A week ago Friday I found out that I’d been laid off after five years as a customer service representative for a local manufacturing company.

It was quick and professional. Painless, as far as these things go, I guess.

I got a call from my boss’ boss and the head of human resources on Friday. Termination papers were delivered in the mail on Saturday. They misspelled my name on the cover letter. I cleaned out my office on Monday. You know that head-spinning feeling when you get dumped and realize that the other person was planning to dump you even before you knew things in your relationship were headed south? And you start thinking over every little thing from the past few months, trying to figure out where it all went wrong when it seemed fine to you?

Yeah, I had that feeling.

Logically, I realize I did nothing wrong here. I liked my job and I was good at it. But the economy is simultaneously exploding and imploding right now. The higher-ups of the higher-ups looked at the numbers on their spreadsheets and realized the math wasn’t working. Fat needed to be trimmed and unfortunately for me, I happened to be the fat.

The thing is, I can take the hit. I’ll get a severance payment. I have applied for unemployment insurance benefits, and despite all the horror stories I’ve been hearing about various states’ unemployment application systems, applying online was pretty easy. (Here’s hoping I get approved.) I have a roof over my head and food in the pantry and I’m not going to lose either of those things. I don’t have children to take care of. I’m very, very lucky. I’ll be OK for a while, I think. I hope.

I got my first real job the summer before college, when I was 17. (I worked at Funtown, and no, it was not, in fact, fun.) Since then I haven’t been out of work for more than two weeks. And while I didn’t really think I would be working in this customer service position forever, I thought I would go out with a bang, more than a whimper.

I thought I was achieving the American dream of working at a coffee-and-cubicle job that maybe isn’t your passion but is steady. And in exchange for the 40-hour workweek slog, you get a steady paycheck and dependable benefits. I thrive in that sort of environment. I am a creature of habit and routine. All I’ve ever wanted is predictability and security. (Yes, I am incredibly boring.) Now my biggest routine is gone, and I’m scrambling to put a little structure back together. (I’ve still been getting up at the exact same time every day, thanks to the dog. She doesn’t seem to understand the concept of “funemployment.”)

It’s a very millennial feeling, I think, to do everything right and still have it not work out. Our generation was told that going into debt for a college degree was a worthwhile investment and guaranteed a middle-class life, and then we graduated into the Great Recession. We were told to get a job with private health insurance benefits, and then we got cut.

My health insurance runs out at the end of the month. I haven’t figured out what I’m going to do yet. COBRA’s expensive. Buying into the Affordable Care Act marketplace is expensive. Crossing my fingers and hoping for the best is cheap. For-profit, employer-provided health insurance doesn’t look so good in the face of a global pandemic.

If these were normal times, and it was just my company having financial difficulty, I would be out pounding the pavement for a new gig already. But these aren’t normal times.

Seventeen million other people are out of work, and more every day. There’s no pavement to be pounded, and I’m supposed to stay in the house anyway. So I guess I’ll just spend some time quietly existing, hoping for the best and waiting for the economy to stop melting down.

I’m trying to look on the bright side, which I’ve been told is a good habit to get into. There will be more time for long afternoon walks with Janey. I can finally start on my pile of unread books.

It’s not like this is the first time my whole world has been turned upside-down, so I have some practice in taking things one day at a time.

But I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel scared and sad and nervous.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: mainemillennial

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.