After the Layoff: Sometimes the silver lining is deep inside the cloud

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One of the biggest challenges to navigating the choppy waters in the Sea of Unemployment is finding a way to keep your spirits afloat, no matter how rough the storm gets.

Hanging on through it all is half the battle, especially when you feel like you’re constantly in danger of getting thrown overboard. The other half is learning how to catch your breath and avoid drowning in your own sorrow when you’re getting doused with what feels like endless waves of failure.

Even an eternal optimist like me gets worn down from swimming against the current. But thanks to friends and family, especially my father, I find the strength to keep moving, even when I don’t think I can swim another stroke.

My father was a teacher for 40 years and among the many life lessons he’s taught me, three have stayed with me throughout my 42 years:

1 – Things happen for a reason, even the bad stuff.

2 – It could always be worse.

3 – Count your blessings.

When my job was eliminated, I was in shock. I was also angry, confused and scared.

“Where’s the silver lining in THIS cloud?” I asked myself.

In the weeks that followed, I slowly began seeing pieces of that silver lining. The trick was knowing where to look.

For starters, I was no longer hauling myself out of bed at 3 a.m. each morning to get ready for work, and soon I began to realize I’d forgotten what it felt like to be fully rested, coherent and lucid. Suddenly, I felt like a new person. The loss of my job also gave me the push I needed to begin pursuing my dream of becoming a writer.

Even though the job search is daunting – and so frustrating at times I feel like giving up – getting a full night’s rest, coupled with the joy of writing each day, gives me the emotional lift I need to face every challenge.

My optimism knows no bounds, and my future looks brighter than ever.

“Things happen for a reason, even the bad stuff,” I tell myself.

My first week of unemployment was one I’ll never forget.

It was Monday morning, and a blizzard was raging outside my window. The air was bitter cold, the wind was howling and the snow was drifting ever deeper outside my door. The weather was miserable, and so was I.

After a white-knuckle ride to drop my son off at day care, I started my car and the engine knocked noisily. A few seconds later, the engine light came on and the sputtering got worse.

A second, white-knuckle ride ensued and soon my car was with my mechanic, whose shop is normally a 10-minute walk from my house. In a blizzard, the walk was considerably longer.

I spent 25 minutes trudging through knee-deep snow, determined to get home. When I arrived, I was cold, tired and miserable.

“At least I have a warm house to come home to,” I said aloud. “It could always be worse.”

Perhaps the greatest benefit of losing my job is that after 2 1/2 years, I finally get to spend some quality time with my wife and son before he heads to school and she goes to work.

As miserable as the weather was that stormy Monday morning, the sight and sound of my son bounding onto the bed and wrapping his little arms around me filled me with warmth from head to toe.

“Count your blessings,” I quietly told myself.

How true.

Next: The Maine Department of Labor, at your service.

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Sean-Baker-op.jpgSean Baker of South Portland has a personal perspective on unemployment: his more than two-decade career in broadcasting came to a sudden halt in February when he was laid off by a Portland radio station. He’s writing about the experience in this series for The Forecaster, and can be reached at