For the past four and a half years, I’ve been working at the Neighborhood Co-op Grocery. Now, this chapter of my life is over. When I went in to work today, one of my managers informed me that they’re letting me go.
I suppose most people would be angry, bitter, depressed, or similarly upset in my situation. And to be sure, the news was a shock to me, and I’m still upset about it in my own way. But it wasn’t a surprise per se, and so far I’m feeling much better about it than I would have imagined.
I have a few ideas about where to go from here. But first, here’s some of the back story.
As I’ve mentioned before on this blog and elsewhere, I’ve been struggling with symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for several years now. I didn’t have access to medical care for long enough to get an official diagnosis for this, especially since CFS has only become widely recognized and understood in the past several years. But my doctor did give me some supplements to help improve my energy levels and the health of my adrenal glands. She also gave me some advice on how to improve my symptoms and correct some of my resulting mineral imbalances such as low sodium levels. [It’s not every day that your doctor advises you to eat eggs and salt, eh?]
It’s hard to be entirely sure when this started. From adolescence until about my mid-twenties, I suffered from prolonged bouts of anxiety and depression. These are sometimes associated with CFS, but it’s hard to tell which came first. In my mid-twenties, I started becoming a happier and more well-adjusted person, and my energy levels started to pick up too. But then I must have pushed myself too hard too quickly, or come across some other stumbling block, because my physical energy levels took a sharp dive a few years ago.
I don’t like to complain. Really, I would rather just push along stubbornly with whatever task I’m doing and ignore any pain or discomfort along the way. But I found myself experiencing a profound exhaustion that’s hard to even describe. Resting all day and sleeping eight hours each night did little if anything to alleviate this. No matter how I tried to rest or recuperate, I felt very low energy and felt the sorts of aches and pains in my body that most people only feel when they have the flu or when they’ve been working ten or twelve hours of hard manual labor. When I wasn’t doing anything, it wasn’t that bad — but when I tried to work, it was like every one hour of labor cost me two or three hours worth of energy, and I just couldn’t catch back up.
For a while there, it was a struggle even to work a twenty-hour work week. Over time, I’ve gradually improved to the point where I can pull off a thirty-hour work week. But apparently, I wasn’t quite pulling off thirty hours worth of work, because I received complaints about my performance.
The only thing I find frustrating about the timing of this firing is that I really feel like I was starting to make some headway. I feel like my productivity was on the upswing, and I believe that I had worked my way back up to the point of mediocre performance.
But sometimes mediocre isn’t good enough, especially after a prolonged period of poor performance. If other people are giving the job 110%, and I’m getting paid more money to get less done than they are, it becomes a fairness issue. I can see why they would find that frustrating, especially if they didn’t know about my condition.
Really, what it comes down to is that the Co-op is there to serve the customers and owners, and to operate as a viable business. I wasn’t meeting their needs in terms of performance — and as much as they might strive to be at times, they are not a charity or a social services organization. So, they let me go.
I don’t know if the troubled economy, or any other internal or external factor, played a role in the decision. If so, they didn’t mention it. Either way, even though I wish on some level that they’d chosen differently, I can understand where they’re coming from, and have no hard feelings about it. And they don’t seem to either.
So… what next?
Really, that’s a good question. The Southern Illinois economy is even less favorable than the national economy, and opportunities outside of retail work are few and far between. In the short term, I’m going to look into unemployment, food stamps, etc., while I figure out where to go from here. In the long term, though, I still don’t know. It did just happen a few hours ago, after all.
So far, I’m mentally sorting my ideas into two categories. The first category is Full Time Jobs — employment opportunities that have the potential to pay all of my living expenses through a single source of income. The second category is Part Time Jobs, which includes both “regular” jobs and forms of self-employment such as selling books/articles, teaching classes, and so on. With two or three such options, I could patch together the equivalent of a full time income.
This time in my life is likely to be full of challenges. It will probably take me time to find one or more new sources of income. In the meantime, I’ll have to rely on some combination of social services and the kindness of friends and loved ones just to meet my basic living expenses.
But really, I have high hopes for the future. I’m intelligent, creative, passionate, knowledgeable and skilled in my chosen areas of expertise, feeling an upswing in my energy levels, and surrounded by many wonderful friends and loved ones who will help me find a way. If all goes well, in the long run I’ll end up better off than I was before losing my job. And in the meantime, even with the scramble to search to employment, I’ll probably get more rest physically over the next few weeks than I’ve had in a very long time.
So, it’s with a mixture of trepidation and anticipation that I step into a world beyond retail work. The stakes are high, and even with my meager expenses, I’ll have to act quickly in order to avoid a rapid downward spiral into debt and worse. But with every crisis comes an opportunity — and today, I have the opportunity to search for new ways of supporting myself which are more in line with what I’d like to be doing to survive and thrive in this world.
Any thoughts, suggestions, and support you may have for me in this time of transition is greatly appreciated. In the meantime, know that I am doing well, and that I am surrounded by loving friends for whose support I am eternally grateful.