Banks always make me nervous. Every time I go, I have the creeping fear that the teller will look at my just-above-minimum account balance on her screen, turn to me and say, “Have you considered using a piggy bank instead? Those don’t have fees for insufficient funds.” It’s the precise reason I’d never hit on cute bank tellers when I was still single — they already knew how little money I had to spend on a date.
On this particular trip to the bank, I was no longer single. No, my lovely fiancée and I had just enjoyed our engagement party that past Saturday, and we were there to dump the checks we had received as gifts into a joint bank account to be used for future wedding expenses. It should have been a happy occasion, but I had been very unexpectedly laid off from my job just two days after the party. Frankly, the thought of this money cordoned off in the bank while my bills were piling up made me a little nauseous, but our engagement money was not to be touched. My fiancée said we needed it to spend on flowers for the wedding. It was like being lost in the desert with a full canteen of water but I could only use it to water the cactus.
Apparently, your occupation is one of the litany of personal details you must provide when opening a new bank account. The man behind the desk asked my fiancée first, and he happily entered her occupation into his computer with a few loud cracks of his keyboard. Then he asked me what line of work I was in. Now, I could have put my situation in a variety of ways: “I’m in between positions,” “I’m currently freelancing,” or any number of face-saving euphemisms. Instead, I clumsily spit out “I was laid off on Monday.” The awkwardness of the silence that ensued — if collected, stored and somehow harnessed by scientists — could have powered the island of Manhattan for days. A brief look of “Oh, shit. You guys are fucked.” washed over the man’s face. Then he went back to seeing about putting our money into a bank account — money that, in his eyes, we would surely be raiding in a matter of weeks to keep us afloat once my severance ran out. The only thing more awkward than losing your job is having to tell people that you lost your job.
I waited a few days before I even told my parents. Crushing their excitement about my engagement with the grim news of my termination was just a little too difficult for me to do. Plus, the holidays were looming, and nobody likes hearing about people losing their jobs around the holidays — especially when those people are a 20-something couple who share a studio apartment and are trying to save up for a wedding. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to gain your sympathy. There a lot of people who are way worse off than I am. But, goddamn, the way some people have reacted to this news, you’d think I was Bob fucking Cratchit. Well, worse than Bob Cratchit. At least that guy had a job, and he got Christmas Day off with pay.
Truth is, there really is no good way to tell someone you lost your job, so for a while, I didn’t. I started out slowly, by discreetly updating my social media accounts. I “left” my old job and listed my current job as “Freelancer.” I figured this approach would spare me from having to explain to people what happened. Those hopes were dashed when I discovered LinkedIn had sent all of my contacts this email, encouraging them to “congratulate” me on my “new job.”
And people did congratulate me, not knowing that my “new job” was just me on the couch scouring Craigslist for gigs in between episodes of Judge Joe Brown. So, instead of just having to tell people I lost my job, I now had to respond to people’s misguided congratulatory messages to tell them I lost my job. Try as I might, I just couldn’t avoid the truth. So, instead of trying to fight unemployment, I started to embrace it.
I started using unemployment as an opportunity to better myself and expand my horizons. After all, there really is no better city in which to be unemployed than New York. There are museums to visit, parks to explore and trails to bike. But it’s too cold for that shit, so I’ve been watching a lot of daytime TV. Did you know that, in addition to Maury, there are two talk shows dedicated to paternity issues? I didn’t. But now I do. (And if you’re wondering, The Test is way better than Paternity Court.) I’ve also been working on an impressive unemployment beard, which people just assume is a No Shave November beard. (“Are you raising awareness for men’s cancer?” “Nope, just too dejected to groom myself.”)
But, most importantly, getting laid off has allowed me to reacquaint myself with my first, true passion: Writing. It’s what’s got me through the best and the worst times in my life. It’s allowed me to put things into perspective, to laugh about misfortunes, and turn them into opportunities (like writing this article, right now). Yeah, I was laid off during the holidays, while planning my wedding, but I need to stay positive. Will it, and it will happen: I’m going to spend the holidays being thankful for what I already have. I’m going to find another full-time job. I won’t raid our engagement account, and we’ll use the money to buy flowers for the wedding…even though the bodega down the block has bouquets for 10 bucks and I could really use the cash to pay down my medical bills.
In the meantime, I’ll just keep writing and the rest will (hopefully) figure itself out. I even made a pretty sweet home office to do it in.
Featured image courtesy of Deviant Art