For days I’ve been haunted by the words “job loss.” Two words, seven letters, 16 points when played illegally in Scrabble. The words “job” and “loss” are easily comprehensible terms individually. Combined they are nearly impossible to define. Job loss implies casualty, but since bereavement is felt uniquely by everyone, a simple universal definition does not exist. Like all major losses we can theorize, predict, and even anticipate the occurrence. Yet we are never truly ready for it to happen.
I was embarrassingly unprepared for such a loss when my boss beckoned me to his office late one Friday, and three minutes later I left unemployed. BAM. Instantly my job was gone, a priceless valuable disappeared. It felt like a cruel display of magic in which I was an unknowing participant. I knew I worked with some incredibly gifted illusionists. I just never imagined I’d be a subject for demonstration.
After all, I spent four years working beside them as their trusty assistant. A less glamorous position than most, but one I genuinely loved. I worked hard to make sure star performances went off seamlessly. Saw me in half, light me on fire, chain me to a tiger, anything for the cause. We were a team and that meant sacrificing privacy, dignity, even ethics for the act. Imagine starting out as street performers together, with an audience you can count on one hand. But slowly, with creativity and hard work you build a reputation. You start booking venues, touring fairs, and finally, years later you’ve become the #1 show in your area, selling out arenas. All your sacrifices have finally paid off – your moments of humiliation, back-breaking labor, all those backstage tears. But before you can really celebrate your success, you are blindsided by the greatest magic trick of all. One four years in the making. You’re back to performing on the street, but this time you’re on your own.
When I became unemployed it was not the loss of my position, income, or even my sense of security that I felt most acutely. It was the abrupt and painful realization that I was never a member of the magical family I adored. My membership was an illusion. And since good magicians never reveal their secrets, I will never know how/why this trick was performed. I was just left with the words, “going in a different direction” which baffled me… How can family change course?
Initially I felt the loss of my job was criminal; that I was the victim of expertly executed thievery. I half-expected a police officer to arrive and take my statement as I packed up my desk and turned in my keys, someone to assuage my frustration with the promise of justice for the perpetrators. I realize though that my theory of the crime relies heavily on wizardry (metaphorical or real), a fact which would likely work against me in traditional judicial systems. Besides, no amount of testimony could adequately describe what was stolen from me. My loss deifies the assignment of monetary value, there are no reparations that could suffice. And before you ask, no amount of Abracadabras, bunnies in white hats or Hogwarts spell-casting knowledge can retrieve it either. I’ve tried.
I’m still coming to terms with the extent of my loss. I wish I could say I had been brave enough to discern a silver lining instantly and independently, but that’s simply not true. Really it was the incredible support of family, friends, peers, even strangers that helped me see spot a glimmer of shine. Their kind words were like military-grade binoculars, thrown to me amidst the devastation of a torrential downpour.
Thanks to your kindness, I am able to view my experience now in a brighter, more silver-lined light. It was both necessary and therapeutic for me write out my feelings and express my heartbreak, but I also take full-responsibility for the outcome. I have this incredible career by choice. I pursued work in an industry where creative rewards are balanced by cutthroat tendencies, knowing full-well the risks. I am insanely grateful for the opportunity to work for the company/station/show/individuals I did, and for that I thank everyone I ever worked with, regardless of the ending. I am infinitely grateful.
Now it would be dishonest to wrap everything up in a tidy bow, to say I’m not constantly terrified at the prospect of what’s next. Every morning now when my alarm goes off, I lay in bed motionless; a victim of fear-induced paralysis. I think about heading out into the world with no set plan, no meticulous to-do list, and a giant question mark tagging along everywhere I go. It’s almost enough to make me roll over and capitulate before my feet touch the floor. What saves me from a continuous coma is the small hope I have to once again be magical. Granted I’m performing on the street for whoever will watch. But I’m constantly inspired and most importantly, I’m happy. I go to work everyday (currently my home office/couch) with the opportunity to create the kind of art, humor and positivity I’ve always wanted. In that respect, the loss I’m now grieving is minimal. The gain, the possibilities, the hope I now have? Magically endless.
Thank you to everyone who believes I’ve still got the spark.