Posts Tagged ‘new start’
Job loss often signifies much more than simply that. It can be an emotional loss – especially after long-term employment – or as bad as losing a dear friend of family member.
Many people experience something similar to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) as a pattern of adjustment.
What I saw, and experienced, were reactions that varied from anger, resentment, confusion, disappointment, mourning, fear, and bravado to sometimes, but not always, acceptance and/or renewed motivation. Unlike Kubler’s stages, these reactions had no specific order, tending to jump around or back and forth between one and the other, until settling into a specific mode.
I had bravado – oodles of it.
I could not admit to anyone, least of myself, that I was also out on a limb. No, I had to show them that I knew where I was going, and I told all and sundry just that. It helped that a lot of other co-workers had also been laid off at the same time.
So I pretended and then my pretense became fact and I chose to ignore that little inner voice warned me against it.
In other words, I had to show the world and to convince everyone, including myself, that I was not a loser.
“Every exit is an entry somewhere else.” Tom Stoppard
Here is another excerpt from my book about midlife job loss and making a new start Don’t Hang Up!
What Do You Do When the Good Times End?
Our favorite word is: “Salud.” Over drinks and lunch and more drinks, a group of the Ax Man’s victims share our dismissal from Paradise.
Most of us, in shock and disbelief over our situation, have dawdled in our job searches, blaming the delay on elusive contacts who promise and promise, but don’t fulfill. In the meantime, we live off our severance packages, while convincing ourselves, and each other, that we will find work before the money runs out. Some talk about potential interviews as if they were fact, and behave as if they are being pursued with job offers when they are, in reality, the seekers.
We are lost souls wandering through an unknown jungle. Stripped of our trappings, we have few survival skills. We are sinking, drawing down each other under our mutual load of delusions of past grandeur.
“Stop deceiving yourselves,” I tell them. “Once word gets out that you don’t have a job, ad agencies aren’t interested in you, just give you the runaround. I’m not willing to go through that hassle.”
They turn angry eyes on me for bursting their imaginary bubble.
Truth is, for me, the vista is barren. I can’t look for a job in another ad agency – they would have to call me first. And if I’m not seated behind a desk in an office, it’s doubtful they will. Nor can I, a former top executive, stoop to lower levels or bow my head before people who have been my inferiors. It would give the impression I’m a failure or have lost my edge – and who wants leftovers?
“I’m going to set up my own business,” I tell my friends. “And I can use any help you can give me.”
I have no clear idea how I can use them – the words came out before I could stop them – but I need my comrades beside me. They make me feel that I’m still someone.
“A restaurant and catering business.” I outline my plans as if they were fact and not being made up as I go along.
Their faces are eager, grasping at this hope I extend to them.
“Call it Pennie’s.”
“Pennie’s Deli sounds better.”
“Everyone in the advertising business knows you and they’ll flock to it.”
They all want a finger in my pie. It will give us a mutual goal, like working together on an ad campaign. The difference is that, in this case, I’m the one who will put up all the money. They assume I got a good severance package, and I did. Little do they know that a chunk went on taxes. Or that I’ve lost my focus and have only a vague notion of how to replace it.
Keeping up appearances and my five-bedroom house is important. I can’t give it up; it’s my children’s home. Their rooms are intact for when my older son, who lives in Dallas, and my younger one, studying in Italy, come to visit. For company, I have a live-in maid, a collie, a rottweiler, two chow-chows, and a floundering relationship with my long-time boyfriend.
After years of devoting my energy to the workplace, it’s hard to sleep at night. I stay up until the wee hours drinking Scotch, sleep late in the morning, and nap whenever I feel like it. No reason to keep regular hours. No kids to awaken, no office to go to. Who cares if I’m half sloshed? I dream of making a splash in a new field, and conduct a (frenetic) search for cooking ideas, scouring recipe books and magazines, and making lists, lists, lists.
Nothing will deter me from turning my restaurant project into reality. Not even if I have to invest all of my severance pay in it.
How did you react after job loss? Did you make some bad decisions?
Picture: Gustave Dore
“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” Albert Schweitzer
Today, Friday, August 5th, 2011, seems the perfect day for this post. A good time to take a good look at my life and find reasons why I am thankful.
