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My 23-year stellar work history did not matter to the $6 billion corporation that deployed my manager to my office on a Monday morning to lay me off.

Help, wanted 

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It took me about 45 seconds to get over my anger and transition to problem solving. My 23-year stellar work history did not matter to the $6 billion corporation that deployed my manager to my office on a Monday morning to lay me off. I'd be damned if I was going to spend my last hour crying or yelling or throwing my stapler or hurling the keyboard or drop-kicking the coffee pot.

What am I going to do now? First, I deleted all the porn off the company computer. (Just kidding.) And changed the desktop image back to the dull Microsoft default. (That'll show 'em.) I inventoried my personal belongings, wishing they'd given me a little heads-up so I could have driven a U-Haul to work. Or maybe rented one of those pod storage trailers. I could have had it strategically dumped in the "Reserved for the President" parking space. Or better yet, blocking the front door.

You accumulate a lot of stuff in 23 years. Old pictures of my kids, so little I almost mistake them as my nieces and nephews. Mementos from co-workers old enough to retire, smart enough to change careers or stupid enough to beat up the warehouse manager and go to prison. (That really happened.) All my million-dollar sales trophies and National Salesperson of the Year awards. I wanted to box all them up and express mail them to the CEO at the home office.

I made some tough decisions and packed my stuff in one large Panera-To-Go paper bag and two Whole Foods lunch bags. I changed my mind about the trophies and plaques, cleared them off my credenza, took them out back and smashed them, one by one, into the dumpster. I hugged my close friends goodbye and headed for the door, making very sure not to look back and watch them scavenge the leftover office supplies off my desk.

I remembered to breathe.

I didn't go straight home. I stopped at the library and asked the guy at the reference desk for the address of the local Employment Security office. It's not a building I have noticed before, even though I'm sure I have driven by many times.

The lady who checked me in was very nice. She had tears in her eyes when she explained how sad it was to see so many good people with long work histories sit at her desk after being kicked to the curb by some big company. She assured me it wasn't my fault. She told me I am a casualty of an economic war. She invited me to her church. She made me feel that I am not alone and I will be fine.

I will figure out what to do. I will use all my years of work experience, emotional regulating, problem-solving, note-taking, stirred but not shaken, ass-kicking set of skills and go conquer the job world (again).

Donna Barkley is unemployed. She divides her time between watching Reno 911 reruns on Comedy Central and applying to bogus stay-at-home Internet sales positions on Craig's List.

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