There are several days each year when people typically look back and assess their lives. This could be the anniversary of a death, a holiday full of memories, or your birthday. For me, the day I reflect is Groundhog Day.
February 2, 2006
Early in 2006, my life was at a crossroads. My then-husband and I were in the process of getting divorced, and I was figuring out how to transition from a house to two houses and what co-parenting my 2-year-old daughter would be like. The one shred of stability I had was my job. I was happy to have one thing I could count on not changing.
…and then February 2 happened.
That morning, I went to work. I took a few minutes between meetings to create a spreadsheet to figure out if I could afford to buy a condo I’d looked at the night before on my own. As I saved my file, I got a tap on the shoulder that I had an impromptu meeting. I grabbed a pen and a legal pad and walked into a conference room full of executives who informed me that my position was eliminated due to restructuring because of the company being acquired.
Welcome to layoff #2.
I was in shock. I returned to my desk, deleted my spreadsheet (which had just become irrelevant), told my coworker Brad “I’m gone,” and found myself sitting in my car with a box containing all of my formerly workly possessions.
From the parking lot of my ex-workplace, I called my soon-to-be ex-husband to tell him about my now ex-job. His only response was, “Huh.”
Then, It Got A Little Worse
That weekend, I was on a road trip to visit some of my high school friends for a fun weekend of reminiscing and going to the Snowflake Ski Jump. On my way there, a local cop pulled me over for speeding. As I sat there, I glanced at the notification I’d just received from unemployment sitting in my passenger seat—the one that said I’d receive less money than the last time I’d been laid off—meaning I wouldn’t be bringing enough money in to cover my half of the mortgage. As the officer approached my window, I could feel the tears well up. I could not get a ticket, too. I would cry (as I often heard people threaten to do), but this was no empty threat that would come to bear only through theatrics. I was legit going to fall apart if this happened.
This moment—sitting in the car with indications of my life failures greatest hits smacking me in the face was a low point in my life—rivaled only by my dad’s unexpected death when I was still in high school.
Then, It Got a Little Better
Fortunately, I think because of my street cred, which included being a native of a town nearby, I drove away ticket free. One thing had gone okay. Then I saw friends, connected with new people, and spent more time with my daughter. I also had the time and space to figure out what to do with myself now.
The Transition Begins
It was an ugly, ugly few months.
I applied for countless jobs. I put our house up for sale. My daughter’s dad (new language from the book Mom’s House, Dad’s House) and I decided to move in tandem to Minneapolis, Minnesota from Madison, Wisconsin. I looked for jobs, made business connections, and stayed with friends on the way to and from my regular trips to Minneapolis. I didn’t sleep well for months. A tree fell down in my front yard the day of my open house, so I figured out how to have a giant tree removed while driving on I-90 back home from a job interview.
That May, I found a job, a preschool for my daughter, a new place to live, and reconnected with one of my best friends from high school. Later, my daughter's dad found a job and moved to Minneapolis, along with his new girlfriend (a lovely person and good to my daughter).
Then, to mix it up, I totaled my car, dated and broke up with a couple of people, and got Shingles three times in a row. Some days, after work, I would lie on my floor and look at the ceiling in my apartment, my low-cost therapy as I acclimated to all of the life changes. I adjusted to my new normal after going through every significant life change (save a death in the family and someone I love going to prison) I could think of to endure.
Then, It Kept Getting Better
In October, on the same day, I was approved for a car loan and found out that my house in Madison had new owners. Over time, I made two great friends from my job and got comfortable in a new city. I started dating someone who was great, then bought a house with and married that guy--who is an awesome stepdad and cat dad.
I got laid off again and got another good job, then got laid off again and got an even better job. Things have gone pretty well through layoffs, reemployments, trials and tribulations. Through it all, my husband is awesome, my now-adult daughter is amazing, and the cats mostly tolerate my presence.
A Frame of Reference for Gratitude
Sometimes, I see people who are unhappy with what they have. The strange upside of having gone through rough times is that it gives you a frame of reference. It reminds me to be grateful for the roof over our heads, my husband playing video games with our two cats in his lap, my healthy, happy daughter, and an ongoing stream of new challenges and adventures.
I’m grateful for being active, able-bodied, and having a strong sense of well-being. I am grateful for winter heat, summer air conditioning, and all the machines that do my housework. I treasure mother/daughter movie nights, trips to the skating rink, and building relationships with new friends and colleagues. I value my roller derby skates, my outside roller skates, and my inline skates. I appreciate my cats, Zippy and Meathook, and the combination of disdain and affection they have for me. I am genuinely grateful for it all. Groundhog Day is my annual reminder to remember all these things.
7-time layoff survivor Brenda L. Peterson, The Layoff Lady, waxes poetic on layoffs, job transitions, & career resilience.