Wednesday, January 23, 2008
God, I'm frightened.
My father used to say in times of trouble that "scared money never won."
I understand that idea, I really, do. Fear only makes your problems worse and blinds you to all possibilities.
But I have to be honest: Right now I am very scared. Today I became a statistic and joined the swelling ranks of the unemployed.
I am still in shock as I write this and I know I will feel the full impact of this tomorrow morning when I have no place to go.
I wanted a clean slate for '08. Well, I got one, brother, in spades. My old job has been cleaned right of my life.
It seems they're making changes at my now former company and I, along with my supervisor and three other co-workers, have been laid off.
I thought we were relatively safe. Last week they called us into one of the conference rooms and told us that our department would not be getting a raise this year.
Fine, I thought. Thank God--at least I still have a job.
And then we were called into another conference room today and told, well, no, actually, you don't have a job. This in no way reflects upon your job performance, yeah, yeah, sign here and get the hell out.
As the five of us rode down the elevator together and I looked up at the latest news on the in-house TV.
"At least we're doing better than Heath Ledger," I said.
Yes, it wasn't much of a joke, but I wasn't in the best of moods. And it's true, we are still alive.
The thing is, I was starting to lock in on my current position. I was doing some cool feature stories and I was able to work from home when I wanted to.
And I just getting into the videos, too. I had appeared in three (four if you count my first one, which I don't because I was so stiff you curved have tossed me in the Pacific and used me for a surf board.)
I was also hitting the gym nearby and attending services at Trinity Church, which is right up the block from my former office. I was there today, in fact, and the sermon, as usual, was inspiring.
I took this job little more than 2 years ago because I needed it. I was out of work, having quit an awful part-time job.
My dad was still with us, but he needed someone to stay with him and I think we hired his aide, Mary, at around that time.
I liked a lot of the people at the office. There was one core group of guys who cracked jokes nearly all day long and their stuff was funnier than anything you'd hear on most sitcoms.
And then there's my homeless friend, the heavyset woman in the blue hoodie who hangs around Wall Street. She calls me "Papi" and says "God bless ya," every time I gave her a buck. I never did find out her name.
I guess I won't be seeing her again--unless it's at a soup kitchen.
But I never really felt at home at this job and--ego alert!--I never became a star. I'd see other people cranking out great work, being praised up to the skies, while I was in the background gathering dust.
It looks like I'll have to be a star somewhere else now.
Now I'll have to watch every dollar I spend, make sure not waste money on anything extravagant. Should I give up my gym membership, go to some neighborhood dive?
Should I scrub or reduce my Netflix plan? Is it too late to tell Public Radio, ah, look, can you take that monthly donation off me credit card?
Every time I hear the oil burner switch on, I think of those awful heating bills I'll have to pay, and the home owners insurance, and the water bill, and the phone bill, and the utility bill.
I decided this last freezing weekend that I would get out more for the new year, meet people and do things. But that takes money and telling women that you're unemployed is not the best way of making an impression.
I'll have to go through the whole interview rigmarole, go out on job interviews in the dead of winter, and try to stay positive when I really feel like throwing myself down on the floor and crying.
Actually, I've already done the crying game, breaking down while I spoke with my aunt on the phone tonight.
I don't want her or anyone else in my family worrying about me, because then I'm going to worry about them worrying about me. Got Prozac?
My poor mother suffered every step of the way in my tortured route to getting a career. I had a lot of trouble holding down a gig after I first graduated from college and I know she felt my fear and frustration every time I got canned.
Now I'm older and still struggling, only I can't go running to Mommy, as much as I'd like to, as much as I need to.
It just seems that I haven't had an easy relationship with working life, or, adulthood in general for that matter.
I've spent so much of time, of my life, dreaming up these great plans, thinking these great thoughts but something like this brings home the excruciating reality that I'm just a lonely, unemployed middle-aged guy living in his family's empty house.
I have played it safe for most of my life and look what it's gotten me--nothing.
I might as have taken off for L.A. or any other part of the world when I was in my twenties, I might have done something to break the mold, instead of keeping my head low and hoping everything works out. I was playing with scared money.
I was watching a segment tonight about unemployment on the evening news tonight--I get the feeling there will be a lot more of these in the months to come--and the message was that when you're looking for work, you have to re-invent yourself.
I like the sound of that. There's nothing like having the earth yanked out from underneath you to force your brain to think in a new direction.
This is going to be tough. The TV report said experts figure you should calculate $10,000 a week of searching to reach your desired salary. So if you want 60 grand, figure you'll be out of work for 6 weeks. I suspect it'll take a lot longer than that, but I'll do my best.
I'm trying not to slide in negativity. I mean, I'll have more time to work on the novel, the new screenplay and God knows how many other projects I have circumnavigating my mind.
The last time I got laid off from a job, I went to the Brooklyn Museum's First Saturday event with my sister and some of her friends.
I recall being on the dance floor, trying to look happy, but the whole time I was thinking, what's going to happen to me? What's going to happen to me? I'm going through some of that now.
Earlier this evening I thought of that nightmare drive from Kona to Hilo during our family trip to Hawaii during the holidays, when I did battle with darkness, bad weather, worse roads, and lunatic drivers. It was horrible, but I got through it.
I think of the plane rides to and from the Big Island, when I was so terrified, I begged God to let me live, I didn't care what happened when I reached the ground, just let me get there alive and well.
I did get there alive and well. Now I have to do something constructive with the time that's been given me.
So I'll get through this one. I won't play with nervous money, but I'm bound to be a little tense until I see the hand that's been dealt to me.