I'd be lying if I said I was thrilled about driving the 40-mile commute to work at 4:30 in the morning for a mandatory store meeting. Still, it was my job, one that had been good to me; where my manager was always considerate of my family needs, and worked my schedule around my girls', so I really didn't have so much to complain about.
As we all stood around sleepy-eyed, clutching our coffee cups for dear life, the announcement was made reluctantly that our store was being shut down.
I don't know if you've ever been laid off from a job, but gathering from my co-workers' reactions and my own, I'd be willing to bet that the series of emotional reactions is probably about the same for everyone. It starts with shock, sprinkled with shards of anger as you play through every school function, night-night kiss, and other family happenings you missed being a loyal and reliable employee. Then you worry - how am I going to pay my bills between now and the time I find something else? Will I find something else? How are we going to make it through this? Your mind cycles through so many thoughts and feelings in that initial moment that you don't really know what you feel, just that it's bad and centralized around uncertainty.
Being a department manager, I was one of the fortunate few who were allowed to stay and help clear and clean the store. This meant about a month and a half worth of extra paychecks while I looked for something else, as well as a little extra socked into my unemployment account if I should have to resort to it - and as it turned out, I did.
My fiance lost his own job about a week after I found out I was losing mine, so it's a bit of an understatement to say that we panicked. We took a long, hard look at our budget and realized just how much money we had been wasting when we were both working full time and confident that we would continue doing so. Removing all those "extras," we realized we wouldn't be so bad off after all, providing one or both of us could find something else soon.
Here's where the major revelation came into play: I no longer had to stress about whether I'd be home to take my girls to school in the mornings or back in time to pick them up. There was no longer a need for daycare, no worry about what was going on with my girls while I was at work and they were under someone else's care.
I made it to the first school play I'd been able to attend in months, and the light in my girls' faces when they saw me walk through the door all but erased my worry about how to pay the mortgage or utilities. We could make it with a whole lot less money, but these were the irriplaceable things I'd been missing out on while I was working overtime trying to get a raise.
My fiance found a lower-paying but decent job, while I applied everywhere that would accept an application or resume and got turned down repeatedly.
In the years before I started working as a retail manager, I did a lot of drawing, and was pretty good at it. I gave a portrait as a gift to a family member, who kindly suggested that I should try my hand at selling my artwork instead of giving it away all the time. So, I posted on my Facebook that I would give away 5 portraits to anyone who would allow me to show them in my portfolio, and it kind of exploded from there.
I rediscovered my blogs and my love for writing, and it's something that I try to do daily now while my girls are in school and I have a little extra time - what little extra time a mom can have, anyway.
I'll never be financially wealthy, at least, not without some stroke of divine intervention or some colossal fluke, but not only am I happier now, my whole family is. I'm bringing in enough now to supplement what my fiance brings in with his job, and it's enough. My girls still hop up and down excitedly when my car pulls up to the pick-up point at school, and they each excitedly tell me every time there is a school event. I never miss night-night loves, I'm always home to cook dinner, and we are now able to do chocolate chip pancakes every Sunday rather than whenever my girls aren't at their dad's and I don't happen to be working. Life is good.
If I had known that this is where we'd be with me not working, I would have quit a long time before.
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