Lay Off Dreams

I had a dream last night. Don’t we all? My dream touched on a friend’s reality, my past, and a consideration of my present. It was a lay off dream. That’s a new theme. And it felt like a good dream. That’s a surprise, and then I realized that layoffs can lead to good things. It rarely seems that way at the time, but I guess that’s true of “the heroes’ journey.”

Listening to someone else’s dreams can numb a mind, so I’ll shorten mine. A group of us were milling around an auditorium, expecting news. No one expected celebrations, and they guessed right. Layoff notices appeared in their hands. Notes the size of index cards succinctly confirmed a person’s name and their layoff status. I didn’t get one, maybe because I was moving around so much, but I knew that an era had passed. Food came to mind, and I walked outside. A large, black, conservative sedan pulled up, a Japanese salaryman got out, walked up to me, bowed while handing me my card, and then retreated to the car. My eyes read the card as a layoff notice, but on a second glance I realized it said something different. The card was a ragged scrap of paper from some other form. There was nothing about a layoff. Under my name and on the line that said “status” was written; “Seriously Underpaid.” An accurate statement and seemingly useless, but it made me feel better. The dream ended with me making myself a steak for dinner. I think it was the last one in the freezer.

A real layoff hit a friend a week or two ago. She was working for T-Mobile, finally getting back on her financial feet and bringing some stability to life for her and her kids. Layoffs hit some people hard, but Maryann’s attitude was, “Well, that’s behind us. What’s ahead?”

This is what she looked like after being laid off. Imagine her smile when she has good news.

This is what she looked like after being laid off. Imagine her smile when she has good news.

She started a blog, invited fellow ex-employees over for hugs and shared resources, and attracted the attention of the local NPR station (KUOW). To quote a line from a frivolous 1976 car movie;
“[Franco rips off his rear-view mirror and throws it out of the car] Franco: What’s behind me is not important. ” – Gumball Rally.
Her most recent post announced a series of support meetings and a web page where friends interview friends (#FAFAJ) to help them express their skills, talents, and interests beyond what a resume can provide. Her bad news was bad news, and appropriately mourned, and then replaced with planning for a new future.
(By the way, an online resource for anyone is the Simple Living Forum, hosted by New Road Map Foundation.)

I left Boeing in 1998. There were plenty of reasons, some of which are in my book, Dream. Invest. Live. (which is the basis for this blog); but what crystallized my decision to leave was the announcement that layoffs were probably coming. The grapevine had said so, and finally lower management acknowledged it. My portfolio was doing well enough that I expected to be a millionaire soon. Whether I liked my job or not, I decided to volunteer for layoff to possibly save at least one person from losing a job they needed. Because I wasn’t officially laid off I didn’t receive a severance package and didn’t receive unemployment; but that was okay because I had more than enough. Why take more than I needed? You never know the consequence of such actions. Did I make a difference in another engineer’s life, or did I just improve someone’s budget and bonus? Within my own life, I knew I made a good decision. Within three years my net worth had doubled.

Maybe I left some money on the table. I could use that money now; but, we make decisions in the present and greedily hanging onto every possible penny seemed like a waste of time. A series of decisions that each seemed good at the time has led me to this present: nearly negative net worth depending on the value of the house, trying to sell my house for almost a year, looking for a job for more than a year and a half, and working almost every day unless I’ve work myself to a day off via exhaustion. Between the book and this blog a reader could replay much of the journey, though they wouldn’t find the parts that were played by a divorce.

What’s behind me isn’t as important as what’s in front of me – and what’s behind me is very important. I’ve always lived frugally, even when I didn’t have to. It just makes more sense and lets me have more fun. My experiences are varied. It is possible for a thirty year career to provide one year’s experience repeated thirty times. My resume encompasses so many experiences that more than one interviewer has said they wanted to interview me to meet me, though not to hire me – yet. Those experiences will be worth something. They already are, on a personal level. Now would be a good time for them to be worth a lot in terms and timing amenable to me and the mortgage company. Like Maryann, experience brings perspective; and after bad news is delivered, the time it takes to get back to positive action is much less.

What’s before me is more important, but harder to describe and discuss because we can’t predict the future. I have a creative imagination, and realized the possibility of my current situation back when I had more than enough to pay off the mortgage times two, but I didn’t expect this to happen. The equally unlikely yet positive possibility was that I’d return to having more than enough and be helping out many more as a result, which could only happen if I didn’t pay off the mortgage prematurely. The range of possibilities is as broad as ever, though the return trip to the far side of the financially positive side will be more abrupt, and more welcome. Each day I have to appreciate what I have, use it respectfully, and respect my self too.

I’ve gained a greater appreciation for things I took for granted, even as a frugal person. Many of the things I took for granted are those things that are always there: the comfort of a home, the nature outside, Wind Prayerand the nature inside that I can reach through exercise and meditation. Get a group together and it’s even more fun. Dancing happens. If it wasn’t for the need for money in our society I’d have almost everything I needed.

Ah, but evidently, I am seriously underpaid – and I suspect I am not the only one. Regardless of your net worth, the income disparity in America versus our culture of volunteering and mutual support suggests that many of us are seriously underpaid.

Imagine if none of us were seriously underpaid. Then we could lay off only dreaming and add living back into our lives.

While my dream and some associates agree that I am seriously underpaid, I’m not suddenly raising my consulting fees. Existing clients may breath a sigh of relief. (Of course, tips are still appreciated.)

About Tom Trimbath

real estate broker / consultant / entrepreneur / writer / photographer / speaker / aerospace engineer / semi-semi-retired More info at: and at my amazon author page:
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2 Responses to Lay Off Dreams

  1. mfetchells says:

    God bless you Tom.

    To quote Babette’s Feast where she gives all her worldly possessions to practice her art and graces in cooking, surely you too in your graces will find the same, that, “this is not the end, (Babette). I’m certain it is not. In Paradise, you will be the great artist that God meant you to be. Ah, how you will delight the angels!”

    On this earth at this time in history, we are all searching for scraps. Another friend of mine just got laid off though I am certain due to health concerns it has saved her life. While we search for those scraps I know our higher power has a whole banquet spread for us. We merely must be patient and wait the prize; and hold onto each other tightly, fiercely, lovingly, for the ride in between.

  2. Susan Averett says:

    When I think about what I was being paid in California, and what my top hourly wage could be here on the island, I can only laugh. Disparity is an understatement! Good thing I’m not looking to, or expecting to, make that kind of income here. Even if I really wanted to, I couldn’t even come close, at least not doing the same kinds of things I was doing then.I grew a lot of gray hairs earning that Bay Area salary!And I am earning a few wrinkles here, but at least they’re in the form of smile lines! :))

    Sue Averett The Enchanted Studio photographic and healing arts

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