The Funemployment Begins

A little over two weeks ago, I became funemployed.

Mt. Rainier National Park Photo by: Leone Kraus

Mt. Rainier National Park
Photo by: Leone Kraus

“Leone, your position has been eliminated,” my boss said to me.

Eliminated.

Apparently being eliminated is better than fired because being fired means you did something terrible in your job. I didn’t, or at least that is what they tell me. My elimination was the result of a merger. Merger = restructuring = my job title entirely disappeared.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been funemployed—it’s the third. The first time was over a decade ago when I worked at the medical bookstore at the University of California San Francisco. I was eight months in and about to be protected by the union, which means it would have been difficult to let me go from that point on. While I was wrapping up the Halloween window display, my manager invited me into her office.

“Sales are on the up and up this quarter.” Although not in my job description, I kept track of this sort of thing. My entry-level job was otherwise pretty boring. Tracking data gave me something to do, it was fun for me, and it helped management to know what to order. This was during the time of the SARs outbreak and sales of thermometers and facemasks were through the roof.

“Leone, we have to let you go,” she said as she began to cry.

“I’m sorry, what do you mean?”

This was the first time I’d heard the phrase “let you go,” I wasn’t sure what she meant by this. My boss didn’t say anything back. The meaning sunk in.

“Should I still come in to work tomorrow?”

“We’re going to pay you for tomorrow as severance.” She paused. “I’m so sorry.”

I remember feeling shocked and not knowing how I was supposed to respond. This was a first for me, having worked continuously in some manner since age 12. I walked out, leaving my belongings behind – realizing later that I didn’t have it in me to go back for anything. I try to look ahead, rather than dwelling on the circumstances. It is too easy during the first week or so to make myself crazy by thinking about all the “what if I would have…” possibilities, as if I could control things that were circumstantial and out of my hands.

The second time I was funemployed was when I was working for an art university in San Francisco. After nearly five years on the job, I decided it was time to leave San Francisco to make a new life in New York City. I loved my job and my job loved me. When I told them I was relocating to New York City they said they wanted to find a way to allow me to work remotely.

After spending a week settling into my apartment in Park Slope the head of human resources called me to inform me that they decided that the insurance and employment logistics from New York City were too difficult to manage. (Couldn’t they try to figure this out before I moved?) I was now unemployed and in a new city.

Both times I’ve become funemployed, I’ve been able to bounce back. After my role at the UCSF bookstore, I found my groove at the art university. From the art university, I moved on to The Washington Post Company. Each time I was able to take a step up and a step beyond where I was in my prior role. In neither case would I have forseen my next career jump, and likely would not have moved up as quickly if I had not been booted out on my rear. Careers can be interesting this way.

Where will this third time take me?

Before I leap into my next career, heeding the advice of many friends, I want to take a moment to do all the things I’ve been meaning to do. After all, opportunities for taking time off while collecting back your tax dollars don’t come often. Within reason, of course, I AM funemployed. So far I’ve brewed more beer (amber ale? raspberry belgian wheat anyone?), submitted stagnant insurance claims, refurbished a park bench that I purchased at Goodwill months ago (sorry Restoration Hardware), rummaged through my closet to pull out clothes I’m ready to donate, reorganized our filed cabinets, cooked new and exciting dishes like vegetarian frittata and salmon tacos, deep-cleaned the floors, and gone cross-country skiing a few hours outside the city.

On the career side of things, I’ve done what you’re supposed to do when you become funemployed. I’ve activated my network. So far, I’ve had half a dozen coffee dates to determine what possibilities are out there and what might be a good fit, taken the lead role for the Seattle chapter of Lesbians Who Tech, and completely revamped my resume with the help of a friend who has tons of experience looking at tons of resumes.

In my third week of funemployment, I’m over the shock and the hump of wondering how this could have happened. Now I’m ready to enjoy life and to move on to the next bigger, better thing.

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