Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Mind(s) of the Recently Unemployed

"So, what goes through someone's mind when she's laid off from what she so long described as 'the perfect job at the perfect company?'"

Funny you should ask. I just might have a little insight into the answer. One of the first thoughts might be something along the lines of, "Why did I start with the novel about the pastor in the satirical 'small town' series instead of the one about the publishing company?" She might spend the whole afternoon of the day she's told her position is being "eliminated" at the library, sketching out a version of this second novel in the series (all being a "complete work of the author's imagination," none of the characters being "based on any real people"), fantasizing about its being serialized in some online magazine, the way Armistead Maupin's books began as serials. In this fantasy, some good publisher she loves picks it up, and it becomes a bestseller. She captures headlines by turning down Oprah, a la Jonathan Franzen. Meanwhile "the perfect company" collapses.

Then, she'll feel horrible for having such a fantasy. She loves that company, believes in it, has friends there she hopes will not only survive but thrive. She knows it has published some trend-setting, fantastic works. Still, oh man, could some of her experiences make for some fantastic satire. But no, that just wouldn't be a nice thing to do. That would be biting the hand that's fed you. Then again, who ever said not to bite the hand that's quit feeding you?

You get the picture. Want to spot "Person-Laid-Off-From-Perfect-Job-At-Perfect-Company?" Look for the woman with multiple personalities. Depending on what second of what minute of what hour of what day it is, she can be any of the following:

Ms. I'm-No-Good: characteristic thoughts = "I never was any good at that job. I never knew what I was doing. I have rotten, horrible instincts. No wonder they don't want me."

Ms. Who-Do-They-Think-They-Are?: characteristic thoughts = "Don't they know extraordinary talent when they've got it? Who are they to do this to me? They never made good use of me. They completely wasted me."

Ms. I-Know-Better-Than-They: characteristic thoughts = "They're making a huge mistake. I bet they're getting rid of me to hire someone just to keep right on doing what they've always done. Companies that just keep on doing what they've always done in this climate are going to die. They're going to die, and they can't see it. I can see it, and I know what they need to do, but they can't."

Ms. They-Always-Hated-Me: characteristic thoughts = "I never fit in. They hated me from the moment I started. They always acted as though I'd suddenly sprung a second head every time I opened my mouth to say something."

Ms. Extrapolate-to-Entire-Life: characteristic thoughts = "Life sucks. It always has. It's all so useless. Why do we even bother?"

Ms. Oh-Thank-God!: characteristic thoughts = "You mean I'll never have to deal with that manuscript/co-worker/damn inefficient computer system again? Hallelujah!"

There are probably some other personalities waiting to make an appearance, but right now, they're in hiding. They'll likely surface as days turn into weeks, and weeks turn into months. Then again, maybe by then Ms. This-Is-The-Time-To-Do-What-You've-Always-Wanted-To-Do will have become the dominant personality, and all the others will have vanished, realizing they've been completely conquered.

23 comments:

musingsfromthesofa said...

Emily - you were brilliant at and passionate about your job. In fact, far more brilliant and passionate than they deserved. And, as we discussed, you do know better. One of the parties involved in this parting of the ways will thrive and I know who my money is on.

Danny said...

I vote for Ms. I-Know-Better-Than-They and Ms. Oh-Thank-God with occasional whispers from Ms. Who-Do-They-Think-They-Are? Tell the other gals to go away! I know great things are ahead for you and I can't wait to hear about them!

sarawithnoh said...

You forgot Ms. Bitter who turns to Ms. I'm Glad I Don't Have THAT Job Anymore who finds Ms. Now What Do I Want To Do who, one day runs in to Ms. Fantastic Opportunity. Well, at least those were some of my multiple personalities. I still think my old employer is a moron for letting someone "as fabulous as me" go but four years later, I'm in a better place!

Charlotte said...

Emily, as you know, I am really sorry to hear your bad news. I believe it is really tough in publishing at the moment. I don't think writing it out is a bad thing at all - I think you should go for it!

litlove said...

Oh Emily - really? I send you huge, huge hugs because the experience is initially unpleasant. But my husband has been made redundant twice now, and each time it has resulted in consequences that have been really, really good for him. The first time he went on a management course that he loved and that brought him a job he also loved. When that job ended, he made a lot of money on shares he held in the company and we had an idyllic year off together. It never feels nice at first, but once you've got used to the idea and the possibilities that freedom opens up, it can sometimes be a truly good thing.

Pete said...

As we say in South Africa: "Ag shame man". But I did enjoy reading your different responses to this. Definitely a novel in there with your devastating wit. And I think freelance might be the way to go until the market picks up again? But seriously, would love to read your "fictionalised" account of life in a recession-hit publishing house. Pretty please?

Dorothy W. said...

I love your multiple personalities response. I think I'd be feeling something similar -- in fact, I often feel as though I have multiple personalities, even when I'm not undergoing something unpleasant ... I'm truly sorry to hear the job news, but it's absolutely true that you will find a way to make your life even better because of this.

knitseashore said...

You captured it absolutely perfectly.

Eva said...

*hugs* I hope everything ends up working out for the best. And I hope Ms. This-Is-The-Time-To-Do-What-You've-Always-Wanted-To-Do wins the fight soon!

Nigel Patel said...

