NOVEMBER 12, 2009 12:48PM

I lost my job. Life sucks. Or maybe not.

Rate: 34 Flag

So, I got a call on the way to one of my jobs yesterday, in ER, where I work as a travel nurse (a good deal, tax-wise, and flexible).  I've been working at the same ER for over a year, because I like it better than any of the other 6 or 8 I've worked in.

Over that year, the place began to feel like home - I stopped feeling shy and started feeling like a fixure, someone who knew where things were, who new nurses could come to for help.  I knew the housekeepers and how many kids they had.  I knew the lab people by name.  I had a reputation as someone who liked to work, who would help out, who could start an IV on ANYONE.  It felt cozy, and I felt valued.

Chuck, my "nurse recruiter" had sent an email saying to call him, that it was kind of important.  As I was pulling in to the parking lot to go to work, he returned my return call, and said "They're not renewing your contract".  For the last year, I've had a series of 13-week contracts, and began to assume this would continue, at least as long as I've got a kid in college.  

Not so.  This contract will end November 24, my last day scheduled there.  13 days' notice.   They're phasing out "travelers", Chuck said. 

I've asked the ER manager from time to time about how secure my spot there is.  I once said "So, can I keep doing 2 shifts a week until my kid gets through college?" and she answered, in her smiling -without-smiling, vague way "I don't know why not".  Then, last month, with rumors of cutbacks flying, I asked "Are they thinking about getting rid of travelers?" and she said, smiling-without-smiling, "Hospitals are always trying to get rid of travelers."   Travelers are a sometimes necessary but expensive way to fill staffing gaps.  I knew this.  And I've been there for 15 months.  It felt deceptively solid, this ground I was standing on.  Roller skating on, more like.

I clocked in and checked in with the charge nurse, whom I love - whose Halloween party I went to - and told her, swearing I wasn't gonna cry, but I did.  She was angry, supportive, sweet.  Then I limped through 12 hours, telling some people, holding it together with others. 

I must confess something, here.  I'M PATHOLOGICALLY NOSTALGIC.   I can get sentimental about the freeway exit I once took to a house I used to live in.  Or my mom's jar of rancid face cream that's still in her medicine cabinet, because I remember when the Avon representative was at our dining room table, in my childhood home when I was 10, selling it to her.  Or an old receipt, scrap of paper, note - anything, because it's old - evidence of my life as it was years ago.  I cry every time I move or leave a job.  I can't throw out an old tupperware mixing/pouring pitcher because my Dad used to mix pancakes in it.  Likewise the bottle of prescription ibuprofen I inherited when he died - I take it when my back hurts (Federal law prohibits this.  Don't tell anyone), and get sentimental every time.  I doubt I'll be able to take the last one - I'll feel an urge to make the bottle of Motrin into a shrine to my Dad. So sue me.

This fascination with the past mystifies me.  But then, time mystifies me - how can I belong in a place for a while, and then not belong there?   How can my  home town still be there, but not be my home town?  What happened to the kid I was then?  The young parents mine used to be? Where did we all go?  But I blather. . .

Everything nice about work started to hurt.  The familiarity of the hallways, which I will be leaving.  Every person who said hello and likes me, because I'll be leaving them.  Larry, the old alcoholic veteran who comes in once or twice a day for some Ativan or a pain shot and some company, who sent us a Christmas card signed "Larry _____", and his medical record number.  Love hurts.  Attachment hurts. 

I called my sister to see how her gall bladder surgery yesterday went (fine), and cried when she asked how I was and I told her.   Went back in, tried to discharge a patient, and started crying.  I've never done that before; I said "I'm sorry - I just got some bad news" (I didn't say what.  I think I may have sounded noble.)  The young woman, who had the flu and was wearing a mask, said "Mom, I'm sick - give her a hug," and Mom geve me a wonderful, obese, all-encompassing hug and told me about a fire last weekend that burned their family house to the ground.  I felt better - knowing how much worse things could be, seeing the capacity for kindness that runs rampant in "ordinary fucking people" (as the guy in Repo Man said, I think).  We hugged again and said goodbye, wishing each other luck.

Mike, one of my buddies there, told me about his ambulance that had just arrived - a young girl with a blood alcohol of 0.30, who had been found by the river with her pants pulled down, raped, obviously, and left there like that.  And I thought of my own daughter, brilliant and not remotely interested in substances, going to college, making funny silent movies, going to Young Democrats conventions because she's so damned smart and funny and lovable.  And she's OK.  She's not in a river bed, raped.

How do you make sense out of this life?  Such beauty and such nastiness, kindness and danger, love and loss all sitting side by side, like they all own the place.  Dunno, OS pals.  Dunno.

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Getting wacked was the best thing that ever happened to me. Twice.

It's not a problem, its an opportunity.

Even if you can't believe it now.

