Laid Off, Shmaid Off — What it Feels Like to Get Laid Off

Posted on 4 min read

A week ago today, I was laid off from my job. A first.

I had a feeling it was coming, especially after reading a nationally published story about the company’s layoffs in an online entertainment rag. But I honestly didn’t think it would happen to me. Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt as they say.

I knew it was coming the moment the phone at my shared cubical rang and I saw it was the boss’ assistant. I answered, and she chirpily said, “Mr. SoandSo wants to see you in his office.” She was so upbeat. “Maybe it’s good news,” said my hopeful brain. “Maybe they’re offering you and ONLY you a raise and a special upgraded title,” said Pollyanna. Seconds later, boom, “Sure, a special title alright,” said my grim realist side sarcastically.

My mouth suddenly went dry as Palm Springs and my pulse started racing. I could almost feel my pupils widen and my face freeze.

“Put on your big girl panties, and don’t be a little b**ch. Suck it up! Take a bite of this juicy reality sandwich and enjoy it,” said the tough, light-skinned black girl, who grew up in DC, the murder capital in the 1980s. “Whatever you do, don’t let them see you cry.”

I entered the oversized office and knew immediately what was about to happen. I could almost smell the despair left from the three employees who’d gone in before me. “I know why I’m here,” I said, trying to dodge Mr. SoAndSo’s pending bombshell for a few more seconds — the inevitable grenade about to be lobbed at my ever-rosy head. “We’re having a party,” he said. His attempt to joke with me. “No, but seriously,” he said. “We’re streamlining.” The rest of his explanation was Charlie Brown’s parents and a high-pitched ringing.

He handed me a stack of checks, and was sure to remind me they were “real” checks, not like the fakers that arrived in the mail for the past year and three months, the ones that made me feel all warm and fuzzy every week, content and confident that I could indeed could buy groceries and nice dresses, as money magically appeared in my bank account. These checks were the last I’d see from the company.

I walked back to my modest cubical, smiling, with a lump in my throat.

I texted my son. My friends. My family. Everyone in my life who loves me and would tell me how wonderful I am and that I’d bounce back. And everything happens for a reason… blah, blah, blah, but nice to hear anyway.

I packed my stuff. I took my personal files and emailed them to myself. I had a moment of dark thoughts about removing critical items I knew the company would need after my departure – the departure that I was sure they’d regret, because in my mind I held the keys to all great and uber-creative ideas. I took the high road. There’s less traffic up there – or so I’ve heard.

I’ve been reading about what to do after you get laid off. Take time. Regroup. Recharge. Contemplate what you REALLY want to do with your life. Don’t make rash decisions. Don’t spend the money you now have less of. Do figure out your narrative and stick to it. Make sure it sounds positive. “Hey, I was looking anyway, they just beat me to it,” she said confidently at the interview, when asked why she wasn’t still working for he who shall not be named. Consider volunteering at an orphanage in India for a few weeks – just to get perspective.

It doesn’t feel good to be laid off. Not nearly as good as when you do something great at work, you get a thumbs up from your supervisor, and feel that high of accomplishment.

That day, I can’t say I knew I was going to be laid off, even though I kind of suspected something was going to happen, and it wasn’t going to be good. But, I have to think that things do happen for a reason, and that there were factors that had nothing to do with me. I create my own experience – and I choose to be ok with this, AND hope I get an even better gig soon.

I saw the film The Walk last night, I have more time to see movies now, I was inspired and thought — getting a job, but more importantly, being a writer, isn’t that much different than walking a high wire. “You must not force yourself to stay steady. You must move forward.” Philippe Petit