Emerging from a pandemic…

Long time, no read/write!

If there was ever a time to resurface, get back to basics and first loves, it would be during a pandemic.

I worked myself into exhaustion… worked on weekends, holidays, days off…was always available whether for last-minute meetings, employees who needed support, or to deliver company-wide announcements. Then, just like that, I found out that the work that I “needed” to do, suddenly didn’t need to be done.

To date, 40 million people have lost their jobs due to the spread of COVID-19. And I count myself in that number.

It wasn’t until the MLB and NBA seasons were canceled that I realized how serious things were getting. Just two days prior, I was hosting hiring fairs at our various locations, and shaking hands during interviews without a second thought.

Suddenly we were sending all of our staff home and I found myself answering the phone and packaging to-go orders while having to turn guests away once we reached our 10 person limit in the building.

Then, because of the stay at home orders in all of the states we operate, and no justifiable reason to keep me on board with no employees to hire, train, or manage, I was “temporarily laid off, up to 4 weeks.” It was Wednesday, March 18, 2020 via a teleconference call with the SVP and an HR rep. After having been on the other side of these calls for a week, it was my turn to receive the same news that was given.

There is a old adage that says, “It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it’s a depression when you lose your own.” Yet, I was not depressed. When the call came, I expected it. It made sense. It was the necessary business decision. And you know what? I was relieved.

So you can understand why I felt such relief, let me take you back to January 2018. You see, it was then, a little over two years ago that I decided to try my hand at the restaurant business. It was a industry I had not yet conquered and because I am always up for a challenge, when the recruiter messaged me on LinkedIn, I said “why not?” I was quickly greeted by some folks who thought the CEO and SVP made a terrible mistake hiring someone with no restaurant experience. And they were very vocal about it. I paid that no mind and decided to let my work and my impact on the culture of the company speak for itself.

Seven months later our restaurant group shacked up with another hospitality group who is described on Glassdoor.com as having “absolutely no pros working here.” That was warning #1.

Two months in, my intellectual property was stolen. Someone plagiarized my work and passed it off as their own- twice. They denied it. Then lied about it. Then blamed it on a member of their staff. That was warning #2.

Warning number three came a couple of months later when the CEO of our restaurant group left the company.

Oh, and then the person who plagiarized my work was promoted to SVP of HR. How is that OK, when HR is to be the moral compass of a company? Yup, that was warning #4.

Anyway, as if all of that were not enough… almost 16 months after we merged with this other company, with many other headaches, mishaps, and disappointments, came the biggest blow of them all. My boss, the SVP, who was more like a partner and friend, walked out in a middle of a meeting and quit.

That was the fifth warning sign that this was not a company I wanted to continue to be associated with. Yet, I stayed. Partially because you know, car. house. kid. Those things called responsibilities… And partly because I thought I could “be the change.”

Then the “like the flu” coronavirus #45 described, became a pandemic and there was total confusion and chaos. During such times, leadership is everything and good leadership, is crucial. Such leadership was a no call- no show.

So, when I called my dad on the evening of March 18, after working nine days straight, to let him know that I had been “temporarily laid off,” his response was, “Good. You didn’t need that job anyway.” And when he said it, is when I felt it- sweet relief.

I was relieved that I did not have to wonder or worry about what would happen to my job or the company during this worldwide crisis.

I was relieved that I did not have to be on the frontlines.

I was relieved that I did not have to participate in additional staff layoffs.

I was relieved to kind of be in the same situation as millions of others who also found themselves suddenly and hopefully, temporarily, out of work. I was not singled out. And I knew in the back of my mind that when things returned to some sense of normalcy, I’d be working again. So, I felt fine… and most of all, I felt free.

I attacked the next few weeks with such fervor. I was finally free to take care of my never-ending “to-do” list. I tackled projects around the house. I changed my morning routine, adding a walk or jog and sometimes yoga. I tried out meditation. I got serious about working out and eating healthier. I was free to pursue a passion project. And free to do more freelance work. I was even free to sleep until 9am if I wanted to.

You know what I else I was free to do? Look for another job! Everyday from March 19 – May 14th I browsed LinkedIn and Indeed and talked to headhunters. I researched companies with opportunities that I found interesting. I paid special attention to their mission, vision, and core values or guiding principles. If there was alignment, I applied. If not, I kept it moving.

In 8 weeks, after 96 applications, 17 auto-rejection emails, and 15 interviews, I received 3 job offers. Praise God! Yet, still no word from my company about my temporary, four- week layoff. Needless to say, (but I will anyway) I will not be going back. I gleefully and thankfully, shut and lock that door behind me.

My story could have been different though. There are many, maybe some of you reading this now, that have lost more than a job during this pandemic. I have friends and coworkers who have lost parents, siblings, aunts, and grandparents. Right now I pray for everyone dealing with loss. I pray that God immerses you in His love and leads you out of the darkness of your loss, into His light and His arms of comfort. If you are struggling with grief and feel alone; know that you are not. God loves you and has placed people in your life who love you. Reach out, you may be surprised who will be there for you if you’d let them.

So, as I said, I am grateful because my story today could be much different. In my kitchen there is a wall hanging that says “Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” Since I’ve been laid off, I am spending a lot more time in my kitchen, cooking 2-3 times a day and washing lots of dishes. One day I found myself staring at this wall hanging and decided right then to practice gratitude. According to psychologists, you can practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect on the things you are thankful for. Doing so, allows you to experience more positive emotions on a regular basis, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness toward others, and will even strengthen your immune system.

So, instead of focusing on losing my job or on the unemployment benefits I’m receiving not being enough, I practiced gratitude. For my life. For my health. My home. My family and friends. My savings. My generous and supportive parents. And suddenly, each day that there were job listings that I could even apply to, was enough. Each day my son was healthy and staying up until 3 a.m. laughing and joking with his friends while playing video games, was enough. When the first job offer came, that was enough. So much so, that I accepted it. Even though the salary offer was less than what I had been earning previously. I did not feel great about it- yet it was a job, and I needed a job. But God, had another plan for me. And I am grateful.

What about you? Depending on your situation and perspective, this whole pandemic experience has perhaps been devastating… scary… stressful… confusing… Or, if you are like my 16 year old, then it’s been boring. We all have been affected, in various ways, and we will all emerge from this, different than before.

Some will have reconnected with friends or reignited that spark with their spouses. Some, will be a few pounds lighter or will have learned a new skill. In two weeks, I’ll be emerging with a new job.

However you emerge, let it be with gratitude. For whatever you have…

“In every circumstance of life be thankful; for this is God’s will regarding you.” {1 Thessalonians 5:18, WMT version}

One thought on “Emerging from a pandemic…

  1. Jolita Pennix

    Hello ma’am I truly enjoyed reading your story it was so very inspirational to me. I truly admire your courage to share this. It has truly blessed my soul to a point you will never know. Keep on writing because you don’t know who you could be helping at this time while things are changing daily. Much love ❤


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