Greeting the New Year with Optimism
A new year always brings resolutions, vows to do better, and crowds to the nearest health club eager to reduce their holiday bulge. The latter is typically followed by a dramatic decline in turnouts come February.
But when it comes to a challenge starting over in a nascent 2022, few have it tougher than the 900 employees who learned in a recent Zoom call that they were being laid off, effectively immediately.
Bad enough that they apparently had no warning of this move. But to find out just before Christmas was insult on top of injury.
It’s nearing the 40-year mark since the same thing happened to me. Not in exactly the same way, since there was no Zoom, internet or smartphones in 1982. But when I heard a VP ask my supervisor, “Did you tell him yet?” I instinctively knew they were talking about me.
This happened to be the day I returned from a month-long absence after contracting mononucleosis. There’s a good reason they call mono “sleeping sickness.” Many days during my sabbatical resting was my main activity.
After a number of awkward delays and discussions, I agreed to leave quietly in mid-December with two weeks’ severance. Merry Christmas.
While I had no positive prospects in front of me, after all these years I remember how free I felt walking out the doors of that company for the last time.
About eight years later, I got a call one day from the assistant editor of a magazine I had been writing for regularly, a job that helped launch my freelance career.
She was fuming about an out-of-nowhere downsizing at her office. She felt the intimidation of being watched like a hawk during the one hour she had to clean out here desk made it that much worse.
“I know you’re hurting right now,” I told her. “But believe me, it’s better this way. After you’re over the shock, you’ll appreciate that it was over quickly. I went through the opposite and that’s even more painful.”
There were several lessons I learned from my forced exit that may help anyone hoping to start over this year:
- Sometimes things don’t work out.
Better to avoid finger-pointing and blame-casting and move on. Nursing wounds and stewing in your rejection can cause you to say or do things you will later regret. Accept reality, deal with it, and keep your memory short.
- You may have been given a new lease on life.
In my case, even though I wanted to go out on my own, I lacked the courage until I had no choice. Taking a job in the same field looked to me like a sideways move. I had seen others do that and wind up hopping from place to place.
While the first several years were tough, eventually I made more money on my own than I ever did working for someone else.
- Today really is the first day of the rest of your life.
Those were the words that adorned a popular poster in my college days, a rather cliched saying that we 20-somethings thought was brilliant. But it’s true. You can’t go back to the future, only forward.
Greet the opportunities that lie ahead of you with optimism. It doesn’t matter if you can’t see how things will work out. Neither did Mary and she gave birth to the Savior of the world.