Friday, November 26, 2010


Most years I have to think about what I'm thankful for. Not this year. Easy: I just got a new job after a long layoff. No-brainer there. We were looking at some tough times starting in January so this was close to our last chance. Very thankful indeed.

However, I'm not just thankful for finding a job. My year of unemployment -- yes a whole year -- has actually been very good for me. First, my former company gave me a good severance package. We were a lot better off than many unemployed, we kept our house, never wanted for food or anything else. Took it easy on the spending, but basically lived life as normal. God has been very good to us.

Because I was no longer commuting I became much more plugged into our community. Some of this was just the simple things like driving some streets I didn't usually drive, using the library regularly, shopping, or getting out during the week. But I also volunteered. I already had volunteered with a local high school robot club. With more schedule flexibility I was able to be much more involved. Very enjoyable and rewarding.

I also joined a job club, AVPPNG. They helped me tremendously with moral support and navigating unemployment and job searching. I eventually was elected president and got to practice seldom used leadership and people skills. I made several friends as well as networking contacts.

Our church held a "Biggest Loser" contest. I was motivated to lose 45lbs. In winning, I am now officially the biggest loser at church. The contest motivated me to up my running schedule and start a running group. Over the course of the year I became much more fit and reduced my 5k PR by 4 1/2 minutes (29:55 to 25:17 -- not very fast, but still a great improvement). At one point I could run fast enough and do enough push-ups, sit-ups, mountain climbers and pull-ups to pass the LA County Sheriff's PT 500 physical exam (arthritis problems have since forced me to back down a little). Through our running group I got involved with a soccer team and now play once or twice a week. Our group met a lot at Apollo Park. While running there on my own one day (group dissolved) I met a fellow runner who is the very well-know dog trainer, Kyra Sundance.

Lately I realized that what I love doing is developing software. I took initiative to start learning on my own. I realized that such learning and initiative would help me in my job search. It also was fun and re-energized me. It has made me more aware of how much I do not know and need to keep learning. I am much more excited now about my career and about learning many new things. This learning and enthusiasm, the lessons I also learned from job searching and interviewing, led directly to me landing my new job.

The real negative about being laid off is the stress of not knowing, of seeing the money dwindling, of having to be ready to network and search and respond to employer requests at a moment's notice. In some ways that stress is self-induced. I too easily forget Matthew 6:33-34: "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Self induced or not, the stress is very real. Waking up at 4am stressed out about not having work is no fun. Also, I don't like being forced into anything, especially not having to reach out (kiss-up?) to people. But job search forces me to do just that. And a funny thing happened. I've become much more comfortable with it. Happy I found a job and don't have to be so uncertain? Ecstatic!! Still, now I know I can survive this.

Bottom line: the process has been very good for me. There are still many problems in life, but I feel better able to handle them. My new job is temporary -- a three month contract. I could be right back out there looking very soon. I'm not thrilled about this, but am OK with it. When I was first laid off a trainer said on average we'd do this again in 3-5 years. That scared the crap out of me. Now, it's OK. I know more about what to do. More importantly, I have a much better vision of what I want to do and how to get there. I'm much more confident in myself and in God working in my life. It's been a very good year.