Being in an Earthquake is an interesting phenomenon. The only one I went through awake, I’d just hit the stairs, on stocking feet (mom’s stairs are very polished highly varnished mahogany) at a run, to answer the phone. I was holding the banister. And yeah, I shouldn’t have been running on the stairs, in my stocking feet. Except I had done it hundreds of times in the past. And never fallen. I knew how to position my feet, so I didn’t slip. I was fine.
And then suddenly the ground went off from under my feet. The rail shook the other way. I tried to balance and hold, but the things I counted on weren’t there.
I was airborne. And then I was landing. Fortunately on my behind, which is padded. I was lucky. Nothing broken, but it hurt to sit for a week.
Some years ago, I started noticing a weird phenomenon.
Most of my friends were somewhere between 50 and 65, and times were unstable — kind of like now, but a little slower — and people would get laid off. When that happened, they seemed to become paralyzed.
It was bizarre to watch.
I mean, this often happens to young people, laid off for the first time often have that issue, because they simply don’t know how to look, or where to apply, and are scared.
But these were people with years and years of experience jumping between jobs, finding work, being productive.
And suddenly…. they weren’t. They couldn’t even get up and look. Even as finances got strained, most of them continued derping in place. Heck, you could throw them offers, and they would let them slip, or hesitate a lot before taking them.
I thought it was depression, and we did what we could to cheer them up. Most of the time it didn’t work.
It took me years to figure out what the real problem was. And yeah, I had to live through it. I’m only now, slowly, emerging from it. And yes, it’s hitting friends who are “laid off” from writing too.
You see, it’s not depression, though in the beginning at least it might have elements of it. It’s actually shock. Paralysis coming from shock.
They are in shock because they never saw the layoff coming. They have experience, they’ve been laid off before, just like I’d tripped on the steps before. They know the signs. They also know how to look once it falls, but suddenly ….
It’s all different. Their field might not exist at all, or exist in a form so different they can’t quite conceptualize it.
And they feel betrayed, and don’t know the way to go on.
Yeah, I lived through this as I got “laid off” from Baen. Over the years I’d built my identity as a writer into Baen. I was a Baen author. At signings we tended to sit together. Most of my friends were with the house.
For at least two years I knew it made me less money than going indie, but I felt I owed the house something, and all my friends were there.
And then — whammo. Earthquake.
And you’re at the bottom of the stairs, on your butt going “But what happened?”
Mind you this is still somewhat of a mystery, but what isn’t a mystery is that I was stunned, stupified, and it’s taken me three? four? five, I guess, years to even come close to normal functioning. (And the return of my IP helped.)
I know what to do. I have the tools. I’ve done the research.
But still, even now, somewhere within, my mind is going “but why do I have to start again?” Because of course, we expect a certain roadmap and feel out of it when it stops being there. It’s not… natural. And the older you get, the more ideas you have of what is, or should be, natural.
The problem is that over the next two/three years, and for good or ill, everyone’s roadmap is going to change. And for most people their career and daily routine as well.
Which means for those of us on the lee (and slidy) side of fifty, it’s going to be hard.
All I can tell you is it’s easier to be prepared, to be ready for the bump. To be braced. You might still fall, if the shake is big enough. But you’ll be ready.
And it’s easier as if, as for every major traumatic (happy or not) event, you have a plan. That’s why women make “birth plans” because it helps to feel at least a little in control. And that’s why you have routines.
So, prepare now. Make sure you have “Well, if I lose my job/house/town/family” this is the first thing I do. And this is the second. And–
We might not have control over what will hit us. That’s at a level beyond our control.
But we can control the aftermath. And cover our butts with a pillow, so they don’t hurt quite so badly.
Now is the time to do it. when planning food storage, and the worst case scenario, prepare for medium-bad too.
What if you lose a job? What if your spouse does? What if you have to help your parents/children/siblings.
It might seem impossible to survive, but it never is. Make lists. What do you do first? What are your secondary skills people might pay for? etc, etc, etc.
In the end, “never give up, never surrender” should be the motto of life.
Have a plan. Have two. Have three. And be prepared to keep on going when the worst happen and plans one and two fail.
You’re capable of more than you think you are. So are most people.
Be not afraid. And keep battling on.