Thursday, September 27, 2012

Rough Seas

Sometimes life can crash into you like an unexpected rogue wave: knocking you down, slamming your body against the sea floor and filling your lungs with the salty water of fear and worry.  It then takes your legs out from under you and renders your body numb and your mind blank.  On a normal sunny day it is nearly impossible to imagine the panic that comes from being laid off, your entire livelihood taken from you with polite words of consolation and handshakes goodbye.  In an instant that stinging saltwater is everywhere and you roll under the wave with no way to know which direction is up.
The drive home is a blur of confusion, anger and dread as you try to clear your head and comprehend what has happened.  You do the math to figure out that unemployment will barely cover your mortgage and car payments.  Then panic takes over and no matter how tough you are the tears make their way down your cheek.
My wife and I have both been through our share of down-sizes, cut backs, job losses, pink slips, fiscal-mismanagements and the like. But not until having children had there ever been any real significance beyond just ourselves and whether we would eat out that night or not. With kids and on a single-income, the pressure of being without employment was like a vice squeezing our temples.  So we both went immediately to work looking for work.  The first one to find a job losses and the other would get to stay home with the kiddies.
I’m not sure if they sensed our tension level, but our twins were complete angels through it all.  There were completely oblivious smiles and giggles which were amazing for relieving stress and distracting us from resume edits, job hunting and interview preparation.  We took shifts, every other day, one of us would look for work and the other would watch the kids, usually with Saturdays off.
Then she got that wonderful state-changing call from the 973 area code.  It was to set up a phone interview which was followed by another phone interview, then an in-person, then another in-person, then another drive to the Garden State for what we hoped would be the last of them, then… we waited.  Meanwhile I had an interview of my own and the waiting continued.
The word on Friday from the lady in HR was that it was between her and one other person.  Then, late Saturday night my wife got the call that she had gotten the job.  It was a family record and perhaps a world record for this never-ending recession.   We celebrated with sushi and beer, a treat we’d been putting off and basked in the unbelievable good fortune that this wouldn’t be another 53 weeks on unemployment.
I’m not sure if there has been another generation in recent history with as much experience editing their resume as ours.  I hear folk tales of times when men got jobs in their twenties and retired from the same company with a gold watch forty years later. I can’t wrap my head around the immense unwinding of our social fabric that has taken place to tear that all apart.  I don’t know why we must go through life constantly on the lookout for our next job and worried that this one could collapse from under us.  But it seems almost everyone I know carries that baggage around with them.  This tumultuous ocean we ride every day, it can throw us down to its depths, but luckily, it can also raise us to the tops of its highest waves.  We just keep trimming our sails and taking them all one wave at a time.

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