(Originally, I wrote this piece for “Hajra Kvetches” at www.Hajrak.blogspot.com
“Fridays will be different” where people gave five reasons why they were thankful, but she ended the series before I sent it to her. )
I’m thankful that I can walk. Yes, put one leg in front of the other and so on for several miles without needing a cane or any form of support and most importantly, without it being painful.
Often, especially in downtown San Diego, when I see people with physical impediments struggling to cross the road or walk a block, I remember the two years that I was like them. I’d take 10 minutes to hobble, grit-my-teeth-and-bear-it, two short blocks to the corner grocery store.
The other day, an old friend who is having leg problems told me how he envied people the freedom to walk without cringing at the idea of having to go from A to B. I could understand and empathize because that was exactly how I had felt when I had that problem. All those carefree walkers have no idea how fortunate they are to be able to walk whenever and wherever they want.
So use your legs while you can and glory in the fact that you have them.
I’m thankful that I still have work coming in. The same as many others, I was affected by the economic downturn in 2009 when my work source dried up. I’m glad that I looked into other options, became active online, started learning about SEO, and am now finding work in the field I like most, writing. Also, some of my former clients are again sending me projects.
Having work also gives me a goal to go after more.
I’m thankful that my generation of the 60s is still going strong in their sixties. They are an inspiration to all of us especially in this age group. I won’t mention names because there are too many, but the sheer number of outstanding writers, actors, activists, musicians, film directors, politicians, pundits, businessmen, inventors, scientists, leaders, innovators, commentators, physicians, etc. who are still active and highly productive in their sixties speaks for itself.
These people motivate me to keep trying to achieve my goals.
I’m thankful for my family who have always encouraged and supported me, even during my crazy years. A loner by nature – despite my many friends – the two things I valued most were my privacy and independence. I loved doing my own thing, having a routine, sleeping in my own bed, and living in my neighborhood. All this changed when, due to the economic recession, I came to stay at my sister’s home. She has a big house in a very different (high-class) area from my former downtown one, with seven people currently living here: her and her husband, her daughter and her two teens and one pre-teen, and a part-time housekeeper. With me, we’re eight, and then nine, as my son turned up four months ago.
When I first came to stay, I feared that any privacy would be out of the question. To my surprise, my family has respected it, though they are always there when I want company, help or advice.
This is an opportunity to get to know the kids – rather than be the isolated aunt of yore who only saw them on special occasions. I’m almost used to things like their penchant to jump out at me and shout, “Boo!” a family trait that we owe to my father’s naughty streak.
I’m thankful for my many friends – the kind who last a lifetime. They are spread all over the map and I’m glad to be able to keep up or in-touch with them. Due to modern technology and social media, I’m rediscovering or being rediscovered: in the last two days, two former very close friends turned up after years (8 and 15) of not knowing anything about them. When I go to Mexico City, the fact that I’m there means it’s party time, or at least an excuse for a bunch of us to have a reunion.
I’m thankful that I am still writing. That I can still experience the same crazy out-of-the-world high when I write something good. And that ideas gush out all the time – when I’m walking down the street, or I wake up in the middle of the night, or I’m driving – anywhere and at any time. I hope I will write all the books still inside me. I hope that my books, when they are published, will make a difference, even in a small way, to people’s lives.
I’m thankful that I still have the same illusions and hopes for my writing that I had as a child and young adult.
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” Oprah Winfrey
“Normal is in the eye of the beholder.” Whoopi Goldberg
My cultural heritage has certainly influenced my life. And I think most people would agree that their own has been important to their shaping and development, enriched their lives and often, led to their life decisions. However, sometimes having a mixed or multi-cultural background can be confusing and even disrupting.
Since I know it well, I’ll use my own life as an example.
I really don’t know where I belong.
The U.S., where I live now, is full of bi-cultural and multi-cultural people. I should fit in. Right? However, I have yet to find a demographic group where I do. My problem may be that I have a foot in each of my three countries, both ancestral and from living in them.
I’m a foreigner in all of my three countries but conversely, I also feel at home in all of them.
On the surface, my English side predominates. I was born there and my father was staunch middle-class. However, I only lived in England for fifteen years, in my childhood and as a young adult. I’m fair-haired (well, these days it’s L’Oreal) and blue-eyed. I speak English with a British accent that Americans think is “posh”. It opens many doors for me would be a great asset if I decided to be a con woman.