Really? Tell me about that - right now, it just hurts like hell.
I've never heard the term pathologically nostalgic before, but it describes me better than I want to admit. although maybe not quite so much as the ibuprofren bottle from your father. that's really funny. but I'm sorry for this loss and I hope the hospital changes its mind. is this due to budget cutbacks?
Make sense of it? Hell I haven't been able to do that in all my sixty years. All I can tell you is ride this big ole wave we call life and hang on and enjoy what you can....disregard the rest.

I used to work freelance. I was good so I'd be kept on from job to job, creative directors finding work for me to do until projects broke because they wanted to keep me around. So when I was finally let go, which always happened, I'd get this big knot in my stomach and a powerful fear that everything was coming to an end. Unreasonable? yes. Normal? yes. I've used the word "invest" a lot lately. it's a cool word for a powerful emotion. We invest in these places. Love them no more or less than full time staff.

Which leads me to this: can you get a full time staff job? because that's what you are except you make more money like this. but these contract jobs are like double edged swords. rich one day, unemployed the next. and then you have to find another place to park your carcass.

You'll be fine. but it hurts. yes indeed it does.
I know your pain. I was laid off last December from the TV station where I had worked for 17 years. And because of previous experiences, I should have known better.

Companies try to convince you that you're one big happy family when it's to their advantage to maintain your loyalty. When circumstances change, they become a business again and you become an economic liability rather than a family member. I guess the trick is never to think of yourself as anything but an employee.

One station I worked at had the on-air promotional motto, "We Are Family." A knowing co-worker said to me, "That's true, as long as you understand that the family is the House of Borgia."
Being sensitive is a "good" thing that a lot of people have lost in this country. Sorry about your job, but it's been my experience, when you're good at something, jobs take care of themselves.
You guys are swell. Thanks - it's such a relief to be "got".

I'm OK, for the record. This is my second job, and I can get another one. And I know I'll get through the nostalgic pain and be fine. It always happens. Just kind of a shock to my blase little naive brain.
Like the wise woman said, nostalgia ain't what it used to be...sorry for your loss but you'll bounce back, I know you will. I always think of the Beckett character whose last line is "I can't go on...I'll go on." You've got a skill. Don't worry, someone else will exploit it. On the other hand, I'm like that guy who, after a series of odd jobs goes to the employment agency and takes a placement exam. The results come back and the counselor tells him he's got a knck for odd jobs. So, see? You could be me.
Ouch, re: the job. Awful, re: that poor young woman and the family that lost their home in the fire. Lessons? Meaning? The only thing I can think of is, "This, too, shall pass." Both the good and the bad; nothing is permanent. All we can do is roll with what happens and experience it--which, when you're feeling nostalgiac now, you're doing. Though, at some point, we need to disengage from the nostalgiac emotions, too, and move on, getting ready for whatever the new thing is. I hope your new thing appears soon.
Thanks for the post, fellow hippie.

Nick is right. Even greater opportunities await you on your journey.

It says in your profile that you are "Still trying to make sense out of life via Buddhism, composting, etc."

I'll just remind you what your already know, that the lesson of both Buddhism and composting is the same. Impermanence!

Samsara is an eternal cycle of ups and downs, which can only be transcended through the recognition of the illusory nature of phenomena. The great jobs and the shitty ones are all temporary, like the good trips and the bad trips.

If you made real friends at this workplace, then keep in touch with them. I have similar bittersweet memories of great jobs I had, which I had to give up. Keeping in touch with my friends at the medical lab I used to work at, I found that the workplace morale went way downhill in the two or three years after I left. So whenever I find myself longing for the good old days when I was there working in that environment, I remind myself that I would have witnessed a much different situation if I had stayed. We are forced to move on for reasons we cannot quite comprehend at the time.

I'll c0nclude by saying congratulations on having the happy, healthy, smart daughter. The profoundly sad story of the raped girl is more than just a testimony against irresponsible use of intoxicants. It is another of the Buddha's teaching moments about the universality of suffering, which must be confronted with bot eyes open, non-attachment to illusion, and compassion for all life.
How do you make sense out of this life? Such beauty and such nastiness, kindness and danger, love and loss all sitting side by side, like they all own the place. Dunno, OS pals. Dunno.

Wow, girlfriend...just WOW. xoxxxxx
I'm so sorry for the lost job -- the feeling of "belonging" is a long time coming. Losing it so suddenly is painful. I understand why you feel a connection to certain things. It would embarrass me to tell you some of the things I have held onto. As for that bottle of ibuprofen that was your dad's....I'll bet you feel better just holding it in your hands. Keep it forever. Wishing you the best.
I always take that stuff personally, even when it isn't. It'll get better. Sounds like I could have used your blood skills a few times, I've been tapped by vampire several times. My favorite is when they come back in a half hour and say they need more.
AHC---Aw shit. This sucks. And I share your connection to all things past. Totally get that. I also know that being a nurse these days is one of the best things you can be.

