Friday, January 16, 2009

Salvaging the Day

Last week, three days in a row, I heard from three friends who have been laid off, from three different industries. Yesterday, I heard of another friend of a friend who was laid off. For the first time since I've been laid off, several of my friends are not working. But I don't think we'll be loitering in the mall every day. We'll have our occasional lunches, for sure, but I suspect we are each in our own way fighting the demons that can make us feel useless, helpless. We spend our days researching, revising and submitting our resumes, pouring over job search sites, reaching out to friends who may have leads, and doing whatever we can to fill up the day with something that can be counted - however loosely - as an accomplishment.

I am in a slightly different place since I am trying to figure out a new career direction, but I've learned that nothing depresses me more than the thought that I've wasted a whole day. It does not feel enough to plan a lunch with a friend, go to the gym, or run errands. I need to be able to point to something tangible that I have done, something I can count as another brick for the new path I'm trying to forge, whether it's working on a draft, researching for a possible interview lead, or reading some book that taught me something new. I've also learned that it is important to have human contact throughout the day, even if it's just a matter of working in a cafe instead of in my living room. Most importantly, I've learned that going about this process by myself does not work. I had always prided myself on being self-sufficient and knowing exactly what to do in times of need, but this time around, I wasted a lot of time trying to figure it out on my own. I've slowly come to realize that I need help, whether it's by taking a few classes, talking to others who've had similar experiences, or simply crying out when I feel lost.

If anyone out there reading this has suffered a lay off, please hang in there. Something will work out. Be patient with the economy - and with yourself. Don't give in to the sense of dejection or depression that can bury you. If you feel it lurking, reach out - to your family, friends, a random blog. And find a way to salvage the day because today leads to tomorrow, and with tomorrow comes possibilities.


  1. I agree - it's hard for Type-A personalities (and even Type-B personalities occasionally, I suppose) to have days with nothing accomplished.

    I agree - it's easier to have
    *any* contact with others, including (but not limited to) simply doing work at Starbucks rather than at home.

    I agree - it's hard to accept our limitations and that we're merely human, and have needs we can't deny, and that we get bummed out when we're confronted with this fact.

    But once more: I'm not sure you've accomplished nothing, either in the past, or in the present - you've (somewhat) settled on alternative career paths than the one you were on before. That's an accomplishment.

    It is painful to feel unproductive while you're getting there. It is scary to contemplate "what it all means," because none of us really know what the future holds (which is why so many of us stay where we're at, even though we're not sure it's where we'd like to eventually be) - again, the price of being human, and perhaps why you entitled your blog "Because you never know..." (ellipses included just now for a reason beyond your using them as your blog's title).

    I'd just urge you - patronizingly, I imagine, although I hope not - to look at your achievements, both over your life and in your present situation. And not to beat yourself up too much. You've done a lot, you're doing the best you can, and the future will be better than the present.

    In the meantime, accept you're not Supergirl, and that none of are (including the men reading this blog), and take the support you can get, be it from this blog, your husband, your dog, your friends, your family, or random strangers.

    Again, I realize this is so patronizing. I just think we're all human, and we all have defense mechanisms, and we all have needs, and none of us should feel upset about admitting that to ourselves or others.

  2. It's really hard to keep hope, you know. As you fill out the unemployment forms every other week, as your debt climbs higher and higher every month from the late fees because you can't afford to pay minimums, as month after month goes by without a job. This is month 20 for me, and while it would be nice to interact with other people, it's hard to do that without money. Sometimes even a cup of coffee is too much. And sure, it's one thing to let a friend take you for coffee, but it feels very awkward when it's a year later and you want to reciprocate but can't.

    34,000 people are being laid off from Circuit City within the next 60 days. More and more companies are filing BK, or otherwise collapsing.

  3. I can relate. When you spend much of your life thoughtfully preparing yourself for a certain profession - i.e you study hard to get into the "right" school, get the requisite GPA, LSAT score, etc., and then you do the clerkships, etc. etc.- and then you see your career crumble under your feet, it can be hard to pick up the pieces. Perhaps for the first time, you don't see yourself as an attorney, but as YOU. Simple as that. And do you like the YOU that you see?

    I absolutely agree with you, Shinyung, when you say that it is all about circumstances. If I had not been laid off, I wouldn't be evaluating things either. I would be an associate somewhere, heading nowhere, but feeling stable all the same.

    They say that you should be thankful for everything, even for the stumbling blocks in your life. I suppose I need to be grateful for being given the opportunity to meaningfully reflect on where I want to head in my life. But right now, sitting where I am, I feel more lost than anything else. I will be grateful, perhaps, in the months or years to come.

    How do you now relate to your old friends/colleagues who are still practicing attorneys? Do you still much in common with them?

  4. The current economy just stresses that we all should be pursuing what we love.

    If you love writing, go for it. If you love rock-climbing, go for it. If you love to help others, go for it.

    I think this society (and consequently we as individuals) places too much emphasis on making money. How many times I have logged onto Yahoo's home page or some career blog to read a headline screaming, "The Top-10 Money Earning Jobs in this Economy", "Positions that Pay the Most for Jobs of the Future", "Recission-Proof Careers". I see some flavor of that kind of news item almost every day.

    If we step back and look at what makes us as an individual happy, instead of doing what we think we should for someone else or the money, we would all be much happier.

    Find your passion, when you enjoy your job it won't seem like work and I firmly believe the money will follow regardless. If you want it badly enough and enjoy what you do there is nothing you cannot accomplish or achieve.

    That is the lesson I want to teach my daughter, follow your passion.

  5. Just wanted to tell you I really enjoy reading your blog. I found it through the Kimchi Mamas site. Thanks for taking the time to write such thoughtful and inspiring posts!

  6. As difficult as it may be to imagine, some of those who are anxiously watching the gaps in their resumes grow in spite of their best efforts, will someday be sifting through the resumes of others. I hope they remember what it's like. I hope they don't cluck their tongues at the resume gaps they see, assume there must be something defective about the people behind them, and put them in the reject pile without reading further.

  7. Hi, 12:00 PM, Things will get better. I feel a whole lot different than I did six months ago. Anon at 11:00 AM is right. My attitude about changing careers has shifted (i.e., I'm no longer afraid to admit that I'm ready to quit being a lawyer - at least the kind of lawyer I was) and the thought of trying something new seems less daunting. And I am starting to feel confident that something better will come of all this -- and that I will look back and feel relieved that I took this chance to try something I've always wanted to try.

    As for relating to former colleagues/friends, I haven't found much difference. I am still friends with the people I was friends with. The law is a big enough field to contain all sorts of people - and I managed to find some real gems among them. I hope you did too!

  8. I love reading about your process. I fight a lot with my parents, because they love this idea of having a grand 10 year plan set. The annoying thing is their plan actually was executed pretty flawlessly and impressively. BUT, I think process is super important. Too much rigidity and then life gets in the way. That and their plan didn't account for things like parenting, communication and uh emotional development. Process is an ends too, not just a means.

    Still cheering you on! 힘내요~ <3