On Being Laid Off

A year ago today, I lost my job due to a corporate restructuring. I received a generous severance package, and I had at least six months expenses in savings. It would be good for me to take some time off, I said. I told everyone I would be all right. But “all right” financially wasn’t the same as “all right” emotionally, and the experience threw me off balance for a long time.

In the weeks immediately following the layoff, I kept up a good front. I looked for work. I went to the gym. I wrote. But depression crept in around the edges. I found work quickly, but my physical fitness lagged. My writing suffered. I saw the world through a layer of gauze.

I wish I had been able to talk about what I was going through. I wasn’t that I lacked options. Immediately after the layoff, my family and friends all offered support. I assured them I was fine. By the time I admitted to myself that I wasn’t fine, I felt trapped into maintaining the positive front. After I’d made so many blithe predictions about how easy it would be for me, I couldn’t bring myself to go back to people and say, “I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m just going through the motions, and I feel bad about feeling bad.”

I’m doing better now. After spending seven months at a bad job, I had the good fortune to find much better, fulfilling one three months ago. That helped me re-orient myself. I hope I’ve learned from the experience not to pretend I’m invincible. I’d have been a lot better off for talking honestly about what I was going through than masking it.