Well Hello there and Welcome to My Almost Midlife Crisis, the show that dives into that tricky time in our lives when we are no longer young, but we aren’t old yet either. I’m your host, Jennifer Villamil. Today marks the start of Season 2 and the official beginning of my own actual midlife crisis as I find myself at a pivot point. About a month ago, I was laid off from my job at thirteen weeks pregnant. For the first time in my life – I have no idea what’s next. Oh and did I mention I’m also pregnant and in my second trimester? Yep! Crazy times. Today’s episode is bringing you all up to speed on how the hell we got to where we are today, and where we are going from here. If you are new to this podcast, welcome! We’re happy to have you! If you’ve been a loyal listener for Season 1, welcome back, I’ve missed you! So let’s jump into it!
Laid off or Fired?
First of all, I’d like to specify, I was laid off, not fired. I have been fired twice in my life though – both when I was trying to get into radio. One time, I was actually fired on air, while callers voted on my future. I’m sure there’s some residual trauma from that experience, but I would like to say that technically they voted to not fire me. Anyway, looking back, I’m very thankful I was fired twice from my radio DJ dream because radio is a dying medium and I would have probably switched careers at this point. Yes, I realize how ironic that sentence is considering I now am the host of a podcast which is pretty much today’s radio show. But those were the only two times I was ever fired. Since then I’ve had a very successful career in advertising and have never been fired. I have seen layoffs happen, just never was on the receiving end…until now apparently.
I will say being laid off feels a whole lot different than being fired. When you’re fired, you know the reason more or less. In radio I knew it was because I was sick one day and missed my shift. Now was that enough to humiliate me on the airwaves? I personally don’t think so – but I at least knew why I was getting fired. When I’ve fired employees in the past, it comes out of a performance review or probation period. So it’s not usually a surprise when the final conversation happens. But being laid off -well that feels a whole lot different. It comes at a surprise. You don’t have to have done anything wrong, or have any performance concerns. You aren’t expecting the conversation and you immediately start to wonder why out of everyone you were chosen. I think I’d rather be fired.
So what happened you ask? Well, back in November I became one of the many people that quit during the Great Resignation. After taking a month or so off, I accepted an executive leadership position at a new ad agency. I was excited as the company had seen a lot of growth over the past couple of years and it was a great opportunity to help build a media practice according to my vision. I started early February and Mid-April, I was part of a larger set of layoffs. So I can avoid a lawsuit, I’m not going to go into details as to what caused these layoffs, but hindsight 2020, I believe it was a blessing in disguise.
Can we chat about that phrase, Hindsight 2020? We’ve all experienced it, but I really thought at almost forty years old, I could start avoiding this phenomenon and instead see what is happening in real-time. I guess in some ways I have gotten better over the years on this, but will there ever be a time in our lives where we no longer experience this? Or is it actually impossible to achieve?
Anyway, I think this was supposed to happen. Of course this was after the initial shock, heartbreak and anger worked their way through my system. Oh yes, I went through all the emotions. Probably heightened because I am pregnant – and yes, we’ll get to that at some point. Getting laid off while you have raging hormones makes for a bit of a rollercoaster. But thankfully when it happened, my mom actually flew in on the first flight from Florida to help me get my mind off of it, work through it and get to the acceptance stage much quicker on my own.
Instead of dwelling in my feelings, or feeling sorry for myself, we focused on the baby, which I realized that I hadn’t really allowed myself to focus on since I started my job right before I found out I was pregnant. We went to some baby stores, checked out strollers and cribs and I even bought my first baby item, an adorable little crib or stroller blanket with an elephant on it. When I was paying for the blanket the cashier asked me if this was a gift, and for the first time in my life, It was surreal to say – no when I was buying a baby item.
And it helped that there was some solid series available on Netflix right now that we could binge while eating ice cream. Looking for a recommendation? “Pieces of Her” and “Anatomy of a Scandal” – both on Netflix. Both mysteries that will keep you clicking Next Episode faster than you can say – another scoop of ice cream please.
Being Honest with Myself
You see, if I’m being really honest with myself – I don’t know what I want to do next in my career. I’ve spent the last twenty years in advertising and for the last couple I’ve felt a bit lost. I go back and forth between considering leaving advertising all together and getting inspired by an article, project or piece of creative I see. I’ve been finding it harder to motivate myself and I’ve had a reduction of passion I’ve felt for this industry up until now. Maybe part of that is due to the aftermath of going through a pandemic. A lot of people were questioning their choices during the pandemic. And everyone was burnt out from a mixture of stressors. Maybe part of it is natural as we move through our careers and try to figure out next steps. I’m not sure exactly why, but I had been looking for a change.
That’s one of the reasons I resigned from my old position. I knew it wasn’t my future but I wanted to take some time off and figure out what’s next. Then I was approached by this latest agency. I never thought I would go to another agency, I thought I was done with agency-life. But the culture and career opportunity were interesting. And even though the job was remote, the office was in LA and it made us consider a potential for a lifestyle change of a move to another state. It was exciting and I accepted the position.
And I did like what I was doing. I loved the people I was working with and was excited about the opportunity to make a big impact and be part of developing a strategic growth vision for the future. I knew layoffs were coming, just didn’t realize I was also on the list. When I got the call, I was in complete shock and didn’t really know how to react. I didn’t really say much because it felt like every word I knew in the English language left my brain as I was given the legally approved talk track I was expecting to give the following day.
All the feels
The second I left Zoom, a tidal wave of emotion hit me and I broke down. It was hard for me to even say the words “I was laid off”. I was heartbroken. Because I had started remote, I had only met a couple of my colleagues in person and now I’d never get the chance to meet the rest of them. I wouldn’t get the chance to implement the ideas I had started to put together.
