Bracing for Furloughs

Two weeks ago my airline announced it would furlough 17,500 employees in October, specifically 8,099 Flight Attendants. I am one of the 8,099. What does this mean? It means that unless the airline gets an extension to the Payroll Support Program (PSP) of CARES, I’ll be out of a job until further notice come October. To be honest, the writing has been on the wall and anyone that says otherwise hasn’t been paying attention. The first bail out was essentially a bandaid on a hemorrhaging wound. The airline has been asking employees to take paid and unpaid leaves since April which isn’t a good sign. Not to mention the fact our union contract clearly states, leaves must be offered and exhausted prior to furloughs. Well those offers came and went, and they even included early retirement offers (another red flag). As a matter of fact, I took one of those leaves. I even offered to extend my leave for 15 months starting October. Long story short, I won’t be going back to being a flight attendant soon and I’m okay with it.

While a lot of my coworkers are heartbroken and mourning a career lost, I find solace in knowing I won’t be going back to the jet-setting lifestyle anytime soon. All this time off has given me a lot of room to think and while I knew about 11 months into 2014 that flying wasn’t what I envisioned doing as a lifelong career, I continued to fly for 6 years. Time off has made clear what I felt but avoided paying attention to all these years: I wasn’t happy. It speaks volumes that in the midst of a pandemic and furloughs, while most would be wildly upset, I am more okay than I should be. That does not mean I’m thriving by any means. Transitioning to a new career is a whole new can of worms in itself. The whole reason I stayed flying for so long is I wasn’t a hundred percent sure about a career route, I was battling mental/physical health issues and my job had really great benefits. It’s hard to walk away from a job with flexibility and perks without a clear direction.

That being said, here are a few things I’ll be doing to get myself in a position to best make a pivot, and if you’re in the same position maybe these will help you too!

#1 Make Space to Sit With it all and Process

Anytime I start to feel overwhelmed, or steer toward the doom and gloom, which seems to be my M.O. when shit hits the fan, I don’t like talking about it much, unless it’s with my therapist. Most friends/family tend to either want to uplift or help fix the situation. It almost makes things worse by dismissing feelings or what requires unpacking. I don’t blame anyone for having this reaction, no one wants to see someone they care about not feeling their best, but part of processing, is going through the thing. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to intuit my needs and making space for the not so pretty feelings and thoughts, is integral. It sounds corny, but if you don’t stop to think about what and why you’re feeling, in my case relief, then overwhelm about the future, then fear about the “what if’s”, then you’re not working from solid ground. Lord knows the only way to build anything is on a good foundation. What does that look like? For me it means taking some time to sit with it all, but with a deadline. That could mean a week of mindless bingeing on streaming networks while simultaneously loading up on Ben & Jerrys, and your favorite comfort foods/drinks and throwing most caution to the wind (or maybe that was just me). Honestly, we’re in a fucking pandemic. While a professional would say, this isn’t healthy coping, I say, agreed it’s probably not, but it feels dang good and sometimes that’s exactly what you need.

#2 Write Out a Plan of Action

By the end of that week, I clearly hadn’t dealt with much, so last week was dedicated to all the feelings. I cried a lot, I was tired, exhausted. I still didn’t want to talk to anyone. I talked to my therapist, which always helps get me into a healthier frame of mind. By the end of the week I didn’t have many tears left, but was ready to move forward. I’d even applied to a few jobs! My personal plan of action is fluid, but has involved researching fields I find interesting and can see myself transitioning into and then applying. Instead of spending all day applying to all the jobs, I have a more targeted approach. I only research a few hours a day. I also temporarily deleted all my social media again, as I want to keep my mind as clear and focused as possible going forward. Being mindful of when social media becomes a hindrance instead of a means to connect has been a work in progress, but the more I police myself in this regard, the better I am at cutting myself off as necessary. So if it’s not fun for you or if it starts to feel like a comparison contest or induces FOMO, get rid of it! When the heaviest of feelings/emotions are unpacked, the likelihood of working from a calm state of mind is infinitely greater. This is the best time to create your own game plan, not when you’re feeling bogged down by overwhelm.

