started looking, I should have been saving. But the reality is no one knew it was this bad, that layoffs were a real possibility and without knowing that and being in the midst of throwing a wedding, I had no reason not to do what I did and use my money as I did.

Bargaining - After the announcement, a noble counter-proposal was made by one of my co-workers that, if accepted might have saved some of the jobs, mine included. I was told I would hear when the fate of the proposal was decided and I banked HARD on that. I knew the company was in trouble and that even if I could keep my job, there's a good chance it would be gone soon anyway, along with the rest of the company, but at least that would give me a chance to look for something while keeping my salary and benefits under me. When I received my "termination letter" on Tuesday, that stage ended...

Depression - ...and the next one began. It was unfortunate that the timing of the letter coincided with a couple of phone calls that pretty much confirmed some other plans I'd had in place that were disrupted by these events, would in fact be put on hold, and for longer than I'd hoped and might be harder to restart at that later date. I had intended to go home that night and get to work on my plan, get some things done, job-search-wise, since it was the first free night I'd had without plans since it happened. But I found myself unable to even do any work for the rest of the day. I grabbed a cinnamon sugar pretzel on the way home (I rarely actually give in to the urge to feed my emotions) and when I arrived, crashed on the couch and announced I was not up for anything. Depression looks different for different people. For me, it looks like me spending hours on the couch watching tv without doing anything else. To some people that is a normal night, but to me, if I am watching tv, I am usually doing something else at the same time, or at least I am not doing it for the whole night. But that night, it was all I could do.

Acceptance - Wednesday, things seemed OK. I didn't have any major crying jags, I didn't lose it at any point. I managed to smile at a few things I saw or read. And I started to think positively about things I might do with myself without a job. Opportunities I could take advantage of. Jobs I might do that make me happier at work than I've ever been. I started to get excited and that's where I've been since. At the beginning of "getting excited." At the point of "OK, this sucks, now what are we gonna do about it."

I'm not saying I won't be upset anymore. I probably will. But I think that will come from a place of "this is hard" not a place of "I am upset about losing my job." A week seems pretty quick to me to get over something like this, but in reality it's probably healthy. I'm a lot more mentally healthy these days than I used to be and the thought of staying depressed or angry about this because it seems like I got over it too fast just seems dumb to me. Staying depressed and angry is not going to help anything. Doing something is.

To close, let me assuage some of the worries you might have. I know you might have them because I have them. But listen. I got what I am informed is a generous severance package. I will get unemployment and that will help. I've already spoken to a career counselor who gave me some advice on what the most useful job for me to get would be. And if I need to get crappy, fill-in, part-time work, well I've done that before. But the biggest reason not to worry is that this is a good thing. I have never really been satisfied by my job. I guess without realizing it, I became one of those people who thinks "work is for work, it's not to make you happy, you find other things outside of work that make you happy." But I don't think that or at least I don't think it has to be that way. I think you can be happy at work, you can find a job you at least like to do and that's what I intend to do. I've never really had one of those before, but I've talked to those who have and from what I hear, it's pretty awesome.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Real Housewife

Hi, I'm back! For reasons that will soon become clear, you might expect to hear a bit more from me than you have in the past. Anyway, back to what inspired me to pop open a blog window and start typing.

I used to refuse to watch reality TV. Back in the day when I still thought I wanted to work in scripted entertainment, be it theatre, film, or TV, reality programming was an affront to everything I believed in. I thought it would put hard-working actors and writers, many of whom have it rough in getting any work at all in such a tough industry, entirely out of work. That is what we call Youthful Naivete. Years later, we can all see that reality programming has found its place in our hearts and video has not killed the radio star, so to speak.

I still don't watch MUCH reality TV, but today that's not because it Goes Against Everything I Stand For. It's just that most of it is crap. OK, some of it is crap and I don't have time for ALL the ones that aren't crap. I have a select few I enjoy among my scripted shows, mostly competitive ones or behind the scenes of businesses I find interesting. Shows about people who do something, whose lives are worth watching. For this reason, I have never seen a single episode of any of the Real Housewives shows.

You may say how can I know without watching? Commercials are meant to highlight the most interesting parts of a program and if that's the case, the commercials for these shows tell me they have nothing to offer me. These women are boring, useless, and selfish and from what I can tell there is nothing real about them. Real housewives have real problems and real lives. They are running a household, supporting a husband, often raising children, sometimes contributing to the community by volunteering. They are not shopping for thousand-dollar outfits, releasing pop singles, and getting in fights in restaurants that end in table-flipping. It bothers the HELL out of me that any of these women are called "Real" or "Housewives." It gives real housewives a bad name. Strangely, I think I'd be fine letting them exist and not watching if they just changed the name. FCC standards are a lot lower than they used to be, so you tell me why we can't just call the show "Famewhores of [insert city]" and be done with it.

"But they're so awful it's entertaining." No. Stop right there. You are part of the problem. You are giving them what they want. And if you keep doing that, they'll keep doing what they do. What's wrong with that? Well, nothing, I suppose. They keep behaving selfishly and getting paid ridiculously for it and you keep watching them do it and being entertained by it and pretty soon the type of behavior they exhibit isn't just on TV, it's commonplace in everyday life. Everyone becomes self-centered and entitled, but hey, if that's what we want on TV, maybe that's what we all really want to be like. Yeah, I thought so.

I myself am about to become a real housewife (lowercase intended). And I can guarantee you I'm not going to be out there seeking attention at all costs and thinking of my own needs first. I am going to be taking care of our household, supporting my husband, and most importantly, looking for a job so I can return to being a contributing member of society and not a whiny, vapid, selfish, waste of space.

(Apologies if any of the Real Housewives if it turns out they are decent people. As I say, I haven't seen the shows and I entertain the possibility that some of you might be quite lovely. If that's the case, please get yourself the hell off whatever installment of the series you are on. Bravo is making you look REALLY bad.)