The Art of the Subtle Layoff
Last year, as all of us non-Australians know, Covid-19 swiftly kicked the world in the balls. It missed the pelvis, straight to the sack. I had just been laid off by my boss and director in a Zoom call.
Like every layoff call that had taken place in the world, Manager A and Director B spilled their love for firee C and their work ethic in a Zoom call and followed with a dreaded yet heavily suspected, “We have to let you go.”
Letting me go where? Am I going to Paris?
I wasn’t entirely surprised since the agency hadn’t attracted much new business in the few months following Christmas. The world was suffering, and so were small companies, which were forced to adapt to the regulations being set in place. What followed for some businesses, especially in the marketing industry, was a lack of work.
The call couldn’t end fast enough. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated them for letting me know how much they loved me and were going to miss my presence at the office, as well as my ‘flashy’ outfits. But I was in a hurry to register for employment insurance. I have to go, sweetie.
1 Corona please, hold the virus
To be honest, I didn’t give myself enough time even to process the layoff wholly. I wasn’t mad, really. I did, however, feel some sort of angst toward management. I texted with a few of my coworker friends, letting them know what had happened. I wasn’t in as bad of a situation as others who were living alone and paycheck-to-paycheck. I had to think about the positives; I was not financially suffering and had a family to come home to. I was going to be alright. But it was definitely the end of the world.
I had found my place with a group of like-minded individuals whom I could learn from. And now, that journey had ended. The door was closed. And the book: burnt.
I hate to say it, but I slept really well that night. I found myself releasing the stress that I had absorbed from my clients; it poured off my shoulders like grains of sand. I no longer was tied or forced to wake up the following day to take care of any fires. I was given back time to focus on myself again.
The worst part about being laid off was no longer having the stability of work, wage, and creativity that I had grown accustomed to. Although I didn’t feel it at first, the coming weeks really hit hard. I was faced with internal questions of entering new career paths, applying for freelance work, and applying for city jobs.
After failing to find work shortly after being laid off, I chose to spend the following months desperately trying to reignite my love for the advertising industry, as well as for interests that existed outside of my career. I tried meditating, didn’t have the composure or mindset for that. Speaking of which, my one-year Headspace subscription has a week left on it. I only really used it for the first month.
I wasn’t starving by any means because, thank the lord, I lived with my parents. It was the independence I had become so accustomed to, packed with my goals of moving out on my own, that was tarnished. It was an arson fire. My dreams: toast.
I was fortunate that I was even in a position where I could rely on Employment Insurance at least for a little while. I didn’t have significant expenses, so I could still save some money in the meantime.
Being employed is far better than not. This is why I take my opportunities so seriously. I remember what those days felt like. Not good. Although I loved having the time to rediscover my passion for creativity, there were a lot of dark days as well. I just didn’t like the idea of not knowing when or if I would even be employed again. I was not ready for the pain of job searching, especially considering I never thought I would be back at this lap of the marathon again. It felt like I was at the starting line. Job searching is an incredibly tedious, mundane process. I hate the questions as much as I hate this culture of proving oneself to the furthest extent, all never to receive a response.
In the meantime, I tried my hand at the freelance thing, signing up for Upwork. I participated in menial work, and it was not at all gratifying. Freelancing online is different from getting referrals within your network of contacts. It’s difficult online because you have to have a fleshed-out profile; you need to have the portfolio to defend every part of your resume and certification. It’s an overwhelming amount of pre-requisite work that I just could not be bothered to do. Safe to say, my motivation was melting away at infinite speed.
I was happy to begin reading again! I am a lover of suspense novels and comedy autobiographies. It was great finally completing The Bone Collector and making it halfway through What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. I even dabbled in sketching and watercolour painting.
What would quickly demolish my love for exploring my interests was my yearning for financial stability. I was wise to have saved a lot of my income from my now-defunct job; I witnessed my balance drop each month. I couldn’t fathom continuing to live this way.
I would work full time at an office in the marketing industry; I so badly wanted to be employed again!
October came around; I was offered a role at an agency roughly twenty minutes from my home. This was great news since I despised getting from the train to downtown Vancouver, a trek that took 45 minutes away from my sleep and a lot of self-composure amongst transit-goers.
Fast forward to now, here I am, living my best life. I’m thriving in my work at an incredibly successful agency with a powerful, forward-thinking group of creative individuals. The work is thrilling, the businesses that we collaborate with are innovative, and I feel vital to the team.
Life is just at an all-time high for me. I feel like I can go even higher. This confidence I have gained in the past year is so gratifying and makes me feel like the experiences I went through were all worth it.
Vulnerability is by no means my strong suit. That’s probably why my career has been the one thing that I’ve received the most enjoyment from. It’s a great mix of people, teamwork, camaraderie, and projects. Having a team of individuals who appreciate my knowledge and opinions makes me feel vital to the team. I know that life’s not all about feeling wanted, but it’s fucking fantastic feeling wanted.
But life at home has been strange, to say the least. Everyone in my circle has had to, in some way, adapt to my new lifestyle of work. A lot of them have their opinions on me taking too much work on, especially my makers.
Fatigué, The Tale of 2021
Of recent, I have been on the receiving end of many questionable glances from my parents regarding my physical wellbeing and appearance at home. Conversations have ensued on the topic of me appearing as if I’ve just stepped on the runway for Fatigue SS 2021. This isn’t a far-off judgment, to be fair.
I sat at the kitchen table, my plate of nachos overflowing with piping hot cheese. A dish I once cooked using the oven was now a microwavable minute meal. My parents voiced their concerns about the long hours I work and its effect on my behaviour. To them, this lifestyle I had adopted within the past year had greatly influenced my behaviour at home. My response: uh…tha fuck?
Pile On the Work
I suppose It’s worth noting that I freelance at two other companies, outside of my full-time, 40-hour-a-week job: a prestigious research institute and a prominent media production company.
“Why the fuck do I do this?” you ask.
Somewhere in between expanding my skill set and my bank account, without feeling like I’m cheating on my full-time job.
Considering everything that I’ve gone through in my past, nothing prepared me for the number of opportunities I’ve been offered in the recent year. I’m talking BOOKED AND BUSY. I still have time to hit up Cactus Club on a Friday night with my friends for dinner, but still. I’m fuckin busy, bitch.
I currently have three different emails: one from the agency I work for, one for freelance work, and my personal one (which now doubles as a freelance one too– Google Docs doesn’t accept outlook emails, people!).
Burn Out I Shalt Not
I guess it’s expected that my family and friends express concerns of burnout and the fears of fatigue. But I’m okay. As a matter of fact, I’m loving life. I feel incredible; work is not a bother by any means. I eat all of my meals. Raisin Bran blended into a milkshake for breakfast and a beautiful feta salad for lunch.
What’s not to be happy about?
Of course, I work long hours. Like everyone that doesn’t work in showbiz, I have to. Not the “I have to because I pay rent and have a family to feed,” more like “I have to because I want to buy a pair of Givenchy Khakis.” Different reasons, similar pain.
By no means am I getting out of bed for $10k like a certain redheaded Canadian queen, but for the exciting work I get to take part in, it’s all worthwhile.
Is there such a point of being built up by my parents to combat every challenge I face if they’re only going to end up trying to limit me when I’ve reached too high?
That’s how I feel right now. I’ve gone through it all, being stupid, not living up to my true potential, being the non-athletic one, being the artsy one. I’m in my prime; I’m driving the bus on this side of my life. It’s a fantastic feeling having this much control. But their words and their fear; it’s all creating doubt.
Update coming soon.