Diary of a laid-off reporter

Emily Tamkin's dog, Shiloh. Courtesy photo.

Wednesday, January 23

There are going to be layoffs. I don’t know just yet that I’ll be cut, but I suspect it. I publish what I do not yet know will be my last piece at my job, which I still have. I have plans to go see the movie Cold War with friends after work, and I don’t cancel, I go, and break Dry January, and drink my red wine and eat popcorn while watching two Poles make questionable choices. I had hoped that the movie might give me some perspective, and remind me that other people have endured much more than I, but it doesn’t. My friends ask if they can do anything, but there isn’t anything they can do, and they know that, even as they’re asking.

 

Thursday, January 24

The layoffs will be Friday. I hear that my editor’s editor is coming down from New York to Washington, and I know. I cry in the office. I cry outside the office. I go after work with a friend to a Kacey Musgraves concert, and we get drunk and sing along and I cry there, too.

 

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Friday, January 25

I am laid off. I put up my little lay-off tweet and watch my mentions, inbox, private messages, and WhatsApp go straight to hell. Mostly people are very nice, and send their well wishes and job suggestions. Some people online tell me that I couldn’t have been good at my job because I got laid off. I think, but do not respond, that many good people on our news team lost their jobs. I think, but do not respond, that a part of me agrees with these trolls. The whole DC bureau leaves and gets lunch and drinks. My sister calls and tells me that this will be a good thing. I go home and wait with my dog for my boyfriend, who makes us steak and potatoes and pours red wine and turns on “Midsomer Murders,” which we have been watching on Netflix. The episode deals with a fledgling newspaper; reporters worry that if they don’t turn up the flair they’ll be let go.

ICYMI: Amid BuzzFeed’s massive layoffs, remember that in 2015 the company made a fateful decision

 

Saturday, January 26

I apply for three jobs. Each application feels like it takes forever. I think of the “hire Emily!” tweets and wonder whether anyone will pay attention to them when all of Twitter is basically people telling other people to hire people. I start a spreadsheet with jobs and fellowships and freelance contacts. Don’t worry, I text my parents. I’ll be fine. I have a spreadsheet. They don’t reply immediately and I don’t blame them, my parents who are worried and stressed and can’t be consoled by a spreadsheet. I go to my friend’s house—the same one with whom I went to the concert—and we drink and listen to music. He plays “Knuck If You Buck” for me, twice. If you don’t give a damn, we don’t give a fuck. My boyfriend and I go out to dinner. I take and post a photo of him and caption it, “In the words of Cardi B, Look at myself in the mirror, I said, we gon’ win. Knock me down nine times but I get up 10. Bitch.” The photo is of him drinking a diet soda and the caption makes no sense.

 

Sunday, January 27

I apply for more jobs, follow up on more emails, feel more exhausted. We take our dog, a good girl, to the dog park. That evening another friend and I go to a book talk. I curse myself for having made all these cultural plans. Why didn’t I think that I might be laid off and wouldn’t feel like leaving the house? I think of all the stories I’d been working on and feel sorry for myself. Actually the book talk is very good and I’m glad to listen to something other than my own head for an hour. Afterwards I tell my friend that I feel like I’ve lost a limb, but that of course that’s silly, I’m fine, losing a limb would be worse. “Maybe this is like losing your pinky toe,” she offers, and I take it.

 

Monday, January 28

I apply for a job. At midday I go to pick up the rest of my work things. I eat lunch with my colleagues, and then I leave and they aren’t my colleagues anymore. I realize a prescription has run out. My doctor won’t refill it without seeing me because I haven’t been for a physical in over a year. This was irresponsible of me, in part because I should see my doctor, and in part, I realize, because I took for granted that I’d always have insurance. In reality, I’ll have this insurance for a little longer and then COBRA and then who knows. The appointment takes about an hour and a half. My doctor asks me if I need a note to excuse my absence at work. No, I tell her. I don’t have a job anymore. That night my now former colleagues and I go out for dinner and drinks and I get too drunk and come home. My boyfriend is upset, seeing me like this. I feel that I am in danger of letting this one bad thing ruin everything, and that I am using it as an excuse for bad behavior, or to feel sorry for myself, and I resolve that that, like my gainful employment, ends now.

