Thursday, August 22, 2013

Job Losses and Gains

A year ago, we'd have been about to return from our sailing trip.  I was feeling off-kilter for a variety of reasons.  We'd spent the night anchored to a mooring ball in the Annapolis Harbor, and I woke up feeling seasick.  It's always a bit discombobulating to return to regular life after vacation.  And I find a similar discombulating effect every time I fly, like I'm waiting for parts of myself to catch up.

A year ago, in the afternoon, I'd been home from the airport a half hour when the call came from my boss.  Technically I was still on vacation, so I knew that something big was in the works.  I was about to feel more seasick.

We had endured a round of lay-offs in March of 2012.  I lost key faculty members.  The dean told me that I was about to lose more, half of the rest of my full-time faculty, in fact.

And the most discombobulating new:  I was losing my job too.  I had better news than my downsized faculty.  The school was being reorganized, and I could apply for a version of my job in the new structure.

Of course, anyone else in the nation could apply too.  I tried not to think about that, as I got my materials ready.  The time from being told about my job loss/opportunity to being offered the new position took about a month.

My story has a happy ending of sorts.  I did apply, and I was offered the version of my job in the new structure.  I'm the supervisor of Humanities and Communications classes and faculty.  I also received the duties of the transfer credit analyst, who lost her position.  I no longer supervise Math, Science, or Computer Science classes and faculty, but we don't have as many of those.  In some ways, analyzing transcripts to see what classes will transfer takes more time than the supervision of extra classes and faculty would take.  Ah well.  Most weeks, I find the transfer credit process fascinating.

As I think back to a year ago, I remember that one of my first reactions to the lay-off news was to look for job possibilities.  And then, even after I accepted my job offer, I felt like I should be applying for other jobs.  But I also felt weary.  A friend told me that I'd suffered a trauma, and I should rest for a bit, check in with myself, see what I wanted to do next.

I continued to look at job ads but couldn't muster the energy to apply.  And so, I followed my friend's advice.  I stopped looking for other jobs.  I checked in with myself and my spouse.  We had a lovely dinner with friends, a progressive dinner, where we traveled from house to house.  We thought about moving to a new neighborhood, not a new job.

But was that wise?  In some ways, the experience losing my job gave me courage.  We're not living in a safe world.  If I wait until I feel economically secure, not just now but for all time, I'll curl up in a ball and never do a thing.

I realized that my spouse really LOVES living in South Florida.  I also realized that no matter where we live, I'll always be wondering what it would be like to live elsewhere.  Metaphorically, I keep my sandals laced, my possessions thinned, and my horse saddled; I'm mixing metaphors, but you get the idea.

We made the decision to stay put.  My job is safe for now, but that could change at any moment--that's the truth for almost all of us in this new economic reality.  I sing that old song that begs hard times to come around no more--but if they do, I'll figure out what to do then.  I'm not sure we can really plan for job loss once we've done the basics, like salting away a rainy day fund and getting more skills as we're able.

Some people think we've lost our minds for moving to a house that has a bigger mortgage, but in the long run, we're hoping it will be a better investment, as well as a better location from which to enjoy all that South Florida has to offer.

In terms of my job, the process of losing it and gaining it again has given me a sense of gratitude.  Sure there are still days of drudgery, but most days are like the one that I wrote about in yesterday's blog post.

I predict that in a few decades, when I look back over my life, I'll see the year of 2012 as one of the tough ones.  We had job loss, my spouse's severe pain all year, all sorts of difficulty and uncertainty. 

But that adversity has led us to this year, which is a much better one.  Hopefully, the decades to come will contain similar improvements.

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