Advice

Dear John, Thanks for the Layoff


Dear John,

While this could easily be a private letter between you and me, current economics are hinting to me that perhaps my condition is wider-spread than just my house. As a result, I've elected to make this a public letter. I hope you don't mind.

I'm writing today to thank you for my layoff. When you hired me to work in your firm two years ago, we both knew we were taking a chance on each other. Thank you for treating me well. Thanks for the raises, the benefits and the annual company picnic. I thank you and my family thanks you. I will cherish the knowledge and friendships that built during my time with the company, but most of all, I'm thankful for my layoff.

In these days of extreme economic hardship, you should know that I haven't gone crazy since we last spoke. In fact, I think I may have gone sane. All joking aside, this layoff may be one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Let me explain.

I did what every good pink-slip recipient should do. I spruced up my resume and filed for unemployment. I even bought a paper to search jobs in the classifieds. However, it seems that unless you're looking for a used dishwasher or a '93 Civic, there isn't much in the ads these days. Still, required by the local unemployment office, I had to try to get three jobs a week. I found myself scouring for jobs that I knew I would hate. I gave up. After one week, I stopped claiming unemployment. (And if the state of Washington wants its $453 back, they can have it).

You see, the pre-Christmas layoff timing was perfect. It saved me a fortune on child care and the kids will forever remember it as the year we spent three days building the best gingerbread house ever. (It looked just like Snoopy's doghouse.)

We thought this layoff would be a crushing financial blow and opted to hand-make all of our Christmas gifts. They were a huge hit with our family and friends and we spent several wonderful days together as a family creating them. We didn't at all miss the experience of circling the mall for hours looking for a parking spot. The kids didn't sit on Santa's lap at Macy's but we did run into him at a neighborhood ice hockey game and snapped a photo. I'll mail you one.

John, while severance would have been really nice, the gift that you gave me was an abundance of quiet, contemplative time to decide what to do with my life. Not a career, not my time, but my life. I hired a career coach (a tax-deductible job search expense, I thought to myself). I started a workout routine, and I wrote my day-to-day experiences down for myself as a way to order my thoughts. I had ambition. A special breed of ambition that comes from wondering how I'll pay that career coach, or for that matter, even pay my next student loan bill.

We wrote out our household budget for the first time ever, and we stuck to it. I wrote a business plan to start my business, and my husband encouraged me to restart the freelance writing career that I'd put on hold six years ago when I got married. Now I work only part-time for myself and I write part time. I never commute. My wonderful kids are thriving. And as for that student loan payment I wasn't sure I could make in December? I paid the balance of the loan off in full in February, three years ahead of schedule.

With the time afforded to me by my layoff, I was able to focus on my family and household. We kept waiting for the loss of income to hit us with that anticipated financial blow, but it didn't come. I started a blog to inspire others to living "laid off" and making do without a "real job" through smarter spending and finding efficiencies.

Throughout my career, I'd never taken the time to live. I'd never shopped for banks or health insurance. I'd never second-guessed my 401k and never taken the time to design a budget for the family. I'd never volunteered in the kids' classrooms or created a plan more than six months in duration because things might have changed at work.

With no last-minute time crunches at the office, my kids don't think that food comes from a box in the freezer. We cook food that looks like the way it naturally grew. I have more peace of mind than I can ever remember. I'm reading books for fun; I'm indulging in hobbies and spending time with friends and family. I've reconnected with old friends and I volunteer with causes that are important to me.

This is the most rewarding period of my life, ever.

Just wanted to let you know, in case you're wondering, I'm OK. And thank you again for all you taught me. Most of all, for my layoff. I'm living my dream, and it's all thanks to you, I might never have found with it means to live otherwise.

Sincerely,
Jessica Ward

Jessica Ward is a writer and small business owner in the Seattle area. You can read her living laid-off blog at www.pennywisefamily.blogspot.com or see her freelance work at www.jessicaward.me.

Jessica_ward
Jessica Ward is a writer and small business owner in the Seattle area. You can read her living laid-off blog at www.pennywisefamily.blogspot.com or see her freelance work at www.jessicaward.me.

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