Tuesday, May 5, 2009

On the Road to Unemployment

I'm now living in the limbo world between relative financial security and wondering how I'm going to pay the bills.

Okay. Perhaps that's a bit overdramatic, but that's the way it feels. I found out late last week that we would be getting our "RIF" (reduction in force) letters on May 29. Since I've worked here over ten years, that will serve as my 90-day notice. I will have until the end of August and then it's goodbye paycheck and goodbye health benefits for both me and my family. Strangely, the one benefit that DOESN'T expire is I will have life insurance for one year after that date. I will thus have the ghoulish satisfaction of knowing I will literally be worth more dead than alive.

On the one hand, not getting the "letter of doom" for a few more weeks is nice in that it gives me a few extra weeks of pay. On the other hand, from an emotional standpoint, it just seems to prolong the inevitable. Another little cosmic insult is that 90 days from May 29 will be August 27. And the 20th anniversary of my full time employment at WFUM? August 28. Yup. I won't even get a 20-year service award... one lousy day short!!!

A relative who went through the unemployment process said that for a couple weeks it was difficult, but after that, she started dealing with things more positively. I hope so. For me, I've been dealing with things well enough during the day. It's just when I wake up in the middle of the night that I feel there's a cloud of despair over me. It's just the uncertainty of it all. What's going to happen? Will I have to move? How much less will my new job pay when and if I find one? Will we be able to pay the bills? Will my wife need to find a new job to supplement our income?

Ugh! It all seems to hit at once. Even during the day it feels as though there's a river of dread somewhere in the background slowly wearing away at me. What I need is a good dose of Tao or Zen or perhaps just a good dose of alcohol.

In other news, I've been asked by the Flint Journal to write a guest opinion piece about the University's defunding of WFUM. It's scheduled to run on Monday, May 11. Some folks at the University might not like it, but what are they gonna do? Fire me? Besides, it was written in a respectful manner (not that I wasn't TEMPTED to be rude!) so I don't think they should get TOO bent outta shape. I don't flatter myself into thinking my opinion will actually change anything, but if I were to walk away without making a final statement in defense of WFUM, I would never forgive myself.

And in between everything else going on, I've been looking at help wanted ads. There was absolutely nothing that would be a good fit for a PBS veteran like myself. Local ads? Nothing. National ads? Nothing. It was SO frustrating! Then, however, my wife saw an ad for a job in Ann Arbor (not at the University)that sounds like it's right up my alley. Repetitive, detail-oriented nerd work. I cranked out a usable resume in one night and wrote a cover letter today. I don't even know what the job pays (it could be minimum wage with no benefits, for all I know) but it just feels SO good to have SOMETHING out there. It may not pan out, there may be dozens of more qualified applicants, but just being able to send in an application and knowing there's a chance of something fills me with hope.

Hopefully, sometime tomorrow the letter and resume will go into the mailbox. And then we'll see.

One other thing I do have to look forward to our family vacation to Washington DC in mid-June. The fact that we're still taking it has surprized some people, but we decided to since: 1.) the trip was already half paid for back in January... back when I thought I had a secure job, and 2.) given the age of our children it may be the last chance we have for a nice family trip for a long time... if ever again. The crappy thing is the extent of my "severance package" is that I get to cash out my accumulated vacation time, so this may ultimately turn out to be one expensive vacation in more ways than one. But sometimes you just have to enjoy life when you can.

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