I’ve Been Laid Off Twice In 2 Years (Dammit!). Here’s What I’ve Learned

Advice from someone who’s been there before.

by
Serious sad woman in sweater carrying cardboard box full of stuff and leaving office after dismissal

Photo, iStock.

I’ve been laid off, not once, but twice. In two years. Always just in time for summer (this is good timing if you can swing it). Should this abrupt fate befall you, I wish I could say everything will be okay. What I can tell you, however, is what it will be like: scary. Just remember that everything gets better with practice (like mood swings) and with the perspective from someone who finally had time to start a YouTube channel. But didn’t.

Day One

When you get laid off, you immediately have to pack up the remnants of your work life in about 30 seconds or less—and there will be more stuff than you ever thought one soulless cubicle could hold. Thank you cards, a faux-antique container partly filled with gummy bears, a bunch of shoes you keep at work (but kind of hate) and a half case of wine that you had ordered and just got delivered—none of these items will help you in your brand new life (okay, the wine was a good call), but you will cling to them for comfort nonetheless.

Yes, you’ve just lost your job but on the flip side, in return, you will be offered a cab chit.

You’ll learn new things about yourself, such as the fact that you will never stoop so low as to take their cab chit. You will walk out chit-less, head held high (actually, slightly stooped from the weight of the wine and all your desk baggage) determined to take public transit home. You will hail a cab en route to the subway. In the cab, dozens of witty and cutting “last words” will flood your brain like WhatsApp being woken from airplane mode. What you actually said was, “Thank you.”

If you work in an open-concept office where you have no designated desk, HR will bring you the contents of your locker. In hindsight, you will wish your locker contents did not consist of your purse and a large Tupperware filled with Cadbury Mini Eggs. The Mini Eggs will be passed to you with the utmost gravitas.

You will realize that for the first time in a long time you are not expected to do anything. No one expects you at home. No one expects you at work. You should go shopping. You will buy a wrap dress that could double as a robe.

You will text people who need to know. This will feel gross. You will desperately want to have friends and family call you and yet dread talking to anyone. Your cats will be delighted to see you.

Month One

It will sink in that you are no longer employed. This will be terrifying. And yet you will love not working and wearing your dress/robe 24/7. Life is a paradox.

You will be looking for a lawyer (unless you’re on Layoff Two, at which point you call your lawyer from Layoff One and faintly hope she may have forgotten when you last spoke).

The lawyer will ask you a bunch of questions to determine how employable you are, by the end of which you will feel like there’s no hope of ever working again. Your lawyer will answer all questions with a vague “it could work in your favour, but also it might not.” The lawyer will not hug you, even if you lean toward them oh-so-slightly.

You will go on EI for the first time. And you will be super grateful. You’ll be automatically signed up for the Government of Canada Jobs website. You will receive lists of job directly tied to your specific skill set—such as stone mason, sheet metal fabricator and counsel for TD Bank.

You will give stone masonry some thought. After all, you’ve been thinking about taking up pottery. Synchronicity?

You will have to redo your resume and update it with just the right amount of keywords. LinkedIn will make you question everything, especially your profile photo.

The rest of the months

You will try out many ways of telling people you are not working. They will all sound lame. Other people will not care as much as you think they do. (The barista was just being friendly.)

When people ask how you’re doing, you’ll mutter “Good, fine, it happens to everyone, work is a construct of capitalism, I’m really into cheesecake lately.” Then they’ll ask you questions like, “So what are you going to do now?” Which will make you feel like you should know this answer, but you actually don’t. This will be terrifying.

No matter how much you update it, LinkedIn will continuously alert you that your profile is not complete. You will see thousands of jobs—all of them looking for a social media expert—none of which you appear to qualify for. This, too, will be terrifying.

You will read your horoscope every day. You’ll finally have time to back everything up during Mercury retrograde. You won’t back anything up.

F-ck the horoscope.

You will finally start that yoga practice. It will be good. You will tell everyone that this yoga thing really works.

You will get your eyes checked, teeth cleaned, neck physio-ed, lower back massaged and those orthotics fitted before your benefits plan runs out. You will feel like a rock star. (Well, not the orthotics part, but now your toe’s no longer numb!).

You will cry. Mostly alone and at weird times like at the gym during squats and a remix of “St. Elmo’s Fire.” And always during yoga.

You will listen to motivational podcasts. This will feel intense and also addictive.

You will record a podcast, but then be too embarrassed to listen to it.

You will start a journal.

You will often feel like your heart has been kicked in. Like everyone is moving on. Living life. Dipping their manicured toenails into the gentle tide of the ocean. Watching sunsets through plane windows. You will take a break from Instagram.

You’ll discover room for ideas and thinking and perspective. And Apple Music playlists you never knew you’d love. (How did you forget about Jewel—her career started in a van!)

You will feel better. Not “coming to terms with things” better just “rested” better. You will linger, you will binge-watch Jane the Virgin, you will read outside with a coffee. You will like this. You will bury that feeling under a pile of guilt.

You will always worry about the money. Because, of course.

But then you’ll discover forgotten stuff in your closet, the frozen steaks in the bottom of the freezer, and the eight different kinds of pasta in your pantry, because you are a budgeting machine.

And one day you look at this new life and do your very best to spend the time wisely because the next job will come. When you least expect it. Some days this faith will feel like squeezing the last bit of toothpaste out of the tube, but you will find it. Pinky swear.

Sue Riedl is a writer, fledgling potter, almost-emerged podcast maker and currently working at Blue Ant Media.