In my most recent post, I wrote that the economic collapse has hit Latinos particularly hard. This pain is not confined to day laborers and construction workers (although they are hurting more than others), but also extends to those Hispanics who have ventured into the white-collar world... like your most humble blogger.
Yes, recently I was laid off from my day job (not the Huffington Post). Thus, I have joined the 8.3% of Americans, and 11% of Latino males, who have said adios to regular paychecks. My company, hereafter referred to as "the ex-job," canned four other people the same day. For the conspiratorial among you, let me be quick to point out that my fellow downsizees are all white. They include a woman who devoted twenty years to the organization and another who is a single mom.
I was surprised to get the news, of course, but not shocked. The ex-job is struggling, and if the economy doesn't stop hemorrhaging, I fear that the thirty or so people who still work there will be joining me in the nation's cool new fad of updating resumes and emailing LinkedIn requests.
At the same time, I would be lying if I said that I don't harbor some hostility toward the ex-job. I worked six years as a business writer for them, and it's impossible to not feel like a sap when your boss says, "Your performance has been excellent, thanks for your great work and loyalty, and now... bye."
One reason for my WTF reaction is that despite the very real fact that it is a business decision, there is also a personal judgment being made: You (the freshly unemployed) have been determined to be less valuable to the company than those who remain. You are more expendable.
Since my number came up in the great economic-misadventure lottery, I haven't been depressed or even worried (my wife and I are in better financial shape than many people in a similar situation). But there are still bursts of anger, which I've always thought is the most productive of the negative emotions.
Nothing sets off this anger more than the banal clichés thrust at me by well-meaning friends. In the past few weeks, I've learned that it's always darkest before the dawn, that what doesn't kill me makes me stronger, that there's a reason for everything, and that God never gives us more than we can handle. By the way, I find this latter statement theologically dubious - people who commit suicide, for example, obviously got a lot more than they could handle. But speaking of the Almighty, I've also heard that when God closes a door, he opens a window. If you've just been blindsided with a layoff, however, you don't feel like God has been messing around with doors and windows. You think that he just dynamited your house.
Still, I remain optimistic about the future - not just for me but for all of us. Common sense, the laws of economics, and basic karma all say that we'll pull out of this financial freefall soon.
Perhaps the Obama plan will be the answer. At the very least, maybe the stimulus package will help me land a construction job. I hesitate to look into this, however, not because I'm too good or genteel for blue-collar labor, but because I was really looking forward to continuing Hispanic America's infiltration into the white-collar world. Also, I'm much better with words than I am with a backhoe. Trust me on this.
So until I land that next office gig, I will be sharpening skills, hustling for freelance gigs, and networking like an overly caffeinated, extroverted state senator up for reelection. Perhaps I will even let Huffington Post readers know that I'm available for writing assignments.
But I better be careful about that. I have to be very subtle....