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Losing a job can be very traumatic. How to recover from a layoff?
Been laid off? It has an emotionally draining effect. So, what is the best way to cope with a layoff?

RELEASE the flood of negative emotions out of your system; if you try to hold back that anger, you will only make yourself sick and feel lousy.

One of the solutions is to write about your feelings, all of them. Put your pain, fear, anger, frustrations, and grief down on paper. Say what you want to say, need to say, on the page. This is called cathartic writing. The purpose of cathartic writing is to empty your head and providing all important emotional release. Here is a good example, well written piece by Ana Sierra Leonard.

Put your screams and yells on the paper, look at them with the eyes of a detached observer and then calmly move on.

The unavoidable fact is that the only person who's really got your best interests at heart is you. Not to worry too much about it. Every negative has a positive, even if it is hard to see it.

Career hurts, but life goes on...


Downsized! Time To Take Huelita's Advice

Ana Sierra Leonard

University of Cincinnati

This narrative poem examines the layoff survivor syndrome from a first person perspective, in the format of a journal entry. The survivor is a second-generation Hispanic, female executive at a financial institution remembering the advice of her grandmother, Huelita, whose view of the downsizing is through the lens of the garment district workplace.

Winter, 1996

    I am one of the last survivors of a venerable hundred-year-old Wall Street firm. We recently moved to the fourth floor of an old, unwanted, downtown Manhattan location where the bones of another long gone brokerage firm are buried. Our world has collapsed, struck down by internal hemorrhaging with no chance of recuperation. Blank-eyed, soon to be unemployed, we wander from task to task without mission or purpose. Strangers in three-piece suits, out of place as if in a time warp, busy themselves picking through the financial remains like vultures over a fresh carcass.

      (Huelita said, "You stay there. They want you to go so they donít have to pay you your money. Those people are pillos, crooks. You make them pay.")


    Taking her advice, I drag myself to work everyday. Signs of decay and planned demise go from barely noticeable to obscenely obvious. Overhead lights that were once repaired immediately, now flicker for indeterminate periods before plunging into darkness never to be replaced. Offices of the once rich and famous are temporary rest stops for stacks of rusted gray cabinets. Unadorned coat racks lean against abandoned cubicle walls, lined up like unarmed soldiers after a war. The cleaning lady doesnít bother to unwrap the toilet paper; she throws a few rolls inside the bathroom door and quickly leaves as if escaping a leper colony. The elevators have joined the general meltdown: they donít come cleanly to a quick halt; they donít go directly to the requested floor. They bounce gently to stop for long periods of time on now unoccupied floors, waiting for passengers that never come.

      (Huelita said, "No dejas de trabajar. You do your work. They want you to feel shame. They want you to think that you are worth nothing. You must go ahead and do your work.")


    So, I keep coming back. Women in my family have always worked. My grandmother spent fifty-two years, a proud union member, sewing samples at the same lingerie factory in the garment district of New York City. She was surrounded by row after row of tables covered with the material of the season: polyester, flannel, cotton, nylon, and rayon. Huge spools of multi-colored ribbons, trimming and lace hung down around her, surrounding her machines like the drapes hiding the magician in the Wizard of Oz.

      (Huelita says, "No seas estķpida. Pay no attention to those men behind those curtains in their corner offices. You donít have the union people to fight for you? Get a job next time that you donít have to be a boss so you can be in el uniůn.")


    Last summer, right before her eightieth birthday, she went down to one of those boarded-up firetrap garment factories and asked this old geezer if she could do some part time work. She didnít need the money. She was bored. Why he even bothered to even give this white-haired stooped over old lady the time of day is beyond me but, maybe he was bored too. He gave her the once over and says, "Can ya woik dat machine?" In response, she sits down at a Singer, carefully threads it with her semi-knarled hands and sews a seam faster and straighter than any of the illegals heís paying less than minimum wage to. ĎStoogeí starts salivating and points to the embroiderer, "Öand dat one?" She shrugs her one good shoulder, grins to herself like an old fool and spins her way back in time to the lace factory where she had her first job in Puerto Rico.

      (Huelita said, "I finished my high school diploma. Did you know that? I got a good factory job to help my Mama. In this way, I married the only taxi driver in Rio Piedras and came to America. That is why I have my own house. You finished the masters so you can have your own house too. We have the education so the bosses want us. You stay right there and get their money from them before you go.")


