Note: This is more personal than most posts that I write here. It has been multiple months since the layoff happened now and I’m in a pretty reasonable place emotionally at this point, though triggers do still happen sometimes and publishing this post last week was a trigger in the few seconds that it went live, which is why I held off on publishing it for a week.
Layoffs. We think they happen to everyone but us. To no one we know. To no one in our family. Until they do and our world explodes. No matter how much you possibly wanted to leave your job, a layoff still results in far more emotional shock than you would think it does.
I could write a post about how to prepare financially for a layoff, but it’s pretty simple: keep your finances in great shape and you will be okay when you get laid off. That two year liquidity fund I was saving up with so I could take a sabbatical? Super handy when I was unexpectedly laid off this year. As was my severance package.
Nothing, however, can prepare you for the emotions that come along with getting laid off. How it feels to be told your job was eliminated in a room with multiple other people by someone you’ve never talked to before. How it feels to go into work one day and see a mysterious email about a mysterious meeting. How it feels to go into work one day assuming you have a job and leave no longer having one. How it feels to most definitely now be the lower income earner in the household for a bit. How it feels for people to assume your spouse is supporting you financially because you are “unemployed”. How it feels to wonder if you should spend any money at all on joyous things when you spent years teaching yourself how to spend money on yourself. How it feels to not get paid on the last business day of the month for the first time in almost seven years. How it feels to live off of your savings account for an indeterminate amount of time. How it feels to be laid off in an expensive season of your life.
You find sad joy in knowing others who also got laid off that day, friendly faces in a time of uncertainty, making for a shoulder to cry on. You follow your list of self-care, going on long walks in the sunlight every day that week. Somehow your partner is the one more unsure of how to proceed through this, confused that you are simply in checklist mode until you break and then he’s there, holding you steady.
But the finances? It is so wonderful to not worry about those in this strange time.
That checklist that you had ready to go for when you gave your notice? That checklist is so key at keeping your emotions in check while you wade through the last week at a job you didn’t love. In a haze, you call your 401(k) plan provider to request an after-tax 401(k) in-service distribution the afternoon you receive your layoff notice. The check comes in the mail the next week and you deposit it into your Vanguard Roth IRA.
Health insurance? You don’t even think about it. Your checklist already knew based on where your deductible was for the year, that it makes sense to keep COBRA for the remainder of the year even if it costs the insane $500/month versus joining your partner’s plan.
You’re free. After a series of jobs where you didn’t fit or didn’t succeed after a series of jobs where you had flourished, you’re set free to figure out what you want. What will you do next? You’re not yet financially independent, yet you don’t need to immediately find a new job. You can take the time to figure out what to do next, rather than rushing on to a new job that you don’t love either.
Your sense of independence has always been so key in your life. How do you reconcile that with being unemployed for a season? How do you reconcile that with your partner earning more than you ever have while it also being a success for him to be earning so much as it shows how valued they are in their organization?
The layoff took away your decision on when to leave the job. That bandaid was ripped away from you, by someone you don’t even know. The door is shut and gone forever. The job can no longer be fixed or improved or gotten better, no matter what your manager told you the previous week. Which window do you pick?
You try to be cautious about who you tell because everyone else has their own Feelings that they then want to discuss and this isn’t the time for you to manage everyone else’s Feelings. This is a time for you to get support. You shut down the person who offers you a job in their group like five times in a day. You ignore the person who outbursts their emotions about when they got fired. (Not the same thing, buddy.) Your parents try to tell you that having the mortgage paid off would be better than having cash in the bank and you call bull on that – liquidity is far more useful.
Life goes on. That self-care that you had been working on all year when you started to realize you hated your job? It, your partner, and your savings account carry you through this confusing time.