I have only been laid off once. In retrospect, it really wasn't that bad. The friend who fired me also netted me a lucrative, short-term consulting gig that covered most of my six-week unemployment. It stopped two days before my wedding, and my new job started several days after I returned from the honeymoon. There were far-reaching financial effects, but I know that's nothing compared to what friends and strangers have faced in the last few years. But, at the time, it was terrifying. And my relationship with my friend and former boss never really recovered, though I did not hold a grudge. He kept his job, but he felt terrible, and I think it was too much for him. Now I am fortunate to work for a company with a warning policy-- 60 days paid. They make every effort to find a new position for someone with a notice, and they pay severance too. Most companies, at least in my industry, don't do either.
I've got it on the brain today because a close colleague of Daniel's was unceremoniously "let go." "We're going to have to let you go," I imagine they told him. I have never understood the language of uncomfortable situations. That's what my mom used to say to people to get them off the phone; "I'm going to let you go," as if she were doing them a favor, when really she was the one who needed to get on with her day. Now I do it too, for lack of a better thing to say. "I'm done with you now," while truthful, isn't really kind.
But Daniel's colleague, when he heard it, didn't want to go. Go where? I imagine him thinking, panicked. Of course, our hearts go out to him and his large family. We are preoccupied with worry for him. But he is now just one of many-- 8 percent or more, in most places. How much of our fear is for him and how much is survivor's guilt, stressing about the increased workload and unstable ground? What will the travel schedule look like now? How much more can a person take on without failing? We have plans of digging out of a series of bad decisions and looking forward to a different life for me and the kids. I am reminded of how quickly it can change. On Wednesday night, this guy probably came home for dinner, kissed his wife, and complained about office politics. The next day, he was gone. It could be any of us. And faced between a choice of that burden or that of increased travel or work hours, of course I pick the latter.
What can we learn from it? To be grateful for what we have, sure. I am blessed to be sitting in the sunshine on a 70-degree day after going grocery shopping on a Friday. My children are napping upstairs. I thank God for a company that lets me work part time, but I am reminded not to take any of it for granted. To have a slush fund, definitely. To keep our heads down and work hard. But also, that even when we forget it, life is not within our control and is absolutely not fair.