The Drive Of Shame

unemploymentIt was a drive I had done many times before - home to office, office to home - but this time was different. I had just been laid off from my job, and I knew I wouldn't be back. HR didn't ask for my keys or badge, but I felt strangely disconnected from a place that once served as my home away from home.

As I walked along the row of my colleagues' cars, I looked at their names, labeled on a sign above each spot. Some I would keep in touch with, others I would probably never see again. I wondered why they had escaped my fate. A pair of blank signs reminded me of the two who were cut a few months before me. Back then, I felt lucky. Today, I felt sorry for myself.

Arriving at my car, I took one last look at my name above my reserved spot. I was so proud of that sign - it was proof I had arrived in my career. This time it somehow silently laughed and cried for me at the same time.

As I slowly exited the lot, I could feel my head filling up with questions, concerns and dilemmas. How was I going to pay my bills? How long before I found a new job? Do I tell my friends and family or keep it a secret for as long as possible?

First things first: I called my wife. The news hit her hard, and I could hear the tears hitting the receiver on the other end. While I stayed strong in that conversation, I knew I definitely did not have all of the answers.

Next up was a call to my good friend - he helped make some sense of the situation and explained I wasn't the only one going through this. He rattled off the names of a few mutual friends who were also recently laid off, but knowing someone else is in the same boat doesn't necessarily make you feel any better. But he did say something at the end of the conversation that instantly soothed me, like ice on a bruise: "You're going to file for unemployment, right?"

It was the first time the notion of filing for government benefits ever occurred to me. Instantly, I was ashamed and hopeful. I knew it couldn't be much, but it might just get me through. I was eager to get home and get online to find out more.

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