#3 Make Time for Things That Bring You Joy

Part of my game plan, is making time for things that bring me joy, something I tend to put on the back burner when I’m stressed. It helps keep me grounded. For me, that means that while I love reading non-fiction, I’ve started to make a point of incorporating fiction into my reading rotation. I’m also temporarily replacing reading the news in the morning with reading a novel. This simple replacement gets my day started without so much worry about things I can’t much control, but also allows me to enjoy my daily reading habit. Things that bring each of us joy can look very different from person to person. For me, it means trying new things, including new workouts, biking new routes or simply writing. It may mean, visiting friends/family, getting your nails or hair done, getting a new outfit, taking pictures, watching a really good new movie. It’s about rooting into what truly makes YOU happy. If you don’t know what joy looks like for you, make a list of the things that make you smile or laugh, or the things you would do on a perfect day. Remember, making time for joy allows your brain to remember, that even in the midst of everything happening, it’s still possible to carve out moments of happiness. Joy is a super power in times of strife, so take time to cultivate it.

#4 Network

Now is the time to say yes to all invites and ask people out on coffee, lunch and dinner dates. You never know which loose connection or conversation over a meal can help you along. Get outside of your normal circle of friends. If there is a particular career path you’re interested in, go through your networks and see if there’s someone you know doing it well. It doesn’t matter if it’s not a close friend. I’ve found, most people are genuinely helpful. I was briefly looking into real estate and did just that. It only took a conversation or two with a few acquaintances to quickly gather, real estate was not for me. Either way, I’m grateful for their time and insight, as it made my job hunt a lot easier. At the very least, connecting is good for everyone’s mental health, at best it can give you fresh ideas or strategies on how to get to where you want to be.

If you don’t already, now’s the time to create a LinkedIn profile. Not only is it essential for job searching in this day and age, it’s the best place to start networking.

Side note- If you’re interested in learning more about how our social networks effect virtually every aspect of our lives, including our careers, I highly recommend reading Connected.

#5 Take Care of Your Body

Take it from me, this pandemic has not done my body any favors. While I make it a point to workout almost daily, the snacking and indulging has skyrocketed. There’s something about a pandemic that’s just made me ravenous. I’ve put on a more than a few pounds and while it’s been delicious, it isn’t healthy longterm. A few pounds can easily turn into 10, 15 and then 20. My plan? Keep it simple. Eat real food, meal prep and keep moving. Meal planning has two advantages: you can plan healthy meals ahead of time, and you can save a lot of money. I’ve found that when I order takeout or mindlessly snack, it’s usually not the healthiest (shocker). I know we’re all bored in the house and in the house bored, but try to not indulge every time you’re bored. Instead, maybe drink a glass of water, learn a TikTok dance (if you have time to snack you have time to dance!), step outside for a few minutes or call a friend (get the tea). The whole point here is to distract. If you’re still hungry in an hour, then go for it, just make it a healthy snack. It’s about learning the difference between hunger and boredom.

This year has been one for the books. It’s been challenging, nerve wracking, it’s had moments of sadness and bursts of joy. That’s how it goes though, life doesn’t stop, and it can feel relentless sometimes. It’s about learning to course correct as many times as necessary, and keep it moving forward. I’m likely getting furloughed, and if not, I’ll be on a 15 month leave, either way, I’m temporarily without a job. A position many in the US currently find themselves in. If you take anything from this post, I hope it’s that there is no right way to process things. I simply share what I’ve responded well to. I know in moments like this many of us can feel overwhelmed by the weight of it all. I hope the aforementioned points, give you, like myself, a starting point. Please note, no one is perfect and while I may make plans, I still have days where I just don’t want to do anything. That’s okay too. We’re in unprecedented times, some days your biggest accomplishment might just be getting out of bed and taking a shower, so be it. Keep in mind, your best changes from day to day, depending on your energy level, but as long as you do what you can, you’ll be alright.

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