When my wife and I were married less than a year, we decided to buy a house. It was a bit fool hardy as we were barely making any money, but we lived in a marginal neighborhood on its way back up from hard times. Houses were going for cheap and renting did not make sense. The houses in our neighborhood fell into two categories: beautiful and expensive or cheap fixer-uppers. We bought a wonderful Victorian cottage in dire need of fixing up.
Our first winter there, I learned more than I wanted to know about frozen pipes. It was a particularly cold winter and previous residents had done little to insulate the water pipes. I tried all sorts of things to “unfreeze” the pipes, but the only effective method was to wait for the temperature to go back up. I opened faucets around the house so I would know the second we had running water again. When our pipes finally unfroze, I discovered three bad things: our kitchen faucet had been damaged by the freeze and would no longer turn off the running water, the substandard plumbing had no water shut offs underneath the sink so there was no way to turn off the water in this sink and the drain in the kitchen sink was also frozen shut. I had water quickly filling up my kitchen sink and no idea where the water shut off was. I called to my wife to get a neighbor to come over and shut off the water. I was madly bailing water out the kitchen window. It was only the next morning that I discovered that I was bailing water out the kitchen window and into the old VW Beetle parked in the driveway. Some neighborhood kids had broken the back window so I was forced to drive the car, in the dead of winter, with a missing back window. Soon I could add mildew to the list of problems that poor Beetle had.
At times like these, you can either laugh or cry. We chose to laugh and laughed many times as we retold this story over the years. We were young and assumed that we would never be this poor again and that these hard times were only temporary. Good times would come and we would love to tell the stories of our hard early years. Stories such as the times we would go into a laundromat, pull the agitators out of the washing machines and get the spare change that accumulated there (I replaced the agitators. This is a story of ingenuity, not vandalism) then we’d eat dinner at McDonald’s.
But what happens 20 years later when you lose your job and your next job is hard to find? Can you still look at this situation as temporary and as the basis for good stories in your future? The hard truth is, we can not be as confident that things will get better as we were in our 20s. There are many people in their 50s and 60s that are having to make some hard decisions because things have changed and they have limited runway left ahead of them to make the adjustments.
When the great recession took me out of circulation, it gave me an opportunity to take a look around and see what was happening in the rest of the world while I was busy working. I discovered that digital marketing had come a long way since I first discovered the magic of email and web pages as marketing tools (circa 1995). It gave me a chance to learn new things that would help me get back into the job market. I formed a Social Media Lab for people my age who had no idea what a Tweet was. As you can see from the following picture, we were able to muster that sense of adventure that you will need to navigate your way back into the job market. We pulled each other up when one was down, explained the esoteric changes to Facebook and made sure everyone was able to create and update the social media platform(s) of their choice. You may be on the sideline now, but now is the right time to learn those things you never had time to learn while you were heads down in a cubical.
Good luck and Godspeed!
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