Then We Came to the End, written by Joshua Ferris, is a book about getting laid-off. And it’s fucking hilarious. Except getting laid-off in real life–as I was around this time last year–is not so hilarious.
Instead of being able to smugly shrug off the fact that I got canned (without warning, I may add, like a goddamn terrorist attack), I freak out on a daily basis that I’m going to lose the job I have now at any minute. It’s that survivalist mentality
(you know, of people who actually lived through terrorist attacks and war) that it’s going to happen again!
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as: “an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened.” OK, so maybe I don’t technically suffer from PTSD–losing my job wasn’t exactly a physical trauma (but I do have flashbacks, mmm…k?). But seriously, for someone who places so much importance and pride in the work I do, getting let-go, laid-off, fired, canned, axed, was traumatic. I became a victim of sorts. As Ferris writes in his book: “Every lovelorn jerk is the victim of bad timing, good intentions, and someone else’s poor decision making.” Yup. One day you walk into your job and walk out never to return.
The point of no return for me came right before I was supposed to have my six-month review. I was called into HR the day before my review was scheduled and was told that I just wasn’t the right fit. (I’ve since learned that this meant I didn’t fit into the budget anymore.) If you want to know the nitty-gritty details of what happened on that fateful day, just check out an “anonymous” post I wrote titled “The Editor and the Cockroach: A Tale of Karmic Retribution. Or Something” for my friend’s blog, Your Unemployed Daughter.
Now, close to a year later, I’m still freaked out about losing my job whether it’s babysitting or editing. People tell me I should be proud of myself and the fact that I never went a day without work, even after getting laid-off, and how that proves how talented I am. But in my mind, there’s a difference between surviving and excelling. I survived. It was instinctual. But I always imagined I’d be an accelerator, running fast up that ladder to the tippy top. This is my post traumatic stress disorder: I’m haunted by failure. The vision I had of my career path hasn’t quite materialized. Instead, I’ve been on this unpredictable ride where there are terrifying delays and entertaining rest stops with some lucky opportunities in between. I once knew where I wanted to land, but experience has taught me to stop looking so far ahead. In the meantime, I wish I knew how to avoid hearing the bombs of fear go off in my head.
“We hated not knowing something. We hated not knowing who was next to walk Spanish down the hall. How would our bills get paid? And where would we find new work? We knew the power of the credit card companies and the collection agencies and the consequences of bankruptcy. They put your name into a system, and from that point forward vital parts of the American dream were foreclosed upon. These were not Jeffersonian ideals, perhaps, on par with life and liberty, but at this advanced stage, with the West won and the Cold War over, they too, seemed among our inalienable rights.” -J.F.
Today’s musical end note is provided by Led Zeppelin. “Ten Years Gone” is my favorite song of theirs, for good reason.
If you’re too lazy to listen to 8 minutes of brilliance, at least check out the lyrics here.