Interesting, because it says something about creating opportunities.
So Much for Personal Growth
Ed Park, who was laid off at The Village Voice in 2006, is the author of “Personal Days,” a novel.
What is a layoff narrative? It’s a story about your work life that you construct before you get the ax, as one of the characters in my novel explains.
“The idea,” Pru says, “is that you look back on your period of employment, highlight all the abuses suffered, tally the lessons gained, and use these negatives and positives to mentally withstand what you anticipate will be a series of events culminating in expulsion. You look to termination as rebirth, liberation, an expansion of horizons…. Once you start constructing the layoff narrative, it’s only a matter of time.” In other words, to think it’s going to happen means it’s going to happen.
(Photo: Peter DaSilva for The New York Times)
Over the past few months, the whole country seems to be constructing a collective layoff narrative of sorts. In the classic arc, the time you’ve spent at a job is integral to the feeling of redemption you get when you finally break free and do what you really want. But given the sheer scale of the crisis that’s hit every industry, the layoff narrative loses its personal growth angle. You step outside your office building for the last time, and instead of a wayward beam of sun warming your face, you see boarded-up windows all along the block, and the box in which you’ve packed your major cubicle possessions — Rolodex, spider plant, reams of something having to do with your 401(k) — is about to fall apart.
Maybe these days it’s all layoff, no narrative — or else it’s what you might call a recursive text. I worked at The Village Voice for over a decade before being laid off in 2006, as the paper underwent restructuring by the new owners. In early December, I bumped into someone who had worked in a different department. He had been let go about a year after my departure. Being fairly senior, he’d eventually landed a plum job at a glossy magazine; I belatedly congratulated him, and he laughed — he’d just lost that job the previous Friday. Later that week, another former colleague (who was let go on the same day I was) e-mailed me saying, “Laid off again!”
Artist: R Boonstra