[I apologize if a draft of this showed up in your reader earlier. I hit publish when I meant to save a draft!]
I'm having trouble approaching the writing of this post. I've tried to write it in my head for a couple days. And for a year before that. I feel like if I start to write about it, the floodgates will open and I won't be able to stop. It's not a short story. It's not blog worthy. It's memoir worthy.
Although I've alluded to it many times over the last year, I've never blogged about the overriding factor in our little life since last spring. I haven't wanted to be disingenuous because I think it is so important to share our stories openly and honestly. But when I've sat down to write, "it" is not what I have wanted to write about because I'd been thinking about it too much during the day. And though it has had a huge impact on my life with my husband, it felt like this is his story to tell more than mine.
But now I have a good reason to share. As I will go into more detail about below, a very kind couple shared their story with us and it made a big difference. Maybe someone else will read my version of our story and find some support as well.
Matt was laid off last spring. He was laid off and a year later he is still looking for work. Losing his job was painful.
Getting over the biting shock of the layoff took months. He had to figure out who he was without that job, possibly without the career he'd spent years of his life sacrificing for. We also had to reconstruct a life together.
At one point, it was his dream job. In that final year, he'd been required to travel more and more, with few days off. He was worn to the bone. I called it as "survivor the job" and trusted it less and less to provide for him - not just financially but to provide a good life for us. He felt stuck - bound to a dream but unsure of how to hold on to it and move forward. When some people lose a job, it's just a job. They'll eventually find another one, so the financial pressures are the worst of it. For us, the worse part was losing part of a dream.
Our family has been overwhelming supportive, including my father. A father-in-law could have been his toughest critic, give the adages about fathers-in-law. Our close family and friends' immediate responses were that it was for the best. It was time to move on. This was a painful way to move on, but it was time. My dad told him that it was normal to be down, but he once saw a program about people who'd gone through job loss during downturns and most said it gave them the opportunity to figure out what they wanted to do. In the end, they are grateful it happened.
And that is true. He got off the treadmill, and did a lot of hard introspection about what he wanted to do next. We thought this would last a few months and by the end of summer, something would come through.
Then the economy just got worse and worse. There were the daily reminders of layoffs and climbing unemployment levels that buzzed like mosquito in our ears. Sometimes I screamed at the radio or the TV to SHUT UP! Eventually some friends, family, and neighbors lost their jobs too. The rest worried.
He's applied for hundreds, possibly over a thousand jobs now. He's heard back from about a dozen. He's had a few interviews. Mostly the positions vanish because of budget cuts. He's had a few, "We want to set up an interview with you," but then the person who initiated contact with him becomes unreachable. He's seen a career counselor. He's tweaked his resume multiple times. Gotten feedback from friends and family. He's contacted recruiters who didn't respond. Recruiters have contacted him and then didn't follow up. People have said they want to hire him but then can't give him a job description or a salary range. He's networked. Joined LinkedIn. Attended career fairs. Taken a class to upgrade his skills. Applied for a job at a grocery store after having a job where he managed sales accounts in over 20 states.
He's worked his butt off to get work. It is BRUTAL out there!
See what I mean about the floodgates?
There's more I could say. There have been a lot of silver linings. We got Kaia, and she led to a lot of new friendships with our neighbors. We didn't have time for community before, and now we do. There's the time we've spent together. There's been the realigning and reinventing of priorities and goals and identities. Matt joined a hockey team, his other non-career passion, and is much healthier, despite it all. We are stronger.
But the ups and downs continue for now. It just drags on relentlessly. Which leads me to the point of bringing all this up now.
In March I ran across an ad for a contest for a "Pink Slip Giveaway". Those who had been laid off for more than six months could apply to win a two night stay at an inn in Vermont. I sent it to Matt and forgot about it.
Then a month ago, I was sitting at the kitchen table working on finals when Matt ran into the room whooping, jumping, celebrating. We won! I didn't even realize he'd applied, but we were one of the couples chosen. They said Matt's letter touched their hearts. He wrote that I had been working very hard at school and he hadn't been able to provide a true getaway for me to relax. That almost made me cry.
