Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Is there life following being downsized after 50?

Many are facing retirement life after being downsized. Often dreams and expectations are altered from the experience.
The first time I encountered a group of the over 50 set following a downsizing was after the collapse of Russia. I was still working on my masters degree in career counseling when I was asked to make presentation to a group of laid off engineers from the aerospace industry.

I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. These weren’t men who had just lost their jobs. They had lost their sense of self, as well as a way to earn a living. Their sense of value as human beings had vanished along with their work.

You can imagine my shock when I faced that exact situation five years later myself. With a partner, we had created an amazing career center from scratch. For me, it was the culmination of a lifetime of effort and work. I’ll never forget the day she said, “Cathy, I don’t want to do this any more.” I was absolutely destroyed.

Author, marketing executive and boomer expert, Carol Orsborn recently
shared about her own downsizing that resulted in her writing the book The Year I Saved My (downsized) Soul: A Boomer Woman’s Search for Meaning…and a Job.

In those blackest moments, Carol writes, “When you give up the illusion of control, it’s true that you can’t always stop bad things from happening. But you can’t stop good things from happening, either.”

After I left the career center, for the first time in my life, I couldn’t find a job and fell into a deep sorrow that lasted almost two years. I refer to this as the time I lost my soul.

Ultimately, I learned I was solely responsible for my own happiness. The roles I had; mother, business woman, and wife were ways of expressing me, but they weren’t my identity.

There is a saying that the things that don’t hurt us make us stronger. Like Carol and many others, now I look back on the time in the wilderness as a gift. It led me to this work, painting and a psychological and spiritual health I never would have achieved without it.