At the end of August, I got laid off.
Economy be damned, it was as quick and as simple as that sentence right there. Out of a job. I didn't screw around at work. I didn't get caught with my hand in the cash register or steal from the store. I didn't sleep with the boss's wife, or even pat the secretary on the bum. I was just unlucky when the economy started to go into the toilet.
You see, I'm a graphic designer by trade. I make and design things that look pretty and make people want to buy them. I have to impress that I am a big goof and an amateur cartoonist by nature. I just love to draw funny pictures. Not that it has anything to do with the reason I was laid off, or the job that I did there, but I'd just felt in the interest of full disclosure, I had to let you know. Plus, it makes me smile to think that I can do that.
Being a graphic designer, is kind of a double edged sword. Especially one of my age and experience. Being without a job, in these tough times especially, you're really subject to the whims and wants of employers who, for the most part, think that just about every half-witted, wide-eyed college graduate has the same level of knowledge and experience that you do. Which is very dangerous. It exposes you to situation after situation of a person who looks at my resume and sees that I have all the experience in the world and expects to try to either underpay me what I'm worth, or hire a kid fresh out of college for half of what they'd pay me, because of their aforementioned philosophy.
Being out of work hits really hard too. Especially when your resume and life's accomplishments are as much a source of pride as mine are. My life sort of reads like Chris Gardener's autobiography, and I plan on making it to the same heights that he did and soaring higher. I came from a household where I can remember having a refrigerator that was empty except for the pink-caked, brownish bottle with the white cap which contained my medicine because I was sick. I swore to myself that my children would NEVER go through that, no matter what.
Needless to say that I had to swallow hard that huge lump that was in my throat the day that I'd filled out my applications for Food Stamps, Energy Assistance, and Government Health Care Programs. I'd worked very hard to support the system and not become a burden on it. No matter how little or big a burden I'd become.
In applying to every Graphic Design Job that I could find, I've learned a lot about myself. More to the point, about my issues with pride and anger. I get angry quick and do not suffer fools gladly.
One thing I honestly have brought myself to a realization about is that I started from nothing and brought myself to great heights. On my own. No help. I did it once before, and whether I like it or not, I have to do it once more.
I was told recently that I was 'My Father's Son'.
It sounds like a compliment, but believe me, the person that was saying it to me, the context that it was said in, and the history of my patriarchal figure head in reference would definitely contradict that.
My father was also a hard worker. Growing up, he'd weathered a lot of storms to make sure that my sister and I grew up with the right ideals and on the outside of a prison system, rather than in it. Along the way, he lost his drive and sense of self worth and became an amazingly broken shell of his former self. Living on other people's couches, not being able to find a job or employment, losing just about everything he had, except for his sanity (which he'd lost one time in my early childhood, a memory of not only him, but my biological mother that I'd soon forget).
This insult said in anger truly cut me to the quick. Here was a person that I am absolutely in love with, a person that I would truly die for and hope to God that I can spend the rest of my life with, so hurt by things that I was foolish enough to have done and made such an impact on them, angering them to a point that they'd taken my worst fears of becoming like the worst parts of a man that I'd once respected, and not only associating me with them, but saying in no uncertain terms that I was becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy and a mirror image of this very same man.
A wake up call begins with those words.
It reminds me of an old Tom and Jerry Cartoon. Nibbles is sent to live with Jerry because his mother cannot take care of him. So Jerry spends the entire cartoon protecting Nibbles from Tom, because Nibbles is fond of milk and Tom's got a great big bowl of it. There's a point where Jerry's stuck in a bottle and Tom corners Nibbles, who cowers in that same corner and like a true child, tucks head down and bottom up. Tom rears back and uses whatever is in his hand to deliver a brand of justice that I myself reserve for VERY serious occasions.
The next scene is Nibbles holding his bottom and Jerry breaks from the bottle to rush to Nibbles' aid. When we see the tiny mouse's bum is scarlet, Jerry begins to anger and swell in the chest. He lets loose with a roar that shouldn't have come from a mouse of his size and frightens Tom into a very chalky, white complexion.
This was the anger I'd felt.
The inner roar of disappointment at myself and my situation.
The sheer rage at the fact that I'd allowed myself to be so dumb as to even conceive of the fear that I would become like my father, let alone start down that path and then have someone pick up on it and exploit it, all of it swirled and exploded in my heart and my head and I swear I could've torn the house I'm now residing in in half with my bare hands with the amount of anger I'd felt.
But it ebbed and dissolved. The house wasn't to blame. The person on the other end of the line wasn't to blame. My unemployment, the fact that I'd sent out my resume SEVENTY TWO times and am still without job, the deathtrap of a car that I drive, my divorce, my situations with both my daughter and my son, my career, my cartooning, none of it was to blame.
It was me.
It was that same anger that I felt when I replayed the scene with Jerry in my head, it was the sense of pride that told me that I'd deserved better out of myself and therefore needed a dragon to slay in whatever form it came in. It was my selfish sense that everyone should wipe away the snot from my nose and give me a hand up from all of this. That's what was to blame. Me.
So, now I have to rebuild the castle I'd thought that I was building for myself all of these years. What was it that I was told a few days ago?
'Career moves are made daily'
There was also something that was said in a great movie once as well.
'Deserves ain't got nothin' to do with it.'