A little over a month has gone by since the layoffs were announced at work and my long goodbye to the place I've worked for the past five years began. There are still a lot of emotions stirring around in my head about my changed circumstances, but the storm has passed and I'm determined to make the most of this unexpected turn of events. Just how I'm going to do that is, in many ways, yet to be determined, but it is going to start with me using this time as an opportunity to take a leap of faith and try something I never thought I would--full-time motherhood.
Before marriage and motherhood, if you asked me if I'd ever consider being a full-time mom, I'd have said no. The thing is, I like to work, and most of my adult life has been devoted to finding a career identity for myself--not an easy task for someone with an advanced degree in ancient Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. And if I may say so, my progress wasn't too shabby. After earning my Master's at UCLA, I joined the staff at LACMA during the blockbuster King Tut exhibition, and my success there led to a recruitment call from the Education Department at the Getty Museum--a department with a nationwide reputation for excellence and a best-of-the-best staff. A foot in the door at the one of the preeminent cultural institutions in the country, I thought, meant I would be well-positioned to earn my stripes and advance my career at a steady pace. And what's more, for the second time since grad school, I was in a position in which I could directly apply my specialized knowledge of the ancient Mediterranean--again, not an easy thing to come by!
The position and the opportunity seemed ripe with potentiality. The bases were full. All I needed to do was deliver and send the pitch headed over home plate back over the wall. ...Uh, not quite. The economy tanked shortly after I was hired on at the Villa, and instead of the opportunity to advance, the Great Recession resulted in a stagnant wage and the elimination of career opportunities across the board, not just at my home institution. The Getty ultimately experienced two rounds of deep cuts to its staff, the second of which found me among those holding one of those infamous blue folders from HR containing a "letter of separation."
By the time I was handed that blue folder, I was already frustrated by the lack of room for advancement in a down job market. For a brief moment at the end of last year, I thought my willingness to take on duties and tasks beyond the scope of my position had finally paid off when I was reassigned as a coordinator for Teacher Programs. In the end, of course, the change never fully materialized. The new leadership of the museum froze the paperwork because they knew massive layoffs were coming to Education this spring. As frustrated as I already was, the layoffs this April were the final *head-desk* moment of despair and aggravation. As crappy as having a door slammed in your face is, the finality of it is freeing. You can't go this way. Move on.
So what's next? I've been asked that question a lot lately, and the more time passes, the more confidence I feel in my decision. I have the chance to explore an option I've been thinking about more and more over the past nineteen months and spend some time as a full-time mom. After this most recent lesson on the folly of making plans, that's about all I'm willing to say with any certainty at this point. For several years now I've been looking for the bigger and better career opportunity because I assumed a bigger and better salary (read: greater financial security) would ultimately serve my family best. But the lessons of the past nineteen months and especially recent events have served as a wake-up call that that assumption may not be true at this moment in time. All that has happened obviously got my attention in a big way and has made me rethink where I am most needed and how I can best serve my family right now, a time when professional opportunities are hardly blossoming beneath my feet. Reflecting on the last ten years, this experience has also reminded me that it's okay to follow my instincts--even when they are leading toward an uncertain and unknown path rather than a more certain, well-traveled one.
Sure, maybe we are wrong and will find that we can't quite get by on one income--that's part of the uncertainty. But even if that is the lesson we eventually learn from all of this, what I do know about this decision is that I'll never look back and regret choosing to spend more time with my son.
As uncertain as these times are, of that I have no doubt.