You may have heard the rumors that there is life after a lay-off. Perhaps you are skeptical but if you find yourself in this position let me assure you that it really is survivable and dare I say enjoyable.
I was laid-off two years ago and at the risk of sounding like a cliche it really was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I have had to do a little soul searching and take a few steps that seemed awkward and uncomfortable but the result is that I am working toward a dream of being self-employed and doing work that I find stimulating and fun. I am not there yet but I have been able to support myself for the last two years doing "work" that is more fun and satisfying than the 17 years I spent in a "career job."
I don't intend to make light of one losing their job. I can certainly relate to the rush of emotions that one must navigate. First there is shock, numbness, sadness, fear, anger, frustration, self-doubt, indignation and more anger but there can also be hope. Hope for something better. Hope for a fresh new start in a new direction. A direction that we can deliberately choose. Maybe you just lost the job of your dreams but if you are like me it is more likely that you lost a job that was ok, paid the bills, and consumed most of your waking hours but didn't really excite you much. When I viewed my situation this way it was much easier for me to think about a new direction.
For many the path I am taking may have no appeal for it requires looking at your life (not just your work life) in a whole new way. I have had to rediscover what matters to me. I have learned that spending two hours in the sunshine working in my yard is more valuable than a new pair of shoes. I have gained a new appreciation for the abundance of possessions that I already own. I have new interest in taking care of my things instead of just carelessly replacing them. Task like, cooking and hand washing my car, that once seemed like "just more work when I got home from work." are now activities I enjoy. Laundry and dishes still aren't on my favorites list but my point is that I see many things with new eyes. I have had to look at my conventional life and take the risk to be more unconventional. I have learned to worry less about what other people might think and to listen more to the inklings and wishes of my own heart.
Why would a 45 year old woman with a college education choose to become a waitress instead of finding another career job in her field?
Here is why:
Right after I was laid-off I was traversing all the afore mentioned emotions but by far the strongest emotional reaction I had was misery. This was brought on by the thought that my only choice was to find another job in my field. That was my rock bottom moment. I literally sobbed at the idea that life in a 9:00 to 5:00 cubicle working for some one else was my only option. And so it occurred to me that it couldn't possibly be my only option and there began my journey to find other options.
I had the good fortune of a small severance package and 6 months of unemployment benefits. I would like to say that I used this time to figure "it" all out. But I still don't have "it" all figured out. What I did do was some healing, some experimenting and some soul searching. I tried some things that didn't work out and I thought about what type of work suited me. It wasn't until my unemployment benefits ran out that I actually made some significant progress. They say that necessity is the mother of invention and in my case that was true. When it became totally necessary I invented a way to support myself, in terms that feel right and have allowed me to continue my pursuit of self employment.
I worked as a waitress to put myself through college and when it first occurred to me to go back to that line of work I had some feelings of panic. What would people think? Could I even get a job? Was I too old? How could I take such a big step backwards and still face myself in the mirror? But the more more I thought about it the more it became the obvious answer. Briefly: it is a good source of income. It is a wonderfully flexible source of income. And it is honestly a very social and fun source of income.
So what else am I doing?
About the same time that I went back to waiting tables I experimented with selling a few things on EBay. I found out that it was a fun activity for me and I now have a pretty steady monthly income from my EBay sales.
I am also trying to blog more. So far this is not an income source but it feels right and it helps me to clarify some of the import interest in my life.
I have always enjoyed crafts projects and I have a new found interest in upcycling. My new life style allows me more time to work on projects like these. Right now I am not sure where this leads either. Maybe to sales on Etsy or a how to video on Youtube and then fame and fortune when I make a guest appearance on Letterman. Ok, maybe not the fame and fortune part but I do have a new sense that there are fewer limits on my life than there used to be.
So what is next?
I don't know but I am looking forward to it.