My mother was born in New York and her father came from a long line of New England stock, some of whom came over on the Mayflower’s fourth voyage while others were Irish immigrants fleeing the potato famine. Two of my ancestors fought in the War of Independence on the American side, which makes me a DAR (a Daughters of the American Revolution).
Actually, the country where I lived longest was in Mexico, during my adolescence, married life, and for years after I was divorced. My children were born there. My mother was half-Mexican, on her mother’s side. Two of my ancestors signed its Constitution.
I love telling people that I’m part Mexican and watching their reaction: some draw back in surprise (or horror?) and their next comment almost always is, “But, you don’t look Mexican.”
Another reason why I’m confused is because of my chronological back-and-forthing between my three countries:
• Childhood in a seaside village in Sussex, England – easygoing, quiet, Sunday afternoon tea and cake at English Granny’s.
• Switch to Mexico City at ten years old – Culture shock, different language, customs, large, noisy, dirty, Sunday afternoon lunch/meal at Mexican Granny’s.
• Fell head-over-heels for Mr. Blue Eyes and landed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Marriage and quicky divorce, college, sharing apartment with friends, summer in Maine.
• New York City – Lived it up every moment of the year I was there – Camelot, Moon River, The Fantasticks. Began career in advertising.
• London – Swinging Sixties. Settled into career as advertising exec with a stint as airline PR. Lots of travel, booze, and craziness.
• Mexico City again – Marriage to a Mexican, two kids, divorce, career flourished, forced early retirement, failed food business, broke.
• Santa Fe, New Mexico – House sitting in the mountains, writing book.
• Tijuana, Mexico – How the hell did I end up here? Couldn’t walk, stuck in son’s flat, writing book.
. Mexico City again. Operation made me ambulant. Happy to be home but decided to go to U.S.
• San Diego, California – Accidental landing. Became one of America’s working poor. Phone room researcher. “Just want to ask you a few questions. Please, don’t hang up!” New career in Hispanic research. Wrote book about making new start to be published late 2011. Economic slowdown. Currently pursuing new work paths.
I’m not Mexican though given all my years there, it’s a force to be reckoned with.
I can’t count myself as truly English anymore since I left many years ago.
Although I’ve adapted to the U.S. – more or less – I still hanker for Mexico.
So where will I spend the rest of my life?
Each of my three countries calls out to me. Maybe I’ll return to what I know. Or end up somewhere entirely different.
What about you? How has your cultural background influenced your life?
“Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.” Mexican proverb
“Do not wait for your ship to come in – swim out to it.” Author Unknown
(Written late 2010)
I’m not writing much anymore. Not personal stuff or my book. Spend too much time online reading other people’s blogs or in coffee houses reading books.
Seem to have lost my zeal, my energy to write, and to rebound, and rekindle that dwindling flame.
Or perhaps I haven’t lost it.
It’s still there, waiting to be relit.
And this is just a result of the last few months of frustration and worry.
No money. No work. Nothing good happening. No hope of anything much. How do I pay my rent?
That was how I felt until I received a surprising email.
Someone I barely knew – a woman I met at Toastmasters and hadn’t seen in four years when I bumped into her a few months ago at Trader Joe’s – offered me a temporary home, her town house, until she can sell it.
Could be for three-six or even more months.
Rent free. Half my bills taken care of.
So I moved there after six years living in what I had come to call fondly, My Dump.
It was tough to move out of my neighborhood where I’d lived for ten years – probably for good. It’s near downtown San Diego, and I could walk there or to the Bay, to Balboa Park, uptown, and to the stores and movies. I had everything nearby.
The day after I moved, I got work – from November 1st through the 30th, non-stop except for a half-day off on Thanksgiving. Over another hurdle.
Two ways to look at it.
I’m living in a nice place. Temporarily. Have enough money to last me another three months. I have a great website and a blog that I haven’t added to in two months while I flood my mind with top bloggers’ advice, hints, tips, and information on how to blog. And how to turn my blog into a vehicle to sell my book, “Don’t Hang Up!” when it’s published – though God only knows how as I don’t have a sou.
My spirits are up. I’ll be getting more work. Not as much as before but enough to tide me over – if I stay here.
The other side is that I’m (technically) homeless as this temporary arrangement could end in a month or so. And I have no regular means of income.