In February, we splurged and spent a night in New Hampshire for my spring break and it was wonderful. But other than that, we've stayed close to home for about 7 months which is unusual for us. We've taken a few trips to see family, but true vacations for the two of us have been on hold until now.
There's a lot I could say about the three days we spent in Vermont, but the most important thing to say is that Leslie and Brian, the innkeepers at Rabbit Hill Inn, did this because they'd been through it themselves during the recession in the 90s.It was a horrible ordeal for them, and during the worst of it, they came up to the Rabbit Hill Inn for a night to escape the pressure. It was a turning point. Years later they moved up and became assistant inn keepers. Now they own the Inn.
I can't really describe for you what it was like to meet them and share our story and hear theirs. It was a true gift. An act of kindness and mercy, to reach out to people who are going through the private hell you once went through, and offer them not only empathy but a reprieve for a few days. I feel like I will be searching for ways to pay their generosity forward for years to come.
On top of the moral support they provided, their Inn is impeccable. It was without a doubt (and I'm not just saying this because we won their contest) the most hospitable and cozy place I've ever stayed. From the moment we walked through the door, we felt welcomed and comfortable. They provide an idyllic New England experience. I absolutely feel in love with quietness of the Northeast Kingdom, just north of the tourist hubbub in White Mountains of New Hampshire and nestled in the pastoral hills and valleys of Vermont.
Matt and I definitely favor a "modern" aesthetic and steer that way when we book accommodations, but we loved the tasteful and well-placed decor in our room. I imagined staying in a just room like this if Abigail Adams invited me for a stay. Matt spent a lot of time stretched out by the fire reading. The fireplace was set to turn off an hour after it was turned on, so you could fall asleep to fire lit.
Sixty-eight people live in Lower Waterford where the Rabbit Hill Inn is located. The library across the street from the Inn is on the honor system. You fill out a slip with what books you took. You bring them back when you're done. Knock on wood, they've never had a problem. Gee, the golden retriever, greeted us at the door.
The Connecticut River is just down the way.
In addition to the accommodations, we were treated to the most spectacular breakfasts and a candlelit 3 course dinner, prepared by a chef who incorporates local and seasonal ingredients whenever possible. We kept marveling at how precisely the asparagus was sliced. I took a chance with my first dinner course and chose halibut with fava beans and chocolate mint. The fish and beans were set in a pool of chocolate sauce, and believe it or not, the combination was divine. Our entrees were even better. And I tell you, when you're in Vermont, skip the sweet dessert and order the cheese plate!
There are no TVs, although you can check one out if you want to watch a DVD, but it's not likely. Internet access is limited to the den. There are no phones in the rooms and cell phone service is a little spotty. And that is exactly why it is such a fabulous place to stay. Instead of these everyday distractions, they have a cozy den/pub set up with game tables and handcrafted Stave puzzles. The first night we drank some local beers (Long Trail and Trout River) and played Boggle and Upwords. The next night after our amazing dinner, we retreated again to a cozy corner of the pub to play a round of Parcheesi before bed.
If you'd stayed with me this long, thank you for hearing me out. There will be a happy ending to this story. Matt's been doing some work, unpaid so far, for a new small business he believes in. It might pay eventually. It might not. Time will tell. So far he hasn't had to resort to dubious jobs like selling life insurance to the elderly (he interviewed for that one - the scam businesses come out in full force during a recession to prey on the vulnerable and unemployed alike). Last week, after a long dry spell, he got a phone call from a colleague who recommended him for a job in his field. Par for the course, they probably won't hire for a couple months. But it's a crack in the door.
As long as we've had understanding, not judgment, and an indication that things will turn around eventually, we've been okay. We're luckier than many. We'd saved but not bought a house. I had some income. We've cut back. He got a severance package. Massachusetts has universal health care and generous unemployment benefits. These things make a huge difference and have kept us afloat.
If you're going through this too, keep going. Have your bad days, then wake up the next day to try again. Find people. Find some time to do enjoyable activities. Treat yourself once in awhile. It really will be okay. We'll all pull through, especially if we pay forward those random acts of kindness and empathy.