What happens when a married couple ( He 54 and She 47) both find themselves “unemployed”?
If you’ve been around here a while you know that Warren lost his job the first week of January this year – the day before I headed out to California for the Craft and Hobby Association Trade Show. We had known this was bound to come sooner or later and we’d been expecting it for a couple of years so we were kind of prepared and had ideas and plans in place but you just never know what will – or won’t – work until the day actually comes. Ya know?
Warren had been looking for jobs for over 2 years knowing that the end of the company he worked for was likely coming. As happens with so many professionals his age everyone was looking to hire kids right out of college so they didn’t have to pay as much as they would a man with 30 years of experiences. Many of you can probably relate to that!
So we cut back. We cut back on our cut backs and then we just kept pushing forward. Our dream was that we could BOTH own our own businesses and work from home and do BETTER than we had when we were “working for the man”. We eliminated a little debt from his mother’s estate (she passed away the fall of 2012) and held onto a little of it for emergencies. We still had plenty of debt left to deal with but one or two of the bigger payments were gone. He got unemployment and continued to look for jobs while he worked on getting his own business running. Our thinking was that if a job came along he would take it in order to pay off the rest of our debt and build up retirement. If a job didn’t come along then we would have Plan B in place and be able to have a business.
Meanwhile, I continued to work on my business as well as helping with his. I picked up more freelance writing work and then a good amount of design work came in. We shopped at Aldi instead of Whole Foods, eliminated cable TV and kept Netflix, got rid of the land line phone and stopped eating out except for special occasions.
It was tight and a little scary but bit by bit we kept making progress. He got his first clients for his business just a week or so after unemployment ran out and then in the fall we both got lots of freelance work. We were busy and hardly saw one another but it was WONDERFUL.
The last two months have been a blur. You’ll notice that my blog posts have fallen off a bit but I’ve been busy with client marketing campaigns for 2014, contributing to a book, and CHA (Winter 2014 show) preparations for 3 different companies. Our oldest son moved out a couple of days before my 48th birthday (That’s him up there painting the room he recently vacated) and now I’m taking over EVEN MORE of the basement for studio space. This last batch of projects has shown me that I need MORE ROOM to lay things out and to leave projects to dry.
I have to say that I freaked out just a little in January this year when I realized that what we had wanted was actually going to happen but I knew in my heart it would work. I also knew we wouldn’t be homeless- the worst case scenario for me – we have too many amazing friends and family members for that to happen. So I took a “no room for failure” attitude and dug in.
Was it easy? HECK NO.
Did it change us? YUP, for the better.
Did it wreck our marriage? NOPE, in fact it strengthened an already solid partnership.
Are we home free? NOPE, we still have debt to pay off and after 1 more year we will be on our own for medical insurance but we are making progress.
This midlife makeover has been scary, challenging and completely transformative in the best possible ways. I’m fully aware that things could have turned out differently and I thank my lucky stars on a daily basis. I feel more confident, stronger and more positive than I ever imagined I would. I know that some of the really crappy things I’ve been through in my life have given me the courage – and work ethic- needed to get me through this year. I know that the heartbreaking times Warren and I went through early in our marriage strengthened us as a couple so that we could be a team during this makeover. I know that bad things will come in time and that we will be better prepared for those times because of what we’ve been through this year.
Have you gone through a midlife makeover? What changed? What did you learn about life or yourself?