Today is October 1, 2011. Exactly one year ago today I packed up the remains of my cubicle home for the last time and came home to a lot of prayer of what God's plan was for my life. I had over 15 years of experience as a civil engineer and had never been unemployed before. The consulting firm I worked for had gone through at least 3 staff reductions over the previous 2 years. I don't know why I was so stupid to not see it coming. Maybe because I was busy when the called me and four others into the conference room one at a time and laid us off. Oh, and in our industry - that really means fired...not that they will call us back some day when they need staff again. Except they told us earlier in Sept and sent the other four immediately home that day telling me that I had until Oct 1 because a principal had told them that he needed me to finish a project for him before I left. But laying me off just meant that they didn't really have cause other than they couldn't foresee enough workload to justify us staying on. Never mind a couple of guys making way more than me that continue to be there wasting oxygen.
So the question in my head was "Well, what do I do now?" And the answer was that I had a certain amount of clients that would follow me because there wasn't anyone at that 9-office firm that did what I did for them. And it looked like I would have at least a little work for the old company as a subcontractor because they were still under contractual obligation to some of "my" clients. And given central MO isn't the mecca of engineering opportunity and no one else was really hiring, I dove into the complete unknown of being self-employed. There was a lot of stumbling around that first few months. I spent 2 months obtaining liability insurance (oh yeah, with the pollution rider since I do Clean Water Act stuff), wrote a business plan (yeah, they didn't teach us about those in engineering school), and tried to get the word out to my "network" about my "new adventure" without sounding too bitter about how it came to pass.
The spring brought a big subdivision project (yeah, that I haven't gotten completely paid for yet) and the summer brought annual report season for my municipal stormwater clients (thankfully, they did pay promptly), but this fall brought a work slowdown that feels like someone put on the brakes. I had goals for this first year. I got about 70% there - that feels like a C-. But I managed to keep my head above water so maybe I should be more grateful for what this year has been.
Unemployment hit our household again the end of July when my husband was laid off again (electrician - this does mean he would get recalled as work picked up). He'd had a good run - 20 months of 40 hr/week. But we'd been living on his income so it was a hit. Thankfully, we're very conservative with saving when he's working so we're fine and, also thankfully, he was asked by the hall to go out to the nuclear plant for a shutdown project this fall which he started this last Tue. Will be nice to be able to pay bills without dipping so far into savings.
I do recognize that my owner/principal engineer status has afforded me some flexibility I would have never had if I were still working for "the man". This summer when I got up early and got in a brick workout (45 min bike/30 min brisk walk) would not have been possible if I had to be at work 40 min away at 8 AM. Or when I would knock off at 2 or 3 PM on Friday and take my son to the pool so we could both get some exercise. Or when I would swim for 30-45 minutes during the workday at the ARC (ok, I might have been able to swap a lunch hour or two for that one, but still - it was nice not to have to worry about what I looked like when I was done). So maybe part of God's plan was that I would finally be able to take some time to take care of me. To move me from a girl who couldn't swim 25 yards, couldn't walk step for step with my husband and thought 5 miles on the bike on flat terrain was a "killer workout" to this person that finished two sprint triathlons and a couple of 5k's and has lofty goals for next year.
What will this next year bring me as I grow as a business owner, a triathlete and a person? Will be interesting to see. Went to mass this evening and thanked God that we made it through this first year and to give me strength to get through this next one. I also thanked Him that I am able to do the things I can do with this slowly shrinking body and prayed for continued progress on my fitness goals. I thanked the Lord for the extra time I've gotten to spend with my children now that I am the one that picks them up from school most days and for the other times I've been able to participate in their lives. So many times I want to kick God out of the driver's seat, but I know that I must surrender my willfulness. I need to believe that His plans are greater than mine.
OK - we'll be back to regular scheduled programming soon.