Getting the news: 4:40 p.m. My manager stops by and says HR would like to see me. No real panic (yet), just curious. Maybe a promotion? As I sit down, a bad feeling comes over me. I hear the word "termination." I visibly shake. Fireworks go off in my hea

Getting the news: 4:40 p.m. My manager stops by and says HR would like to see me. No real panic (yet), just curious. Maybe a promotion?

As I sit down, a bad feeling comes over me.

I hear the word “termination.” I visibly shake. Fireworks go off in my head.

“You were a great employee, but we’re letting you go.”

More fireworks, and then I ask if there’s a magic word or phrase I can use to stop this.

“No, this is a final decision. We’re sorry.” “We would like your cell phone number in case questions come up.”

“Of course.” Why am I being nice? “Would you like to clean out your desk now?” I can’t face my co-workers on the verge of tears and still shaking. I can’t really process everything that has happened in these 90 seconds that completely changes one’s financial life. I say I’ll clean out my desk tomorrow.

HR, seeing I’m upset, offers to get me a cab to take home. I say no. I walk to work. I live downtown.

Walking home, I feel like I’m floating while looking at people laughing. People on cell phones don’t seem real, yet I continue to walk as if I’m just another person, not showing my world has changed.

I walk into my apartment like any other day. My boyfriend is in the living room. He says, “Hey honey, how was your day?” I’m unable to speak. I burst into tears and finally bark out the words, “They fired me!”

Going to the store: My boyfriend and I planned on going grocery shopping the night of my termination. I couldn’t do it, so we went the next day.

We walk into Kroger, and I start to hyperventilate. I can’t handle the people or the lights.

All I see is price tags. I look at my boyfriend and say, “I just can’t do this.”

He gives me a hug and does the shopping for us. I wait outside in the fresh air. It will be another week before I can do my own shopping.

Updating the résumé: I wonder what new buzz words are being used now? How do I get past the computer search let alone the person reviewing my résumé who doesn’t really understand the position I’m applying for?

Will they like my font? Do I send it off to the business contacts I have and ask what they think?

I decide to do this. Everyone responds with a different opinion, leaving me more confused than before.

Do I need a professional to help me? That, of course, costs money. I decide to go it on my own.

The job search: Indeed.com is a new search engine I’m introduced to. It combines most search engines (Monster, Career Builder, etc.), but you have to keep registering and giving your e-mail, home address and phone number to the universe. Then you have to navigate through the bullshit.

Start your own business! Pay $50 for more job opportunities! Work at home — this really works! Make thousands a week working at home for Google!

I think it should be a law that people looking for work should not be bombarded with this. It’s hard enough to keep focused on the job at hand, and when did the unemployed suddenly have all this disposable income?

These intrusions play mind games when a person is the most vulnerable, when emotions are raw. The marketing is targeted to it.

I won’t buy into it. I’ll daydream of winning the lottery instead.

Unemployment benefits: We’d be living on the streets if I wasn’t able to get this. I have to remember that I’ve been in the workplace for more than 25 years and have collected less than six months of these benefits — but the bottom line is I’d rather be working.

There is nothing more nerve-racking than filling out the paperwork, then waiting for weeks for the benefits to start kicking in. All the while you’re a mouse on a wheel, searching for a new gig.

Finally, the benefits arrive. Lights are kept on. Rice and beans are on the table.

The computer is attached to me now. It’s a lifeline. When I’m not online looking for work, I feel I’m not earning my benefits.

The waiting game: I wake up every day thinking this could be the day. All the résumés and networking will pay off.

You begin to feel paranoid, thinking that someone is blocking your résumés on the Internet or that your skill set isn’t what anyone is looking for.

It’s a wait and see game. I can’t win if I don’t enter, so I keep searching and applying every single day.

Emotions: Some days are better than others. I’m quicker to snap at things than before. I used to blow words off. Now sometimes my responses can cut someone like a knife through butter.

I run behind my boyfriend and our friends who visit turning off lights. I wonder why a shower takes so long. Sometimes I’m really sick of me.

I think it's part of the transition. I try to remember that a job doesn’t define me and that we have only one life. Sometimes that life goes in a different direction, and I need to enjoy the ride. It’s time for my actions to speak louder than words.

Maybe when my boyfriend comes home tonight, I’ll be wrapped in colored plastic wrap. He’ll realize my sense of humor is coming back. I promise.

CONTACT LUCY PLUM: [email protected]

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