    As do all young people, she had dreams and they cost money. She had to pay for her dreams, the dreams of her family, the dreams of her people. If she could pay for them, she would be loved, wanted, needed. Money brought her the power she wielded because she worked. So when Mr. Garment Factory Boss Man eagerly whispered breathlessly, "Sweetheart, when can ya start?" she feels whole again, triumphant, still capable of being in charge. Imagine the look on his face when she turned around, winked and said, "Never mind, I donít need this job."

      (Huelita said, "You donít need this job. I have plenty money from el pensiůn and from the social security and from El Viejoís pensiůn. You can have it if you need it. But those people owe you that money from all the years you work. You stay until they pay you. You make that Mr. Boss Man pay but you donít need his job.")


    Not to say that I donít need a job, just that this is the first time that Iíve faced the prospect of not having one. And, Mr. Boss Man, I donít want just any job. I can get any job. I just thought that this retirement at someone elseís expense would be a great time to make my mark on the world. You know, that one career making opportunity where I could change the culture of a corporation, get my picture on the cover of Forbes, write that New York Times best-selling book and retire with a worthy epitaph ("The Enterprise Queen...").

    Intellectually, this is the perfect time to regroup. No more sixty, seventy hour weeks. No more decisions upon which my next bonus is decided. No more giving a damn about whether or not the CFO, CIO, CEO or COO believes that I am valuable to the firm. Now, I am the firm. Thatís empowerment. (Okay, so thereís almost nothing left but itís all mine!)

      (Huelita said, "If you have to get a job and be a vice president again, you should tell them that you are not going to stay to the end when they start to lose the money. Tell them you want good benefits like the union people get. Tell them you donít need the job but they need you. Yes sir. They need you.")


    In retrospect, the value of this experience was that it was a virtually risk free environment. I began to make decisions that I felt too confined to make before the firm closed; what were they going to do, fire me? I canít understand the people who rarely showed up for work, did nothing, took no risks, made no decisions and never got past the anger phase. Oh, it was pretty much justified as a Ďthey owe it to me after I worked so hard and then they abandoned meí attitude. Once I hit acceptance (and, trust me, it took longer and felt worse than I thought it would), there was no looking back. Just how many opportunities will a provincial, Brooklyn-born, Baptist-bred, puertorriqueŮa get to sit down and go mano-a-mano with a hard-nosed, butt-kicking, cigar-smoking chief financial officer? Look Huelita, Iím playing with the big boys now!

      (Huelita said, "Donít forget God. Go to church and thank him for your   work. Thank him that you can make your own money. Remember your family. Donít let those people treat you bad or your stomach will kill you. Take good care of yourself.")


    But playing with the big boys has its costs. Iíve had the flu seven times in four months. My husband and daughter retreat to their respective corners when I get home. Sympathetic survivors stare at me with sidelong glances in ghostly hallways. Whatís left of the shreds of management wonder why I smile during pointless still-endless meetings. Long-gone co-workers check in on me to see how the patient is doing. (God bless those phone calls; theyíre like getting flowers in the hospital.) And, most people probably feel as did one of the last to leave; he bid me a fond farewell with a "Get a grip. Get out. We're dead."

    Iím not one of those people naive enough to think that a life long commitment to a corporation will be rewarded with a gold watch and a nice pension. Iím a woman of the nineties, a baby-boomer, a poverty phoenix. Nobody owes me a thing. Contrary to what Newt thinks, I donít think this is a welfare state. (Can you believe that after I approached this toe-tapping mortician of an executive about the unfair treatment my staff was receiving, he said to me, "What do you people want? Something for nothing?" I wanted to take his golden parachute and tie his butt up to the flagpole outside the unemployment office.) Well, my guilt was in believing that integrity, loyalty, hard work, commitment and professionalism would be recognized and rewarded. What was I thinking?

      (Huelita said, "We have to do what we have to do.")


    So, Iíve been sizing up the situation. You have to do what you like and what pays the bills. Sometimes you luck out and thereís a match. Sometimes you do what you like and skip the amenities. Life isnít fair but every dog has his day. One day that parachute wonít open and Mr. Boss Man will pass me on the way down. Iíll remember to give him Huelitaís regards.

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