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What A Year

With a new year, looking forward and backward is important. Looking ahead is important to set goals and milestones of what to accomplish in the coming year. Reflecting on the past year is important to consider areas of growth and areas needing improvement.

Looking back on 2017, it's hard to ignore that I've been in the swamp of a layoff for half of it. December marked 6 months since the last day of work at AOL and 4 months since separation from the company.

So, what are some lessons I've learned from this journey?

I Am Not Broken
Only someone who's been through an extended layoff can truly appreciate the despair of feeling cast aside, unwanted, and not needed. Initially, the layoff produced these feelings ever so slightly, but the overwhelming majority of these feelings originated from facing rejection after rejection. Weeks and months of the same bred doubt and discouragement. Insult is added to injury when family, friends, and strangers wanting to help unintentionally convey that something must be broken with my approach. My resume must be poorly written, my clothes must not be sharp enough, or my answers during interviews must not be sharp enough. Essentially, they are saying, "You're such a great, talented guy! There must be something you're doing wrong to not have a job yet!" 

However, I am not broken. I am more than my resume. I could have the most polished resume or change it every day, have the freshest threads, and practice answering interview questions everyday...but if a job isn't where the Lord wants me, I'm not going to get it! That's not an excuse to be lazy or not put forth my best, but it reminds me that I am not in control.

People Will Disappoint
Family, friends, acquaintances, and others have blessed my family through financial, emotional, and other support. But there are people in those categories from which I've never even received a text of encouragement. Months passed before some chimed in. Others have yet to say anything to me.

While it's easy to have expectations of how people should behave, the reality is I don't know what to say or do in all situations. So, how can I honestly expect such of others?!

Responding to someone going through a difficult situation isn't easy or graceful. Sometimes, it's easier to not say anything which can be hurtful. For example, asking me if I've found a job, how the search is going, or if I have any leads are all like daggers. But asking me how I'm feeling, coping, or doing gives me so much more room to navigate in my response.

Family Is Also In The Swamp
Focusing on my journey is easy, however, it's not just my journey. I have a wife and daughter in this swamp with me. I don't think I truly considered how this layoff was impacting my 13-year-old daughter until during a recent family meeting I asked her if she felt worried or concerned. She revealed that she was worried I wouldn't find another job because "every job I applied for said no."

That was an important conversation and one for which I am glad we discussed.

Personally, I wish more people reached out to Kim and G over the last 6 months. While some have, that number has been ridiculously low compared to the men who have poured into me during this time.

It's important for my family to talk and check in on each other. It's also important to not burden G will all the details of this journey. She doesn't need to know everything. No child does. She needs to enjoy being 13, but she also needs to process this journey and talk about her feelings.

Kim is supporting me through this while she is processing it. Frankly, I think she's done more of supporting me than I supporting her during this time. I am grateful for this but I need to share more of that load.

No One Can Fix This
This layoff isn't something to be fixed. No amount of hours submitting applications, pouring over job alerts, and conducting searches will reveal the next job. And nothing anyone else can say or do will repair the situation.

I would not have been fired or quit AOL. So, the Lord had to lay me off to move me from the position. There's a reason why it happened when it did and has lasted this long. And the effects go beyond me. While I'm being prepared for what's next, so is my next employer. Through this situation, so many people have blessed us financially. While we have obviously been blessed, they had an opportunity to be blessed through giving.

So, there's more going on with this than what's on the surface, and it's never a quick fix.

Receive Advice, Use Only Some
Lots of people have shared advice. They've tweaked my resume, emailed articles, suggested books, and offered countless ways to improve my job search. I've received it all but only acted on some of it. Frankly, there were times I was simply overwhelmed with questions, advice, and the job search. One more thing seemed like heaping more onto the pile I was already trying to process.

Receiving this information is important but I found that some of it simply didn't apply to me.

Celebrate Normal
One piece of advice I received was to celebrate holidays as normal. Have the same foods and do the usual routine. Receiving some gift cards helped this to easily be possible but we were already committed to this. 

Layoffs over Thanksgiving and Christmas are the worst emotional and financially. But many families stepped up and shared their blessings with my family. For this, I am very grateful.

Get On Unemployment Fast
I suspect that every state is different in their procedures, however, getting unemployment benefits isn't a quick process. I didn't want to go through the process as it was one more time-consuming thing to do. More information to fill out, more steps to take, and overall more confirmation that getting out of the swamp was going to take longer. However, I was told more than once about unemployment benefits, "that's what it's there for." So, there's no shame in receiving it.

Share Feelings, Meet People
I've felt like a wounded animal at times and wanted to hide and not talk. And that's okay at times. However, I've been intentional about setting up coffee and breakfast with friends and mentors to allow me time to process this experience and allow them time to offer their experience, advice, and thoughts. It's important and a blessing.

Boundaries
It's been healthy to remove myself from activities. While I wanted to "stay busy" during this time, I didn't want that to be the norm. So, I stepped back from some activities and routines. They were good and things I enjoyed but I also knew that I would spread myself too thin. These functions would be one more thing - one more commitment -  during a time that I needed to rest and reflect.

I was concerned that some wouldn't understand and think I was retreating into hiding. Some may  think that, but those that took the time to hear me out and have been where I am know exactly what's going on. They know the wisdom in creating some space to process this.

Grieve
A layoff is a loss. It's the end of a relationship. While I've remained in touch with some coworkers, the routines of daily communications, projects, and other job functions are gone. Just like any other grief, there's sadness, denial, anger, and depression. At times, I've felt silly. It's just a job. No job should define me! But this is so many other layers, and it's important to recognize it's grief and allowing time to process it.

So, I've learned a lot from the second half of 2017. But I haven't shared the most important thing I learned. 

Abide In The Swamp
I spent so much time being ready for the next thing...ready to get out of swamp...that I never focused on being content at being in the swamp. I knew that the Lord had brought me there, that He would provide for me while there, and that He would get me out of there. However, looking back, only the last month have I really focused on being content, trusting, savoring, resting, and receiving.

I feel more at peace now on this first day of 2018 than I have the last 6 months. Do I expect the emotions not to wash onto my shore? Heck no, they'll come. But my perspective has shifted. That alone will make for a great new year. 

Here's to an amazing 2018!


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