 

Tuesday, January 29

It is my sister’s birthday. She is younger than I am, so I feel especially pathetic wishing her a happy birthday, but I don’t tell her this, because her birthday is not about me. I apply for another job and watch the minutes tick by of my first day not in the office. I was supposed to start writing the sample chapter for a book proposal I had started working on before I got laid off—everything is now before or after I got laid off—by 2, according to the sad little schedule I made for myself. Before I know it it is 3pm and I haven’t started. I set up lunches. I take and make calls. I exchange messages with my fellow laid-off former colleague, and we try to cheer each other up and on, or at least to remember that there is someone else in the same boat.

I read a piece that calls the reaction to the layoffs hysterical. I realize that this is how it seems to people who are not me, not us, not the laid off—a thing that happened and can be think-pieced.

Everyone says I should do something nice for myself, so I do the nicest thing I can think of, which is to eat pho at the counter of a cozy restaurant.

 

Emily Tamkin

 

Wednesday, January 30

I wake up feeling fine. Better than fine, actually. I feel great. I worry I’m having some sort of manic upswing.

I type out and send emails and then immediately struggle to remember what I wrote. I pitch a piece. I accept freelance work. I head to a sort-of-interview coffee meeting, then to lunch with the first boss I had after graduate school, and then back home for a pre-interview for a radio segment about international news. I take Ubers to get from one to the other as quickly as possible, telling myself each time that I should not be taking Ubers, because I have severance, but not a job.

I call my mom, who is so happy that I sound happy. I tell her about this diary and she says it sounds like a great idea. “It is very millennial,” she adds. I think she means because I am, once again, gazing at my own navel, and she is right. It is also very millennial in that I am in a financially precarious position after being laid-off from a digital media company.

I think of my fellow recently laid-off millennials, and non-millennials, too. There were more than a thousand of us last week. I picture us scattered throughout the city, taking Ubers and riding the subway in the middle of the day to coffees and interviews and updating our spreadsheets. I imagine us like Sims, with the diamonds over our heads changing colors based on how we’re feeling moment by moment.

After work (the work of finding work), the newsroom I left to start the job from which I was laid off meets up with my recently laid-off team. They take us out for beer. My recently laid-off team commiserates. One of us says that, by next week, everyone will have forgotten about us. He is probably right. Still, we fill one another in on our job searches. This is probably the last time we’ll all hang out together, at least for a while.

Back at home I notice that there is another op-ed written about the layoffs at the company where I don’t work anymore. I see that the author calls the layoffs an emergency to democracy, but that is all I see, because I do not read the piece. I walk my dog and go to bed.

ICYMI: Reuters publishes ethically questionable story

 

Thursday, January 31

I am in the oddest head space, because I woke up every hour or so in the night, pushing out of a series of increasingly absurd and terrible dreams. So I make, and drink, too much coffee. I apply for a job. I have a call about freelance work, then a call about another pitch, then a call about a job, then meetings about a different job. Someone I speak with reminds me that there were 200 people laid off from the company where I don’t work anymore, and I privately feel badly for spending so much time thinking about myself.

I accept one freelance assignment and turn down another. It’s only 2:30. When I see a tweet in which someone talks about their job or workplace, I think, “Congratulations, we get it, you have a job,” which I know is an unreasonable and horrible way to go through life, even on Twitter.

I take a break. For the first time since I figured out I’d be getting laid off, I use my meditation app. I left off just before the tenth and final session of the unit on “happiness.” I decide my next course will be on dealing with change.

At night I see a friend whose digital media company also laid off employees last week, but did not fire him. I ask him what it is like at his digital media company after the layoffs, and he tells me that it’s odd, to go back to work as if this didn’t happen. Because I am self-centered, I imagine my own former colleagues finding it odd, walking by the place where I used to sit and having to pretend that I never sat there, or that I left of my own accord, or that I wasn’t laid off. But, even as I think it, I know that they aren’t thinking too much about it. They’re doing the same thing that I’m doing. They’re getting on with their lives.

 

Friday, February 1

I wake up so groggy, after more dreams about layoffs and severance punctuated by a strange creaking sound echoing throughout my apartment building. I am set to go on an hour-long radio program about international news at 11, so I prep for an hour, so I do not seem like I have let my command of the issues slip away during this, my first week of being laid off.

The show goes fine, because my command has not slipped away. During one of the breaks I gently correct the way in which the host is announcing where I worked (it should be, foreign affairs reporter, formerly at X and Y). I come home and walk my dog in the snow, and then, for the first time since being laid off a week ago, lie down during the day. And then I get up and work on a writing project that may lead to nothing, but could become something, who knows.

ICYMI: BuzzFeed grilled over email sent ahead of Trump–Cohen bombshell

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Emily Tamkin is a freelance reporter and writer. She was formerly the foreign affairs reporter for BuzzFeed News.