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I Framed My Pink Slip and Hung it Up in My Office

August 25, 2014

Letter02Tonight I spent a couple of hours unpacking and setting up the office in our new home. I put books on shelves, pens into holders, and set up vignettes of a few of my favorite antique finds. The walls in the office are still bare, save for one framed letter that, five years later, represents a shift in my life that helped bring me to this room.

A little more than a year after I received this letter, I was every Baby Boomer’s nightmare. I was a twenty-something living with my parents, only working part-time, and unable to pay my own bills. By any outsider’s viewing, I was a leech who was living the easy life by letting my parents take care of me. Before that, though, I was a model citizen. I had a good job making decent money, I lived within my means, and never bothered my parents for money.

That changed one morning in May 2009 when my boss called me into his office, and handed me a letter informing me that, because of the current economy, my position had been cut from the budget and I was being terminated immediately. Everything came to a screeching halt and whatever else my boss may have said to me was lost among the panic racing through my mind.

A month or so later I moved in with some friends and worked part-time in retail. Several months after that I moved again to live with different friends, and worked in a different retail store.

Then sixteen months after losing my job, I became the scourge of middle-aged adults everywhere and moved home, without a single prospective job in sight.

I write all of this not to give you a sob story, or to complain about my former employer. I’m writing this to let you know that despite my layoff, and the things I could find to complain about my former employer, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. Even immediately after I was laid off, I knew it was inevitable. How many churches have full-time editors on staff? Or a monthly magazine?

Now that it’s been a few years, I’ll be honest and tell you this—I was bored out of my gourd most of my time as an editor. The job had a lot of potential, but among its many frustrations, I was not really allowed to explore this potential. I knew I wasn’t doing what I was called to do anyway, and had started trying to figure out what I really wanted to do with my life. I’d realized that being an editor was not something I wanted to do for 40 hours a week, and graphic design was my real passion.

But safety is alluring, and it’s easy to let the siren song of a steady paycheck drown out your dreams of something more. Even several months after I’d realized I didn’t want to be an editor, I wasn’t making moves toward a new job. If it weren’t for that letter, I probably would have stayed at that job for years.

A couple of weeks ago I was packing up our old house, getting ready to move to the first home Ben and I have owned, and I found the letter informing me of my termination stuck among birthday cards and old photos. I read through it and realized that I would not be sitting where I was, married to my husband, buying a house, or walking a career path I love, if it hadn’t been for that letter and all of its implications. Sure, these things could have still happened without the layoff, but this is the story that’s been written for me, and for that I couldn’t be more grateful.

So what else could I do, except frame it as a reminder that sometimes life’s biggest disappointments become the first step of our greatest journey? Now this letter of termination hangs in my home office, in my new home. It seemed like the perfect place for a letter that held such good news.

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