Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining (or at Least a Silver Plated One)

13 Apr

So, after writing about some of the crazy things that have gone on in my life, I’d like to stress that I’m a painfully optimistic person. Even if I don’t have the energy to be smiley and goofy like my normal self, I’m counting my blessings, brainstorming, or doing things for others to keep from having a big pity party. Now, don’t be fooled. I think pity parties are essential when you’re going through a rough time, but they just can’t be permanent. Parties are temporary and can be fun. If the party doesn’t end, it’s just a pity lifestyle, and I would not encourage that. Really, I’m what I’ve dubbed an optimistic realist. I can be a bit sarcastic and cynical, because I know stuff happens, I just also know that it’s not all bad stuff. It sounds cliche, but I can’t think of many times that a sucky thing has happened in my life that didn’t have a silver lining.

For example, about a month before Tom and I got married, we both found out (on the same day) that we were going to be laid off. (Everytime I hear “Float On” by Modest Mouse, I think of that time: “we both got fired on exactly the same day/well we’ll float on good news is on the way.”) It was terrifying and sad, because Tom really loved his job, and I had become good friends with the people I’d worked with for nearly 5 years. We were actually let go on different days, and there were two sets of layoffs for the company where I worked. One was in two weeks from the day they announced the layoffs, and the other was two weeks later – the day before the wedding. As much as I would have liked a couple of extra weeks worth of pay, I was in tears over the idea of leaving my job the day before I got married, and was already hatching a plan involving taking my leftover vacation time the week before the wedding. I was also concerned, because the years I had worked for the company weren’t consecutive, because I’d worked contract labor on different filing projects for them through the years, and I had only been a bona fide employee for a year and a half. So, I was convinced I wouldn’t get any kind of severance package, and we’d drain our savings to pay our bills before Tom and I could each find another job. When I walked into the office to talk to my manager and the VP of my department, my manager was tearing up, and the VP was looking stoic. Yep, this was it, they were going to tell me I was leaving the day before my wedding, and that they wouldn’t be giving me any severance. Then my manager started talking about how much he respected me, appreciated me, and felt like we had grown up in the company together (we were both initially hired at the same time.) He raved about my taking on the role of my previous manager, who had been fired for falsifying info, and how I carried on as the sole person in my department after our former VP left the company. Then the VP started talking about how long I’d worked for them, and how I’d been willing to take on jobs that others didn’t want to do, and then … he told me that they had decided to take into account the full amount of time I’d done any work for the company, and that it would all be reflected in my severance package. Then, he asked if I would rather leave sooner than later, because he knew the wedding was coming up, and he wasn’t sure how I would want to handle that. So, I got the choice to leave a couple of weeks before the wedding, and I left there feeling loved, appreciated, and respected for a job well done.

Tom didn’t get a severance, but we did make lifelong friends with his boss, Patrick, and their family. (Patrick is an amazing metal artist, and is now the sole employee of his functional art studio, Iron Chinchilla.) Patrick ensured him that if the time ever came when he could hire employees again, he would contact Tom. He’s also been an inspiration to me as an entrepreneur. Fortunately, we didn’t spend much on our wedding as far as weddings go. We reserved a pavilion and lawn at the park where Tom proposed for the ceremony and reception, had minimal decorations, two bridesmaids and a groomsman, and a barbecue with a pie buffet for dinner. (We like pie way more than cake, and had the bakers in the family bring two of their specialty pies each, so it was a very sentimental dessert!) My aunt and uncle paid for the rest of the food, which helped us out tremendously, and I think we ended up paying around $2,500 for everything else for the wedding.

One of my favorite pictures from the wedding.

So, we got married and cancelled our honeymoon. We took a week off for a “staycation” before we began our job hunts. With the money from my severance plus the money we had already saved, combined with some penny pinching, we got down to an amount that would have paid one more month’s bills before Tom and I both found jobs. We were absolutely down to the wire, but we had exactly what we needed, not to mention our first major lesson in budgeting and dealing with job loss in a marriage.

My point is, it was hard, but it didn’t kill us; it brought us closer (lots of nights at home cooking dinner together and playing games or watching [non cable] television,) and it taught us some valuable life lessons. We talk to students all the time now about finances, budgeting, paying off debts, etc., and we tell them that story. We’re able to give them some tools to get through a tough financial situation, but mostly we’re able to give them hope that they will get through it.

I know that’s not the most extreme example of finding the silver lining, but money is something that we all have to deal with, so it’s an example most people can identify with. I know that there are things that happen that don’t make sense, and it’s incredibly hard to see any silver lining at all. Terrible, tragic things happen in this world, and sometimes it’s up to us to make sure that there is a silver lining by using them as chances to take action politically, environmentally, socially, or by sharing those things with others to create a cause that builds awareness, support, or prevents the same terrible thing from happening again.

What’s your silver lining?

Gentle hugs,

Chels

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