I can’t count the times I have thanked the universe for getting me out of journalism before the newspaper industry went to hell. I have so many great memories and it was a part of my life that had a good beginning, middle and end. I don’t know how I would feel if a lifetime of effort added up to the difficulties my former co-workers are now experiencing.
I’ve already written about the fact that the newspaper where I worked for eight years died a terrible death in late February. One of my friends sent an e-mail updating me on what my former colleagues are doing on the rebound. It’s sad, but it is a testament to resilience.
The former managing editor is going back to school to get a master’s in public health. The former city editor is taking classes to become a phlebotomist. An unbelievably talented photographer is cooking at a Panda Express. Some are writing or editing free-lance. A Pulitzer-prize winning photographer is working on a landscaping crew for the city. Others are trying to find something to do.
I wonder if they are bitter or hopeful.
I started reporting for my local paper when I was 15 years old. It was the only thing I’d ever wanted to do. It was a business that demanded passion and originality and commitment. It was so much fun when it was fun. Later on, I knew it wasn’t enough for me anymore. I wrote my last news story for U.S. News and World Report in 2003 — and that was only because my editor pleaded with me to go out there one more time. I haven’t written a story since, and have never missed it. Not at all.
But, I made the decision to get out. These people were forced out — and many of them wanted to continue doing that kind of work. But, there’s no job market for them. It’s gone. So, this is what’s left. And, it is sad.
I’m back after some travel, speaking and promotion. After all the flurry, there is one group of women I met along the way that hasn’t really left me.
It was a group of 20 college students, most of whom were back in school and trying to rebuild their lives after suffering huge setbacks. When I finished, some of them came up to me and told me how much they needed me at that moment. I don’t think they realized how much I needed them.
It was a pivotal moment for me because it put me on eye-level with people who aren’t worried about losing everything, but rather, people who have already lost it. Normally, when I hear people start rambling about their worries, I will say, “How long do you have before you have to live on the street and eat out of a garbage can?” The usual response is, “Well, that will never happen.”
But, when I asked that question of a mid-fifties woman in this group, the response was completely different. She was laid off months ago and still has not found work. Her answer was, “A couple of weeks.” She was not exaggerating.
What can I say to people who face these kinds of challenges? The one thing I tell people who have hope is to find hope by letting their spiritual connection take over. I don’t know if it will result in the seas parting and a job manifesting out of nowhere, but I do know that it is a place to go when there is nowhere else to turn.
The other to remember is that tough times do not last forever. We are all smart enough to rise again. The challenge is having the fortitude to do that after being knocked around hard.
These are such tough times for so many people. My heart is with you if you are struggling. Hang in there. Better days are coming.
Fawn Germer is the best-selling author of five books and a national corporate speaker.
I’ve been on the road touring with my book. I will be speaking at the Florida Conference for Women and will update you all when I get back.