I played poker for the first time since my wife left.
Just a few hours ago.
My hopes were high heading into the game because I’m an above-average tournament player.
But it went the same as the rest of my life.
The house we played in was amazing. Everyone attending had a lot of money.
Everyone except me.
The Job Loss
Right around Halloween in 2009, the managing editor of the business publication I was working for called me into a conference room. I thought we were going to discuss a project or story he wanted me to work on.
He told me that the company’s downsizing as a result of the Great Recession was continuing and that my job was being eliminated. It was the third round of job cuts at the company that year. I had survived the first two.
Third time’s a charm.
They invited me to stay on staff through the rest of the year, but that come January 1, I would no longer be employed.
Everyone I worked with knew before I did. It was really hard to walk around the newsroom with my head held high after that. But I faked it well.
Telling my wife that my job had been eliminated was an equally awful experience. I told her everything would be OK. That we’d make it work. That I’d find a way to reinvent my career and find something more sustainable than journalism. That I’d find a way to make more money.
I was unemployed for 18 months if you don’t count the freelance copywriting business I started.
That’s one and a half years of my wife going to work every day with me mostly staying home with our son.
She thought I was a loser. She never used those words. But she didn’t have to.
Believing in me was never part of her marital makeup.
Back on the Felt
I was dealt one good hand the entire night. A pair of jacks. And I had to fold them. Because I knew I was beat after an ace flopped.
And that was the theme the rest of the night: fold, fold, fold.
I should have stayed home and mowed my lawn, I thought.
My tournament ended unceremoniously on a Hail Mary all-in bet that was called by a superior hand, which rightfully held up.
And bam. It was over.
In the grand scheme of poker playing, I’ve been here before. Many times. This sort of thing happens. And you have to be able to handle the swings. Poker is not about short-term gains. It’s about long-term ones.
But I could really use a positive experience or two. For real. And I wanted to win that game. Badly.
But Lady Luck still isn’t taking my calls.
It was miserable faking smiles while I shook hands and wished everyone “Good luck” before heading home.
A Side of Perspective
I checked my phone when I got in my car.
A text message and Facebook status update alerted me to news that shifted my entire focus.
The publishing company that owns the business journal from which I had been laid off three and a half years ago was relocating the publication to Detroit.
Almost everyone there is now facing two choices: Move to Motown or start collecting unemployment.
My mind swirled. I felt bad for my friends there.
And then it hit me.
Thank God I got laid off when I did.
Because I’d be damn near suicidal right now if I had to deal with a job loss in addition to the rest of this shit.
I have a great job. I mean, it’s bullshit and corporate and a little too Office Space some days.
But it’s secure. My co-workers are mostly awesome. And I make way more money than I ever did as a reporter.
And I swore I would never again take quality employment for granted.
And the news that all of my old colleagues are now facing the guillotine really drives that point home.
I almost smiled. I do feel really bad for those employees. Because I know exactly what that flavor of shit sandwich tastes like.
But I couldn’t help myself. The corners of my mouth actually flirted with a smile.
Because EVERYTHING in this world is relative.
And for one brief moment, I got to feel lucky again.