This morning I was called into the HR office and handed my severance package. As of May 31, 2012 I will be unemployed.
I have known this was coming since July. I've been prepared. Over the months I've joked about it, saying I have "senioritis" like a high school student.
Right now I don't feel like a high school senior, but like a college senior, looking upon imminent graduation and thinking, "What am I supposed to do with my life now?" I remember that end-of-college feeling well. Nothing felt so horrible as the idea that I was separating myself from my carefree life, my friends, my incredible boyfriend, and the 17-year routine of being a student to which I was accustomed. I was going to have to leave everything behind and try to make my way in the world. I had no idea how to do it.
Making my way in the world was tough. It was depressing. I never really let on to anyone just how depressed I was or how desperate I sometimes felt. I was afraid if I did, I'd be hustled off to therapy or there would be other attempts to "cure" me and I am far too stubborn to want my issues to belong to anyone but me. I had no great skills, no exceptional talents, nothing to make me better than anyone else seeking a job and a life. I wasn't ever a particularly hard worker to help make up for the lack of talent. I was stuck. I was unemployed, single, and living at home while my friends all seemed to be finding jobs, getting their own places, attending graduate school, marrying, and continuing on with theirs lives in ways I just couldn't seem to be on board with.
The best I could say was that in those days the stakes were low. I was only supporting myself, only worrying about myself. I did worry often that I was upsetting my family. They had invested so much in my future and I was disappointing them by not giving them much to show for it. I could at least be content that they weren't dependent on me.
Now I'm married. I have my own family. I do have someone else dependent on me. Kevin and I have built a life together. If I can't contribute to that life, I'm not the only one who suffers. I won't just be putting pressure on myself to get out there support the family. It will come from other places too. The less of a contribution I make, the guiltier I will feel, even though I know the guilt will mostly come from within.
I never loved my job, but for many years I liked it. The work could be a bit repetitive, but I really liked many of my regular clients, I travelled occasionally (if it weren't for my job, I never would have been to London), I rarely had to work strange hours, and I had ample vacation time. The ultra casual corporate culture suited me well.
After the company's acquisition, the situation changed - subtly at first, more aggressively in later years. When my company was first acquired, the folks at the top assured all of us that jobs were safe. As time went on and more consolidation happened, this stopped being true. I can remember every time I complained about a new policy Kevin would say to me, "Are you sure your job is safe?" At first the answer was "Yes, I 'm sure." Then the answer was, "I think so." Then once day it wasn't safe anymore. I hated delivering that news knowing I wasn't the only one who would suffer.
I really hadn't been that happy at my job in the past two years, but you can like your job a lot more when you know you're going to lose it. I never considered my job to be my life. My friends, my family, and my extra-curricular activities were the things that mattered most. I didn't have many close friends at the office and only socialized after hours with a handful of people. My job was what I did to support what I did outside of the office. I haven't lost the most important thing in my life, but I lost the entire support structure for the things I do consider important.
So now I'm staring down the rest of my life wondering what's going to happen. What will I do next and will I enjoy it? I've already jumped the gun a bit and responded to a job posting on a competitor's website for a job that is very much like the job I'm doing now. Do I hope I get it? Do I take time off? Part of me would like to just take off all of June and July and return to work after I get back from Chincoteague in August. That would assume I could find a job after taking time off.
Oh well. I still have 19 days of employment left (if you remove weekends and the vacation I'm taking at the end of the month). I don't feel like I owe the company anything, but I still have client who will need my help and despite the senior slump, I will keep doing my work as best I can for them.
Either things will work out for me or they won't. Time will tell. I hope as the weeks go on my friends won't grow tired of my musings and rantings and will hang in there with me to see how the story continues.