A Somber Anniversary

This week marks a frustrating and sad anniversary for me: Two years ago–January 21, 2011–was my last day at my editing gig at a trade/B2B publication here in Chicago.

First, allow me to back it up a titch and regale you about how the fun began two weeks earlier.

I arrived at work on that crappy cold-as-fuck morning, had just enough time to put my stuff down on my desk, take off my coat, and say hello to my co-workers before the Editor-in-Chief asked me to take a walk with him. I found this a bit odd since he never paid me much attention, unless it was to gripe about something, or if he needed me to order some sort of pen.

So, when we rounded the corner that separated the newsroom from sales, and into a small conference room where the resident HR drone was waiting, my stomach flip-flopped. My mouth went dry and my chest felt like it was going to resemble Kane’s in “Alien”–but with my heart bursting out & smacking both the EIC and HR right in their mugs instead of a parasite that would eventually kill the entire fucking masthead. A wry smile crossed my lips for a brief second at that thought, but it quickly vanished when I heard the following:

“Um, yeah. Julia. We’re going to lay you off–it’s nothing personal of course–we’re just eliminating your position so we can add more to the sales team.”

What happened next few minutes was a blur. I do, however, remember giving the EIC a look that would kill a planet, tightening my jaw until it ached and feeling the tears starting to build up. Sadly, the death glare didn’t land because he wouldn’t look me in the face, but he did manage to set the land speed record for waddling out of the conference room so he could alert my colleagues of my fate.

You know, to save face and look like a fucking hero.

“Gosh, we really like Julia, but tight budgets are preventing us from keeping her on. So, I know she’s looking for work, so please help her out if you can.”

My immediate boss was absent that day so when she got my tearful phonecall an hour later, needless to say, she was furious. The next couple of weeks were a blur of phonecalls to friends slash possible employers, resume prep, buckets of tears, lashing out at everyone, allowing my shocked soon-to-be-former co-workers take me out for lunches and post-work drinks, and trying my damndest to not kick both the EIC and ME in the balls. It took alll of my god-given strength to NOT throw my ass in the shitastic Chicago River when I learned that an intern would be doing my job.

Not personal, eh? Go fuck yourself.

The last couple of years hurled all sorts of puke/jiz-filled crappy crap at me. I don’t know which moments were the most fucked-in-the-head: Was it the the snow storm that hit the area about a week after I was canned? Or was it the pubic-hair freezing cold that pounded Chicago in the ass afterwards? Or, was it going out to LA to look for work and have many jobs dangled in front of me only to have them taken away just as I was making arrangements to move my life west? Maybe it was three interviews I had with a certain Chicago media outlet that always hired someone too young and inexperienced over me, only to have that person leave a few months later because the work was “too hard.” This happened three times.

It coulda been the publisher in Florida who flat-out asked me my age during a phone interview, and when I gently reminded him that what he was asking me was, gosh, ILLEGAL, he proclaimed he didn’t care. I ended the interview soon after.

Perhaps it was the approximately 500 carefully crafted resumes with the appropriate key words and phrases I sent out that were probably mocked, laughed at and tossed in digital circular files–I have no idea which one of these events have helped push me down Crap Mountain the fastest, but I do know this much–

THE LAST TWO YEARS HAVE BEEN A MAJOR PIG FUCK.

Somedays, I can’t move. I don’t leave the apartment. I read my New York Times, the New Yorker, maybe watch my stories on the tee vee, watch porn on the computer–anything to distract me from the fact that I am a miserable failure. While I am well aware that there are many in my situation–and in worse situations–I can’t worry about them. Does that make me cold & heartless? Naah, it makes me realistic because I highly doubt they give a red rat’s ass about me.

Other days, I work on my book that no one will ever read, do Bikram yoga and consider cooking meth in my kitchen. I help other friends find work, read reports and a thesis or two for a pittance. I cheer when my friends find work, and am sad for them when they lose their jobs. My happiness for their successes is genuine, but so is my anger and resentment. It’s difficult to be around friends who are successful and have jobs, so I don’t go out much. Plus, this city is expensive.

I’m thankful for my health (knock on wood), and the facts that I’m well-educated, and don’t have a mortgage or kids to worry about. I don’t want to think about where I’d be if either of those were a factor.

I felt some cold-comfort upon learning that both the EIC and ME were canned under new management. Since it’s not my style to revel in someone else’s misfortunes, my happiness immediately turned to concern because they both have families and mortgages. But then again, they’ll probably find work before I do, so fuck ’em.

So, what am I to do? Keep getting out of bed every day. Keep on with the writing because my book is turning out to be a gem.

And most of all, not listen to those folks who tell me I can’t succeed. One of ‘those folks’ happens to be me, but that voice is getting fainter and fainter with each passing moment.

I think Madonna said it best below.