I received the news on a Friday. I’m convinced my manager hated me because Friday is the worst day in the week to get axed.
Not only was I dealing with the fear and shame of unemployment, I had the entire weekend to sit at home and think about it. It was 2007, a year before the Great Recession, and no one else had been laid off yet. I canceled my night out with the fellas. I told them I was sick, I had the flu. No way I’d spend the evening laughing at Steve Jobs jokes or talking about this new thing called the “smart phone”.
I ate instant ramen that night instead of sushi. Expense-cutting had to happen now. Who knew how far my severance will stretch? If it was a Monday, I could start searching for work right away. But it was Friday afternoon and no one called back on Friday afternoons. I hated my twenty-something manager for it. She could’ve transferred me, or given me a bigger severance, or more time. She could have at least waited until freaking Monday.
I drank that night. A lot. It helped. It made me feel good for a few hours. Then I threw up. Then I passed out. Then I woke up in the morning with a hammer pounding my head. I felt like a bigger loser. Something told me to head outside, to meet with friends. To talk. Drink coffee. Get some good food in the belly. But I didn’t want to see anyone.
Out the window, I saw a heavy-set mail-woman struggling up the apartment stairs. She didn’t look happy having to deliver a box on the second floor. I wanted to say to her, “At least you have a freaking job!”
I didn’t know what to do. I needed to get my mind on something. Watching TV didn’t help – I kept drifting back to my crappy situation. I got on the internet, looked at job boards, then inevitably landed on Facebook, or it could’ve been MySpace back then, or even Friendster. It was some social bragging site like Facebook is now, and my buddies from high school, and college, and everywhere else were having their second child, or buying their 4-bedroom house, or the new car, etc. I closed my browser, stared at the screen for a while.
I looked down and saw a game. It was Total War: Medieval 2, which had come out a year before. I hadn’t played it much because I was focused on my career, which seemed to be in complete tatters now.
I started the game, took breaks only to eat and sleep — I was King of England that weekend. And it was good to the be king! I subdued the annoying Scots, swept down Western Europe and Spain, and sent wave after wave of crusaders to the Holy Land. The game didn’t solve my problem. I was still unemployed. But it was an aspirin I desperately needed. A bandage to stop the bleeding. Sometimes, you just need something, anything to keep you from mind-screwing yourself. And games did that. It helped me get through the most difficult weekend of my life.