The Joys Of Being Pink-Slipped
This is the only blog I’ll ever write in the first person here. I debated all day whether to write it, but I must.
Last January was the biggest month for layoffs last year, I’ve read. And I, and several close colleagues, were among those who were pink-slipped. The three boxes, with 16 years of memories, that I packed up that week are still sitting near the door inside my condo. Reed Business Information, my ex-employer, paid for the shipping.
I guess there are a lot of people who are a lot more resilient than I am, but I took it hard. It’s tough when you’ve been getting into work by 7:15 a.m., and leaving at 6 p.m. or later, working on weekends, working on vacations, to screech down to zero miles an hour.
For several months, I could not eat. For several months, I could not sleep. For several months, I literally could not smile. For several months, I could not laugh. For several months, I could not listen to music. For several months, I did not have one minute of happiness. No exaggeration.
I saw “Up In The Air” recently — which features folk who were laid off in real life in the movie as actors — expressing their anger at being fired. I almost wish I had thrown everything off the table like some of those people, instead of acting “professional.” But what goes around comes around. The HR guy who gave me my bad news was himself laid off recently.
You know those cliches you hear about, about finding out who your real friends are? Those cliches are true. You don’t hear a peep from your good “friends” at work. The PR people who loved you at upfront parties don’t return your phone calls. The cable network presidents who always seemed to enjoy chatting with you when you were employed are curt during phone calls. Some idiot asked one of my laid-off compadres how they where enjoying their “vacation.”
People — and I’ve interviewed them in my new incarnation — have survived real challenges and tragedies, like cancer or losing a loved one. What about the people in Haiti? So boo-hoo for me being upset about not having a job. Big deal. Don’t whine. But like I said, it hit me hard. At one point, I even feared I could never write a story again.
But my family and true friends pulled me through, and this is my thank-you note to them. You guys know who you are, in Parsippany, Whippany, Staten Island, Wyckoff and Westfield, and Vermont.
And the tide turned for me.
When I filed my first major story after my layoff, for a startup Web site, the editor said it was the cleanest story he ever read.
A very kind PR executive at a local hospital chain gave me a break, and let me do volunteer work for her department. Several of my press releases got placement, in papers including The Star-Ledger. I had the honor of interviewing people who wept as they told me how the hospital had saved their lives. I loved writing their stories.
Bon Jovi released a new album, and Showtime aired a documentary on them. I got to go a screening, where they served margaritas (my favorite), and I later interviewed the band. It became another story that generated a lot of Web traffic.
All of a sudden New Jersey, of all places, became a mecca for reality TV shows like “Jersey Shore.” And I was able to write stories about the shows, and about the trend. They were among the Web site’s Top-10 viewed stories.
I got back on the cable-network PR radar, and was able to interview and write about Kurt Sutter, creator of one of my favorite shows, FX “Sons of Anarchy.” Hey, he’s from Jersey.
I realized I still had my reporting chops when a got nice exclusive for TVNewscheck. It felt great.
Cablevision, with 900,000 customers in New Jersey, and Food Network got in a fight. Another story for me.
I posted a note on my bulletin board shortly after I was pink-slipped. It’s a quote from Western author Louis L’Amour: “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. Yet that will be the beginning.”
It turned out to be true. Without my layoff, I would never have been able to tell the tales of those who were saved by the hospital, and I would not have met the great women in the PR department there.
I would not have sat down and eaten in a soup kitchen, as I did as part of my research for a series on the Salvation Army. The people eating there, some homeless, were so kind. Seeing me as a newcomer, and not knowing I was a reporter, one came over and welcomed me.
I wouldn’t have had the nerve to start a blog, on home shopping, timed to coincide with Suzanne Somers’ move to ShopNBC from HSN, a seismic shift in that little world. In only five months, people in the home-shopping industry tell me Homeshoppingista is now a must-read for them.
I have had to think long and hard about what I want to do.
On “Southland” — right now airing on my TV, and on TNT — one character says, “You’re a cop because you don’t know how not to be one.”
I’m a writer because I don’t know how not to be one.