A year ago, I lost my job. Gannett was “reorganizing” its newsrooms in Iowa City and Des Moines (among others) and that came with a 15 percent reduction in staff.
I had the, um, “opportunity” to interview for two jobs in the reorganized “newsroom of the future,” but I knew Iowa City wasn’t in my future: the jobs that best fit my skill set were moved to Des Moines. The best-case scenario would have been to sublease the apartment we’d moved into six weeks before and move to Des Moines to work in some really impressive facilities alongside a lot of talented people I still admire.
Instead, I got two weeks to finish up my projects at the Press-Citizen and then three weeks of “transitional pay” to supplement my unemployment insurance.
I was a little salty about it.
OK, I was a lot salty about it.
Those of you who’ve followed my story know that we decided to cut our losses in Iowa and moved into my in-laws’ house near Wichita.
A year ago, George thought he would never teach or coach again. Today, he’s an assistant defensive line coach for a 7-0 high school football team ranked No. 1 in the state.
A year ago, I spent my free time agonizing over which bills to pay each month, because there was never enough money to pay all of them. Today, our household income is about 25% more than it was, so we just pay the damn bills.
A year ago — or maybe a year and one day ago — I honestly believed things were never going to get any better. During my morning commute I would fantasize about getting into a wreck so I wouldn’t have to go into work. Today, I actually have things to look forward to — weddings and holidays and, hopefully, high school football playoffs.
And now we have our own place again. Oh, and we adopted an English bulldog, Red.
We’re living a more modest version of the dream.
I’m still wrestling with the idea that my journalism career is probably over. I miss working in a newsroom, but I don’t miss the low pay, cruddy hours, and chronic lack of resources that come with it. Journalists (much like teachers) tend to wrap their profession into their identity, and that’s something I’m learning to let go.
A year ago, I lost my job and everyone told me it was a blessing in disguise. Normally I’d resent that statement. Bad stuff happens all the time and it is, by definition, a suboptimal outcome. But on this day a year ago, people told me I’d be alright and somehow I knew that I would.
I am, for reasons I don’t quite understand, blessed beyond measure in the Supportive Friends and Family department. Maybe that’s what made the difference this year.
So if your life sucks right now, please know that things can change drastically and rapidly. Sometimes — at least one time in recorded history — that drastic, rapid change is the beginning of something better.