On Jan. 16, I heard the words we all were dreading: "Circuit City will liquidate." They found their way to my fellow employees and me in the form of e-mails, text messages and breaking news stories from local and national media. Then, they came from our chief executive officer in a crowded auditorium where both 20-year veterans and those who'd been there mere months began mourning the loss of their beloved company — and livelihood.
Personally, I'd worked at Circuit City six months, starting my role as a Web copywriter in June and surviving a round of layoffs and a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in November. At that point, I had survivor guilt, wondering why I hadn't been let go. Two months later, I was even more invested in the company's outcome, and overwhelmed with sorrow for my co-workers who had stood by until the end.
At 26, this had been my first corporate job, and it was a position with both a generous salary and great work-life balance. I was amazed by the support I received not only from my boss and team but also from the other departments I interacted with. I also appreciated the opportunity to spend quality time after work with my new husband (we married in September).
For me, the layoff didn't have a drastic impact on our ability to meet monthly bill payments. I'm blessed that my husband not only works hard but also saves aggressively and had instilled that value in me. My savings from my time at Circuit City has left me equipped to pay the bills I feel he shouldn't be burdened by — my graduate-school student loans — for a year. I'm fortunate that he supports whatever decision I make — in fact, he encourages me to take my time finding new employment and would even be OK with my choosing not to work.
As a young woman, I've been struggling with what the best decision is for me. At first, knowing I had only two months' severance pay, I hit the ground running looking for a new job. I'd become so comfortable with my salary and had taken such pride in paying back my loans and personal bills, too, that I yearned to minimize the time I wasn't earning a paycheck. I interviewed for a few jobs I would have loved to have landed, and a few that wouldn't have fit right at all.
Each morning I'd wake up and feel guilty that I hadn't gotten a job. I began taking on freelance-writing gigs, which I did when I first moved to Richmond. It was nice to have something to keep me busy, even though the pay wasn't much in comparison to my old salary. Somewhere along the way — perhaps a month into job-hunting and freelancing — it came to me: I'm way too lucky to feel sorry for myself.
I'd been so consumed with finding a new job so that I could continue to pay my own bills that I'd forgotten that marriage is a partnership. I'd always imagined that down the road when we had children, I'd stay at home with them and freelance, but being at home right now seemed to go against that plan — there are no children to take care of. My guilt was based on a lost sense of worth.
When we first filed our taxes together in February, I let some of the weight resting on my shoulders fall away. To file joint taxes, a couple must have a joint account. Suddenly we were rolling my account into his, and it was ours. I'd been fighting so hard to prove that I wasn't a 1950s housewife that I forgot I'm still a wife. We vowed to take care of each other, and right now I shouldn't give myself a guilt trip for letting him. I may not be drawing the same paycheck, but I'm still worth a lot.