I am all for biting the hand that has quit feeding you.
(So long as it doesn't go on the resume)

ZoesMom said...

I also, quite selfishly, want you to bite the hand and write the book. That particular hand is on the end of a withering body. I don't think you have much to worry about in terms of repercussions. And, just think, if your novel got so big that they figured out it was them you were writing about, you wouldn't need them anymore anyway because you'd be a bestselling novelist. Ms. I know better has it all right!

Emily Barton said...

First of all, thank you, everyone! It's wonderful to have so much support.

MFS, if the reactions I'm getting from authors and others with whom I worked very closely are any indication, you're right.

Danny, okay, we'll get those other gals out the door and set up apartments for Ms. IKNBTT and Ms. TG.

Sara, you're a great role model, and I've actually always been a strong believer in the old cliche, "there's a reason for everything," so I'll focus on you as an example of that.

Litlove, yes, I do think it can sometimes truly be a good thing. I've been feeling for some time now that my talents were being wasted, which is not a good thing. Life is too short to be stuck in a job where people aren't taking advantage of all you have to offer.

Pete, oh, I love "ag shame man." Gonna have to start using that, and, well, maybe I ought just to get to work on that novel...

Dorr, yes, I have these multiple personalities even in the best of times, but they love to come out and play most when I'm going through something like this. Actually, I've never been through something "like this," before. Maybe it was about time, as I am sure it's going to be an eye-opening learning experience once all is said and done.

Ms. Knits, so glad to know my reaction is "normal."

Eva, she's got her boxing gloves on.

Nigel, I have moments when I don't need much encouragement...

ZM, and more encouragement. I love your "That particular hand is on the end of a withering body." It's so true!

hobgoblin said...

Well, this sucks. At the rate things are going, there will be no jobs, no companies, no corporations, nothing. I'm not sure that sounds like a completely bad thing. Perhaps you can turn this into a post-apocalyptic book, especially since they always seem to sell well when times get bad.

Susan said...

I like what litlove says. In fact, she makes being laid off sound fun and rewarding! I've been through it and it sucks. It's an awful feeling - even if good things, wonderful things come out of it, the initial reaction is always fear, and shock, and dread, followed by lots and lots of chocolate and books, and some tears (I might as well admit it). You can come cry on my shoulder anytime. And - it will work out, somehow. Maybe there is a job right there in your idyllic village just waiting for you :-D and if not, you can always write a story about the company and have it haunted by a terrible ghost!

Emily Barton said...

Hobgoblin, yes, I sometimes think there will soon be nothing left. And, hmmm...a post-apocalyptic novel? I hadn't thought of that. But that might be better written by someone with your kind of talent (if you want to include a publishing company, I can give you all kinds of insider info.).

Susan, oh yes, I can see lots of chocolate and books are on the horizon (and banana splits, too). And now, I like that idea of a ghost story. Never thought of that. Wow! 3 different writing projects have arisen from this one incident. That should tell me something, no?

honeypiehorse said...

I'm sorry. But at least you'll have more time to write now. And I don't think the clergy have pretty good job security.

bloglily said...

This is just rotten, and there's no way around that. Even though you will certainly land on your feet and you will find something even better to do with yourself, it's inevitable that you'll go through multiple personality moments! Go easy on yourself, okay? And remember, too, that you have tons of friends, which means there are lots of people ready to help in your next career move. Please count me in that group, and if you can think of anything at all I can do to pitch in, let me know! xo

mandarine said...

You just hang on there; I'll be right over.

More seriously, I think like Hobs: when the Titanic's sinking, better be among the first ones to jump ship (even if someone pushed you).

Feminine Feminist said...

What the heck? We need a phone date. Thinking of you and B. And although I should be sad... I'm strangely excited for you! (not very empathetic... but honest...) Your talents abound! x

Hannah said...

eeek, poor you, that's painful - but it sounds like you're already picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and looking round for new opportunities. So maybe congratulations are in order? I vote you promote Ms This Is The Time To Do What You've Always Wanted To Do (and definitely make Ms Extrapolate to Entire Life redundant...). Thinking of you.

Emily Barton said...

Ms. Honeypie, yes, more time to write (and to read), although right now (day 2), I don't seem to be doing much more than hanging out online a lot. I'm expecting that will change, though.

Bloglily, thank you so much! Times like these remind me of how many truly wonderful friends I have.

Mandarine, one of my first thoughts was "Well, if I don't get a job before then, this will mean more time to hang out with the Mandarines when they come. And yes, Hobs is right: better to get off the Titanic (and I'm the sort who always needs to be pushed).

Fem, yes, let's talk. Your response is (just as strangely) encouraging.

Hannah, well I'm trying to, and thanks for thinking of me.

smithereens said...

I'm just catching up on blogs right now and I only now discover the bad news... yikes, that is so painful. But as everyone must have told you before, you know it's not about you, right? Not even about all your multiple personalities (even though I wouldn't mention them on a resume, that might slightly scare a HR person). Sending out positive thoughts and hugs

Emily Barton said...

Smithereens, intellectually, yes, I know it isn't about me. Emotionally, I am very glad to have people who keep reminding me of the fact. Thanks for the thoughts and hugs. Intellectually, I also happen to know that, ultimately, this will be for the better. Emotionally, however, the thoughts and hugs help tremendously.