I’m 67, and finding work at this age, and the energy, isn’t easy especially in a slow economy. I have debts. Specifically, an almost unpayable one that my son left on one of my credit cards.
You could say I’m in a rut.
So I tell myself, practice what you preach, and I preach “Don’t Hang Up!” or “Don’t Give Up!”
What is a rut except a hole that you have to get out of?
So how do I get out of my rut?
First, I can’t get stuck in it – that means I can’t let negative thoughts play their mind games with me, or hold me down.
I have a set of skills that took me to the top professionally, and helped me overcome obstacles time after time. I’ve had to make new starts in the past, like the one in 2000, which I wrote a book about.
And a lot of people believe in me, have encouraged and motivated me.
Don’t I owe it to myself and to them to get myself back on my feet again?
But…most important of all, I HAVE NO CHOICE.
It’s either sink further into my rut until it becomes a deep hole or climb out of it while I still can, and get going on making another new start.
I CHALLENGE MYSELF TO DO THIS.
And I’m asking all of you to challenge me to go with this challenge, see where it takes me. See if, at 67, I can still do it. Make making it again one of the proudest achievements in my life.
Because if I do it, that will also show others in the same/similar position that they can as well.
Will you help challenge me to challenge myself?
“We must accept life for what it actually is – a challenge to our quality without which we should never know of what stuff we are made, or grow to our full stature.”
Robert Louis Stevenson
I surveyed the road in front of the house where I’m staying. A long block uphill. I could do it. Make it to the top. But it proved deceptively steep and I stopped half way. Why make the effort?
So I gave up.
Defeated by my low expectations?
Or by my attitude when facing obstacles?
“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” Maria Robinson
In the last quarter of 2010 and first months of 2011, my entire lifestyle was disrupted, joggled around, went back and forth, and settled – for the time being – into one completely opposite to what I had led before. This affected both my writing and my blogging. I was unable to concentrate though I did write several never-to-be-published posts such as, “What Am I Doing in This Hole Again?”
That said, I am adapting to and even enjoying my changed circumstances. The home where I currently reside is high on a hill overlooking the ocean. It has a view that I could get lost in, of gleaming blue depths that call to me with the siren song of legend.
Yet, at the beginning, I felt imprisoned because there seemed no way out – on foot.
Where could I walk if the hill outside the house was too steep to go up?
I love to take long walks. This started after I’d been an invalid for two years. Then, I’d promised myself that if I ever walked again, I’d try to do so as often as I could. After an operation, my walks became my time to contemplate, to sort out my mind when going through a hard time, to organize my to-dos, take a break from work, get ideas for blog posts, or work out what I’d write in my next chapter or report.
I couldn’t remain stranded or car dependent. I’d have to try that hill again.
Rising to the Challenge
The next time I tried, I did reach the top. Only to find another steep hill, but a shorter one. I’d come this far and I might as well keep going. Then a long trek, still uphill, ahead. I plodded on and it turned out to be a pleasant incline. What a relief. What fulfillment.
I’d got over the worst.
Don’t expect the easy way to be easy going.
The rest of the walk was mainly downhill though filled with treacherous curves – watch out for cars or people on bikes – and little stones and pebbles. Hurrying back down, I slipped and as I landed with a thud on my hands and knees, I heard a stone roll away.
All I could do was lie there, shock and pain coursing through my body. Until I realized that any car coming along might, a) inadvertently run over me or, b) shock the driver to see a person/body lying in his/her path. So I crawled to the side where I sat until I stopped shaking and realized nothing was broken, just bruised. Then I hobbled my way back.
Beware of becoming overconfident.
As I make that now familiar walk, I think how symbolic this is of the challenges in life and how sometimes they seem too daunting to face. All we have to overcome is our fear or reluctance of that first steep hill. However, that is only a first step and we have to persevere and go up more hills. Just don’t forget the little stones or obstacles in our path that can trip us up.
Searching for new challenges
This walk is no longer enough for me. I want more hills to climb, more challenges to overcome, more distances to travel.
Perhaps this reflects the way I feel about my life at present. So far, I’ve got up that first hill and almost up the second. Still have the long part ahead but I know I can do it. And I’ll remember to watch out for the little stones along the way.
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” Eleanor Roosevelt
Photos: Veronica Valades
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