So it’s been close to two years now since I lost my good government job. Laid off. Walked into work on a Monday morning, got the call that the boss wanted to see me, and that’s when he said to take a seat. After the formal apology that he wished he didn’t have to do this, the phrase budget cuts came out, accompanied by the fact that I was an appointee. In other words, money was tight and, well, I was expendable. Sorry about that. I was 53 years old at the time.
Around the time I received the news, my hometown paper The Detroit News reported the following:
“The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that for the year that ended in September, Michigan’s official unemployment rate was 12.6 percent. Using the broadest definition of unemployment, the state unemployment rate was 20.9 percent, or 66 percent higher than the official rate. Since Detroit’s official rate for October was 27 percent, that broader rate pushes the city’s rate to as high as 44.8 percent.”
So, naturally, when faced with these rather sobering statistics, I had to sober up a bit myself.
Looking back, it’s pretty clear that self-employment was practically my only option.
Day 1: Hit me like a bomb. Got out of the cab in the driveway and, as luck and timing would have it, my wife was pulling into the driveway and wondering OMG what just happened. So that was the worst part. Three hours later she cooks me a chocolate cake and we sit at the kitchen table to devour a slice of our favorite dessert accompanied by a wine glass full of milk. My wife has a good sense of humor, which helps. Later that night pretty much all I could do was sit in my office and stare at my computer screen while listening to music, feeling numb. My wife cracks the door open to check on me, then quietly walks away to go to bed. I remain staring at the screen.
Evening of Day 2: My wife, who operates her own writing business from home, has had a revelation. Why don’t you consider being self-employed? Doesn’t that sound better – and feel better – than being unemployed? Besides, you haven’t exactly been thrilled to go to work every day. You did your job, and you did it well, but it was never what you wanted, dear. It was always what you had to do to pay bills and that was it. Maybe this is the start of another chapter in life. Maybe this isn’t the end of life as we know it, maybe this is the beginning. At least consider that this may be a more healthy way to look at it.
You know, there’s reason why God made wives. If you’ve got a good one, you deserve to be shot if you let that woman go. And from that point forward I began to feel lighter, somewhat liberated – and a bit scared.
Today? Still not a millionaire, but I’m still here, still employed as a writer, and still love my boss who happens to be me. When the weather changes, you adapt. It’s just what you do. But boy have I learned a lot along the way.