I describe my redundancy, not as a surprise, but still a huge shock. How can something that’s not a surprise be a shock? I guess that’s down to the feeling that, whilst you see redundancies happening, somehow you believe you’re immune. This makes redundancy sound like a disease. In some respects, in today’s economy it is. It’s certainly something you do not want to catch. Others I’ve spoken to, talk of losing ones job as a bereavement, which once again has resonance, but one has to be careful not to over-dramatise: no one has died.
Like all shocks, the body’s defence mechanism springs to life and protects the conscious self for a limited period of time. This initially fools you into thinking that you can cope, that somehow you’ve taken it very well. You can meet life head on, take the knocks with a sense of humour and not be downcast. The interesting thing for me is that I’ve had no real reason to be downcast: we have no mortgage to speak of and the school fee fund is paid up, so the major liabilities have been met. Also, I’ve been telling anyone that would care to listen, that I would have been looking for a change at some stage anyway in the next couple of years.
However, once the shock started to wear off, and despite financial stability, I stepped on to what I can only describe as an emotional oscillator. The highs were ok, but the lows were very low. Whilst the volatility of the rollercoaster is less intense, four weeks after having left my job and fully eight weeks since I found out, the ride still continues.
It’s difficult to know exactly why this is. If I were ten years younger saddled with a large mortgage and a young family, the oscillator would at least be understandable. In reflection, I think it comes down to issues of self worth and identity, as well as those of financial security. We’re conditioned in society that if you’re a certain age you work. The first question on meeting someone new is “what do you do?” What you do accompanies who you are, as surely as your shadow. Let me give two examples of this. Despite telling my bank that I’m redundant, they still ask me, as one of their security questions, what my work telephone number is. Wellmeaning friends, momentarily forgetting my position, would ask me when was I going back to work after the Christmas holidays. You consistently choke back the obvious reply, but somewhere deep down another chip is knocked off the selfconfidence block.
At this point I must emphasise that I’ve been doubly blessed, not only by having the financial security behind me, but by having the family security there as well. All the family near and far have been supportive, but the amazing and humbling fact is that when I was sitting at the low points of my oscillator and unable and unwilling to talk about it, the one who really loves me noticed, cared and loved me more. A debt of love, freely given and desperately grasped. In this respect “redundancy is like a bereavement”: without the emotional family support, it would be particularly hard to bear. Therefore, I am very lucky and I believe as a family unit we’re stronger than perhaps we were before, but once again it’s worth reflecting on the strains that…