Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Two weeks terminated: What I've learned after 14 days and counting

Irony: two days before my untimely termination, I commented to a friend that I had a good job that I felt secure in.

I have this idea in my head of what unemployment should look like.

It should be a time of self discovery, of deciding whether what I'm doing is truly what I want to be doing. I am inundated with messages of hope, affirmation and possibility, and all the mantras are pretty powerful and convincing.

Unemployment should look like a surprise vacation. I could fill the hours with visits to family and friends while I take the time to search my soul in far off places.

Unemployment should inspire me to take up knitting or learn a new language.

Unemployment is none of those things for me.

Here's what I've learned after two weeks of time off and counting:

1. Change is hard, ya'll...
I didn't want this. Or did I?
I used to have a job that paid me money, which allowed me to buy things and go places. When that job goes away, it is replaced by changes that aren't just material, but emotional. It definitely exposes what kind of stuff you're made of. Bad news first: unless you have modest to tremendous savings, life is about to get equal parts boring and stressful.

2. ...but it can be good.
"God kicked the bench out from under you," said my beloved cousin, and she is so right. When you get the wind knocked out of you, you have a few choices: rise to the occasion or let the change bury you. I choose to step up. Good news: unemployment is an opportunity to examine what really matters and weed out the rest.

3. You will question everything you thought was solid.
As I mentioned above, I all but bragged that my job was great and I had no fear of losing it. I guess that joke's on me. So now I'm questioning everything I've done for the past year or 13, and I'm wondering where I went wrong.

4. Unemployment is lonely.
Remember going to work every day and seeing people? That doesn't happen nearly as much when work is removed from the equation. A trip to the mall with a friend is no longer a mundane activity, but a treat not to be taken for granted.

5. You work hard to trust the timing of your life.
It turns out, the world moves at a pace far removed from the rigors of TV news, which can be hour-to-hour, minute-to-minute, even second-to-second. It has been a brutal and bizarre adjustment to watch the clock knowing there is no daily deadline. Days are filled with anxiety about making the money last, paying bills and hearing from potential employers. And I have to trust that things are shaping up as they should.

6. Never underestimate the power of saving.
Suze Orman recommends having at least eight months worth of expenses saved in an emergency fund. If you have that much money set aside... I don't even have the words to express my shock and awe.

7. My Netflix runneth over.
Friends, Criminal Minds, Mozart in the Jungle. You name it, I've sampled it in the past two weeks.

So what's next?

I've been in TV news for almost 20 years. It took me at least ten before I would officially call myself a journalist, not wanting to be so presumptuous as to take the title before I had earned it.

There have been plenty of times when I've questioned the sanctity of my career, even moments when I proclaimed that the passion was gone for good.

I don't think it will ever go away no matter how it rocks me or how many angry words I throw at it.

Memphis, TN 2007

Cleveland, OH 2011

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