The day I got laid off

January 19 is a bitter and sweet day at the same time. I’ve been thinking about the bitter more today than I would have liked. I’ve never really written about that date in 2009. But as much as I want to concentrate on being positive right now… I feel comparable hopelessness on the eve of this inauguration to what I felt on Obama’s first inauguration eight years ago. Of course I hope I’m wrong in feeling hopeless. And the fact that this winter is kicking us all down isn’t helping. 

Jan. 19, 2009, was Martin Luther King Jr day. I didn’t have that day off though. Early in the day I had emailed my supervisor to request off on Super Bowl Sunday. I just had to look up, that was the Steelers vs Cardinals and I didn’t care about either team, but I wanted to do something fun for the game. 

On the way to work I ran late because I’d decided to take the Beltline to work instead of highway PD. I got to work and there was a post-it note on my computer to see the editor. I went to see him and he said we had to go to HR. I didn’t even realize what was happening until we had sat down and the words were starting to come out. I don’t remember if it was the editor or the HR rep who said them. 

The editor was new at the time. He’d had meetings with employees to talk about things and get to know us in his first weeks on the job… I’d had mine the week before and I remember talking about what I’d felt was declining local coverage. I asked him after I got my news if he’d known about this when we had our meeting? He said no. I’d recently made a big mistake in a headline. I had my history of a poor performance review after I’d been there six months, though I had fulfilled my performance improvement plan. I was still at almost three years there one of the more junior employees. I don’t really know which, if any of these was the nail in the coffin of my journalism career. 

Of course maybe it wasn’t me at all, but the bottom line… really I have no idea how the decision was made, but it also wasn’t a complete surprise. There had already been a couple rounds of buyouts offered in attempts to downsize. I knew the possibilities but didn’t think it would happen to me. But it did. There were four or six of us at that time and that round of layoffs wasn’t the last. 

I didn’t realize until much later that although I would still cut off my arm for a chance to go back into my journalism career, that layoff was ultimately one of the best things that happened to me. But today I just feel sad. I always feel nervous that I’ve done something in my current work to cause this to happen again, even though I’ve gotten many good performance reviews in my current job. Jan. 19 is also the seven-year anniversary of my working in unemployment insurance. I don’t have reason to worry about my job… but still I do worry. It affects me in unexpected ways. One time early in my work at unemployment my supervisor left a note on my computer, the way the editor had in the day of my layoff, and I thought it was happening again. 

Jan. 19, 2009, was the start of one of the toughest years of my life. I was out of work a full year. I knew I couldn’t go back into a newspaper, both because we didn’t want to move and because I didn’t think any new newspaper job would last if I’d even gotten on. 

I certainly wasn’t the only one out of work at that time, of course. I still remember that Christmas in 2008 when the GM plant in Janesville was closing and thinking how awful it was to have that to deal with at the holidays. I ended up with the same situation shortly thereafter getting laid off at the height of the recession. But then it was because of the recession they were hiring so many new employees at unemployment insurance in 2010 as well. 

I just recently started reading the Wisconsin State Journal again. It took almost eight years to be able to do that.

Of course the rest of the story is that I got pregnant that year and Allie was born Oct. 30. I ended up in a great job where I got promotions and raises and I don’t have to work weekends or holidays. At the same time I say I’d give anything to go back into journalism, I don’t miss working nights. 


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