As the company was in a bit of “start-up” mode, they had seen a lot of rapid growth but were missing the foundational structure and process to set them up for future growth. My experience was perfect for this role and I had been so excited to dive in and make a lasting impact. I truly believed I had been set up for success and I had the skills needed to not just accomplish what I was hired to do – but excel. That’s the best place to be when you start a new gig no? Knowing you have the opportunity to make some small changes with big impact, quickly? That’s the dream! I could totally see why they hired me and I was so excited to be able to make a difference. But that wouldn’t happen now.
I was hurt. I had been doing a good job, but all of the sudden I was second-guessing every single conversation I had had and every meeting I had been in. Was something wrong with me? Was there something they didn’t like about me? Did I say something wrong? Was I not good enough? Did I come in “too hot” and piss someone off? That’s a joke I have with a friend of mine. I met her at my old job and she used to say I came in really hot and told me to not do the same thing at this new place. Which I didn’t! But I truly just wanted to know why I was put on the list. My Imposter Syndrome was flaring up in full force and that night I tossed and turned all night over analyzing every minute I had spent with the company and being way too hard on myself. I got zero sleep – no exaggeration. Maybe an hour tops.
I was angry. Why the hell did they hire me in the first place? My interview process was almost as long as my tenure at the company. I had just announced my pregnancy three days prior. What the hell just happened? What kind of people hire for an executive role and then two months later include them in layoffs? And what kind of humans layoff a pregnant woman? Now all of these things are fair to be mad about, but they are very reactionary. They’re emotional reactions, not rationale. That is what the angry stage is about isn’t it? It’s why we take time to process and cool off. It’s why we drive around in our car singing loudly to the song “abcdefg” by Gayle. Or is that just me? I’ll tell you what, I’m in a very healthy relationship so when that song came out it didn’t really speak to me. But that day – the lyrics of “fuck you, and your mom, and your sister and your broke ass job” etc – those lyrics really spoke to me!
Just Plain Scared
But most of all, I was scared. I was 13 weeks pregnant and now without an income. I’m not going to sit here and feel sorry for myself. I have savings, I have investments and I have a very supportive and amazing husband that immediately made it clear that he didn’t want me to rush into anything new or to worry about money. There were plenty of folks that were laid off that week that don’t have the support and savings I have. I was lucky in the grand scheme of things. But I also am recently married at 39 and have been taking care of myself financially since I was 21.
I understand marriage is a partnership and right now, Christian may be the one that supports me, and there may be a day where that role is reversed. I swear I do understand that. However, the idea of not contributing financially makes me very uncomfortable. I’ve always paid my own way and never owed anyone anything. It’s something I pride myself in. And we’re having a baby this year. Babies are expensive! The last thing I want to do is to be the cause of that added stress as we look ahead to the increased expense of a child. And I don’t want to drain my savings before the baby comes either. I truly am appreciative, but I also love him and don’t want to do that to him either.
On the flip side – what the hell was I going to do? Unlike when you quit, I wasn’t expecting to be laid off, so I had put zero thought into “what’s next?”. And I had no idea what the answer was. What did I want to do? Can I now say I’m officially burnt out on agencies? If I didn’t work at an agency – what would I do? What path would I take? And how realistic was it for me to start interviewing for another full-time position to then have to take maternity leave six months later? I know it’s technically illegal for a company to discriminate based on my pregnancy status, but from my perspective, it usually takes a couple months to get your footing in a new role and it would be disruptive to have to take three months off after only being there for six. It would be such a momentum killer and that’s assuming I found another job I wanted quickly! Time is ticking and this little girl may be on time, or she may be early! Or late. I can’t control that.
How hard will my third trimester be? What if I get put on bedrest? What if I’m really struggling being as big as a house? I’m already starting to show at thirteen weeks, so I’m assuming I’m not going to be one of those lucky women who can walk around in high heels and still run around like no big deal at thirty weeks. Is that even real? Or is that just Rihanna?
So I guess the big question is where do we go from here? Well, I don’t know! For the first time in my life, I have no freaking idea. For now, I’m focusing on my passion – this podcast and writing. I have finished my first book and it will be available very shortly on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Being a published author has been a lifelong dream of mine and it’s finally happening! I’m going to enjoy my pregnancy as I only plan on doing this once – and don’t start with the whole “that’s what you say now, but just wait!”. OMG, can I say how annoying that is? Just because you decided to have more than one, doesn’t mean I will. And guess what, if I do at some point – then that’s my choice and none of your damn business. But what I don’t need right now is being told that I’m going to have more than one. Let’s maybe just focus on this pregnancy first. Let’s focus on having a healthy, happy child the first time before we jump to the second. Calm down folks. I just lost my job and am dealing with pregnancy hormones, so just give me a second.
The Official Start of My Midlife Crisis
After twenty years in advertising, I find myself at a crossroads. I’ve recorded fifty-one episodes of this podcast where we’ve talked about how the midlife crisis gets a bad rap. Maybe it doesn’t have to be about buying a corvette and dating someone half your age. Maybe, a midlife crisis is an opportunity for positive change. Well it’s time to find out if that is true or just bullshit. Now is the official start of my own midlife crisis. This is my journey to self discovery and trying to figure out what positive changes I need to make in my life so the next forty years are even better than the last.
I invite you to come with me on this journey during Season 2. From rethinking my career to going through a geriatric pregnancy. Yes, you heard right. A pregnancy after the age of 35 is officially called geriatric. I know, depressing. I hope you’ll be on this journey with me. And I hope you are inspired to start a journey of your own. We can do it together.
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Until next week!