But here's the important part. The only thing I know for sure. It's different for every single individual. Advice is nice. Sometimes well intentioned.And sometimes useless..

But as to what's next? Or "Why?" or "What;s the point?" You'll know.

Just remember you have friends while you're figuring it out.

Aging Hippie Guy
A pleasure reading this.
I'm losing my job too and the thing that bothers me most is wondering if I'll be able to keep in contact with the friends I've made there or if we'll grow apart as has happened the times before.
Just another sentimental soul!
I'm sorry that this went down this way. Your empathy is always encouraging; your love for your vocation is inspiring. Hurting sucks. ~R~
looking into my crystal ball, i see that there's another hospital that is in dire need of a caring, aging hippie chick nurse. So, much as you hate to leave your comy circumstances, when you find that needy hospital, you'll know THAT is where you really should be.

At least in theory. For now, I know it hurts. At least you get a couple of weeks to digest the news and say some good-bye-for-nows. Lots of those laid off from where I work had a few minutes to say good-bye.
Whoa. You guys are swell, PLUS cosmic. Can't tell you what a comfort it is, reading this stuff. I teared up a few times. Thanks. Really.
I've been writing a new resume and doing online applications, and come back to check this and find all this wonderfulness. Thanks, all y'all.
Love youse, AHC
Bobbot - you look younger. Have you had work done?
Got a good deal on Mexican surgery, does it look okay?
Jobs come and go; people like you don't.
I must also borrow "scanner's" first line.
Be proud and be happy.
Enjoyed your telling much.
I think we tend to think of our bosses as part of a family. They're not. It's all business. Everyone is expendable to them. I've learned this the hard way more than once.
Love that sentimental streak of yours. So endearing. You still have socks from 1989?
So sorry to hear this. You cited some examples of people whose situations make yours look less grim, but this thing that you didn't want affects YOUR life and it sucketh big time. I'm also sorry for the people there who won't have the benefit of your knowledge and skills. But you do have them and I have no doubt you'll be putting them to good use again soon. Good luck.
What an awesome post. I'm sorry this happened, and especially that it caught you by surprise.
Such beauty and such nastiness, kindness and danger, love and loss all sitting side by side, like they all own the place.
I don't know what sense to make of life..the Buddhists can help with that...but you've gone right to the heart of what it is. Beautifully done...
Grand post grand writing. As I morph into an old man I too find myself crying for things past. We strive and move and persevere.
Thank you for this post.
Love and strength to you.
Well, you do write well - and your ability to connect with others is all over your words. I bet it's fun and a pleasure working with you - and don't forget all those IV's that nobody else could manage. And remember, all we have is today, and if things work out overnight, we get another one. Hang in there.
The beauty of your heart shines through this piece -- through the nostalgia, through your professional commitment. They don't know what they're losing. I'm very sorry.
Oh, I know this pain. You write about it so well. I am pathologically nostalgic too, only maybe a little less so now that I've moved around and been in and out of so many contract jobs. I always miss the small things the most, and of course, the money.

It's good to let it all out, to cry and rage, even scream if you have to (I do this in my car with the windows rolled up sometimes). Hugs to you.
This was wonderful! I love the contrasts and perspectives. Hope you land on your feet.
Ugh. From someone who had to put a whole LIFE aside and create a new one: We soldier on, grieve for our loss, rejoice in what is left, find peace in small moments.

One thing for sure, we are always here. Reading, loving and journeying with you.
The parade of contrasts is always before us, isn't it?
If you think too hard on it will drive you insane. One day at a time and I will bet another door opens right away and it will be bigger and brighter!!! Sounds good right? I too have a hard time geting rid of anything that even slightly reminds me of my past good and bad. Hang in there I have faith something good is right around the corner!
Thanks, you wonderful people, you. I'm trying to figure out where to go from here. In the meantime, I can do temp shifts here and there, I think. XOXO AHC
>> Getting wacked was the best thing that ever happened to me.
>> Twice.
> Really? Tell me about that - right now, it just hurts like hell.

Nick is right, I think... the two times I've been laid off from jobs that I was oh so comfortable in... I managed to find new work with 30% pay raises.

Had I stayed where I wanted, I'd be making $30K-$40K and now I'm in the $90K range...

It was scary, it was hurtful.. but it also worked out for the best.. it sort of forced me out of my comfort zone and I found opportunities I did not realize where out there.

Good luck!
I stumbled across this posting. I lost my job as an attorney for a small biotech on November 4th. I had no notice and that was my last day. The company has not been doing well, and 1/3 of the company was axed. I tried to get out, but did not make it. I can't believe it has been two months. The emotions you describe are spot on, even though my position and situation were different. Even though everyone was upset by the lay-off and I was well liked, I felt like person-non-grata when I had to come in later and tie up some loose ends with human resources. I think what I have always heard in the corporate world is true- you must watch out for yourself and your family.