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Small Wonders: Reflecting on an unwanted anniversary

November 13, 2010|By Patrick Caneday

Anniversaries should be celebrated with champagne toasts and shovels of caviar. The one-year mark of getting laid off, however, is a different milestone. Tequila and fish sticks, anyone?

In October 2009, the unemployment rate in California was 12.1%. A year later it stands at 12.4%. The company that cut me and a few dozen friends a year ago went out of business not long after that day. If I were angry rather than understanding the situation, this might give me some vengeful pleasure. But it doesn't … much.

So, this benchmark gave me pause to reflect upon the last 12 months; to ponder what I've accomplished and have not; what I gained and what I lost, like too many others.

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I tried to turn it into a positive, focusing my time on something I'd always wanted to do but never had the time for: write. Writing has given me a sense of purpose while the state of our world remains bleak for job seekers. I put on that writer's uniform — sneakers, jeans, T-shirt, flannel over-shirt — and embraced a Bohemian lifestyle that involved not shaving and long days sitting at the coffeehouse.

One of the annoying things about full-time work is that it gets in the way of family. So, this was a time for me to contribute more at home and get to know these other people in my house. I discovered an amazing wife whose gracious support and love enabled this dreamer to live his dream. It takes a special lady to live with a man whose visions of grandeur exceed his abilities.

A couple of days each week I pick the kids up at the gate after school, get them snacks and help them with homework. I've always said that the biggest part of being a parent is to simply be present. And I've had plenty of time for just that. Otherwise, I may never have heard them proudly announce to their classmates that their father is an "article writer," and that one day they want to be just like him. I never saw that sense of pride when they told friends that their father "works in post-production or something like that."

It can be very rewarding being your own boss, doing things when you please. Costco at 3 p.m. on a weekday bears little resemblance to that madhouse on weekends. The parking is ample; the traffic in the lot and aisles is almost tranquil. You never have to wait more than five minutes in the free-sausage line.

That 15 pounds I thought I'd lose a year ago turned into 20. No job means more bike-riding and less time — and money — for heavy lunches and after-work cocktails.

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