From Furlough to Obsolescence: The Coronavirus Eliminated My Job

By the end of the week, I will be officially on laid-off status due to the financial impact the novel coronavirus has wrought upon the non-profit group for which I work. I briefly wrote about this in my last post. First, it was furlough; now my job is never coming back.

Basically, I work for a chamber of commerce doing military and legislative programs (I am a veteran and political scientist, so this makes sense). At first, when the coronavirus hit, I worked chiefly on the state of the city series. Five of these addresses were being held in my region. We’d already successfully completed two states of the city addresses when suddenly everything shut down.

I’d been sort of following the coronavirus. Still, I was more focused on work and an application packet I was submitting for an assistant professor in political science position at a local university (a job that is very likely to be eliminated, but I am still under consideration at this point in time). I had the normal bout of anxiety once March hit, but I believed we could avoid the worst of it. Boy, was I wrong?!

The chamber immediately—and correctly—sent its entire staff home to work remotely. The remainder of the state of the city series? Canceled or indefinitely postponed. I had other legislative and military programs in the works, and they too were immediately halted.

By now, I had a great reason to worry that my job was at risk. Our income dropped to virtually zero as military and political programs ceased. And the chambers didn’t get any bailout money under the CARES Act (or so management told me; admittedly, I haven’t checked for myself). But at first, the chamber guaranteed me, “no one’s getting furloughed, and everyone is keeping their jobs.” But this was mid-March, and lawmakers said, “this is just a two-week pause.” Then came the order: This is going on at least through June, then August, then until it’s safe. It might be never.

I worked from home as best as I could, but by mid-April, the CEO called me. “As of this morning, you are on furlough status.” So I went on unemployment.

During this time, which I considered a moral obligation to not work, I’ve been writing novels, working on music, reading, and making the most of my time off. I’ve been taking free online courses because, why not? Behind the scenes, however, our CEO was busting his rump to save my position. I tried to push the work anxiety out of my thoughts, but watching those numbers go up—you know the numbers I’m talking about—I slowly realized that America is too caught up in its Jacksonian Tradition—the individualist mentality I’m currently writing a book about—to do what must be done to stop this virus. The US is a shithole. We are not Vietnam. We are not New Zealand. I don’t know what I was ever doing, thinking my job stood even a fighting chance at survival.

So, I was laid off Friday. It is what it is, and I don’t blame my CEO or the chamber. I think they’re very aware of the optics of a chamber of commerce laying off its employees. It looks horrible and signals an economy with little hope of short-term recovery. No, my CEO did the right thing for the chamber.

I joined the chamber’s team as a way to give back. It’s a non-profit, and economic development in my region is important. So what kind of advocate would I be if I valued my job with the chamber over my community’s well-being? I’d be a pretty lousy one. Still, I will certainly miss working with the chamber.

They’ve asked me to come in tomorrow to hand over my security access card. Obviously, I’m going to go in, but it feels strange. I’ve been broken up with at the worst possible moment. Imagine getting dumped after suffering an unfortunate motorcycle accident, and, while still in the hospital, your ex asks you to swing by her crib to pick up your stuff. Again, this is not to say anything negative about the chamber. They did nothing wrong. They are just as much a victim in this as I am. I’m just saying that it’s emotionally bizarre.

I suppose this blog will, for the time being, document my journey from furlough and unemployment in the middle of a global pandemic (and a brutal job market) to eventual employment. And until some lucky company hires me (wink wink), I’ll keep working on my latest novel, which is over here at a blog site I created strictly for its draft chapters.

Also, I imagine I’ll post my thoughts on America’s Jacksonian coronavirus response pretty soon.


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