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Introduction: Starting Over and Over Again

Published 07/31/2011
The News & Observer in Raleigh, NC

Over the next several months, Bridgette Lacy will write a twice weekly column about managing your life and your job hunt after a layoff. Lacy, a former features writer for The News & Observer, is among the hundreds of state workers who recently lost their jobs.

When I was told last fall that my position as media relations manager at the N.C. Arts Council might be eliminated, I didn't panic. I thought about all of the challenges I've overcome and reassured myself that I could handle this one too.

I'm no stranger to adversity. I fought a battle with a benign brain tumor in 1999, when I was 37. I lost vision in one eye and the sense of smell. And then I had a reoccurrence in 2009, only months after starting my job at the Arts Council. I had to rally and get to radiation five days a week for almost six weeks.

I'm no superwoman, but I'm full of faith. I come armed with an arsenal of family, friends and information when I take on a problem. I have a large personality that believes in praying with my feet moving.

So even though I hoped deep inside that I wouldn't get laid off, I started making home and car repairs that were overdue. As my friend Anthony says, it's always better to prepare and not need it than to need it and not prepare.

When I received confirmation in February that my position was slated for elimination by the governor's budget, I kicked into high gear. I began cushioning and taking on freelance assignments. I started cutting back on going out for lunch and looking for more grocery store bargains. I started preparing for the day I knew could come.

In a way, I felt relieved when I got my official Reduction In Force letter in May stating that my position would be eliminated June 30. I hated living in limbo, not knowing.

The same week I got my official notice was the final episode of "Oprah." She preached that what keeps so many people from living their best life is that they don't think they are worthy. That struck a chord with me. I know I am worthy. And you are too. We are more than the jobs we held.

Unemployment, unfortunately, is now part of our life cycle. I'm among the more than 500 North Carolina state employees, according to a preliminary estimate from the state budget office, who lost their jobs because the state needs to get its financial house in order. Think of the teachers, journalists and private employees who are out of work. Chances are you know someone who has been laid off. It may even be you.

Like most of this growing number, I have a mortgage, utility bills and credit-card bills to pay. As a single woman, I don't have a second income to count on, and I know unexpected expenses can come out of nowhere. My bank account is low, but I count my mind as a wonderful resource.

So, I decided that as I think my way through this, I'll share my journey with you. I don't have all the answers, but as a reporter most of my career, I know how to find them and some of the right questions to ask.

Over the next few months, I will write about managing time when you are unemployed, redefining yourself, taking free classes, using technology to aid your job search and finding cheap ways to have fun.

And I don't want to just tell you my story. I want to share the stories of others that I meet along the way. The columns will be informational and inspirational.

So, let the journey begin. Bring your good attitude and a bottle of water. Oh, and keep that bottle after it's empty. You're going to refill it many times as we go along.