No, not I, shockingly, even though the magazine industry, like most every other, is twitching on the ground and coughing up blood. But many of my friends and colleagues have been laid off, with the same randomness with regard to talent as people used to get promoted back in boom times. There but for the grace of God go I, and I don’t even really believe in God, I don’t think.
For those of you who are used to my posts being funny, a heads-up: this one is not.
Seeing talented people being tossed out like bread crusts cut off a kid’s grilled cheese got me thinking about what it means to be laid off as a grown-up and laid off as a young person with next to no clue. I was let go from my second magazine job ever (SHITCANNED from my first, but that’s a whole other story) when two magazines became one.
It was 1990 and I was making $20K, which even to a single, ramen-eating, roommate-in-Brooklyn-having 22-year-old was crap pay. Being told that my position no longer existed felt bad, certainly, but bad in that intense 20something dramatic life-is-so-hard-am-I-in-a-music-video? way that was kind of joyous at the same time as horrible. Rent wasn’t yet on Broadway, but you get the idea. I cried to my friends and started charging my ramen on that credit card they sent me in college but frankly I was living on so little to begin with that it didn’t make much difference in my quality of life. My friends bought me drinks and I had another dues-paying (read: low-paying) exploitative job for which I was over-educated by the end of the month. On to the next music video.
Now, of course, it’s something else entirely. That the stress of debt and tough choices isÃ‚Â brutal goes without saying. For people who are being laid off as adults, after working in a field 10, 15, even 20 years, it raises a whole set of questions that someone in transition would be best not to answer until things stabilize. Did I even like my job? Often the answer is, Not really, but I would have liked to retain the option of tolerating it and fantasizing about what I’d do next. Now what?
So here’s thinking of everyone who has been laid off, or is worried about being laid off: Ramen isn’t so awful, at least until your personal and professional uptick, and there will be one.