Hard Working: Taking Control

March 6, 2009

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics will release new unemployment numbers first thing Friday morning. As part of our series Hard Working, WBEZ's Adriene Hill brings us the story of one woman who recently lost her job, and is trying to make sense of what it means to have been let go.

Event: Hard Working Coffee House
Related: Jobless rate up to 8.1 percent, 651K jobs lost

I've been talking with a lot of people lately about being laid off from work. And, of all those people, few seemed to love their job as much as Liz Kidera. She used to help design exhibits at Chicago's Field Museum.

LIZ: Everyday I walked up those steps and went I'm so lucky to be here. I am so lucky to have this job. I don't care what this job pays.

It was her dream job. Liz says she knew back in September that she wasn't going to have work after the end of the year. And when she tells me about her last day at the job, her description is as clear as if it just happened.

LIZ: I actually saved, I had one drawing to do for a photo show that opens in a few weeks and I saved that drawing to do that afternoon after every left. And I literally savored it. Getting to do that work just one more time and getting to be in that spot. I didn't intentionally set out to commemorate that but I realized that day that I'm not in any hurry now. I want to be here as long as I possibly can without being weird...staying until midnight or something. Laugh.

Liz says she felt disposed of, she felt depressed, she felt angry. So she made buttons, the kind you pin on your jacket. They say "I lost my job due to Wall Street Greed". She bought a badge a minit so they'd look more professional. 

LIZ: This is the cutter and this is the disc, I wanted to be visible and I didn't want to be ashamed. This is what it looks like, this is what a person affected looks like. I look like your neighbor and your teacher and everybody else.

Unlike a lot of people, Liz has some savings. She doesn't have any debt or a mortgage to pay, so for her the stress of being fired has been more emotional then financial. Losing her job made her question who SHE is.

LIZ : It's been a huge revelation, first of all this has become a time…I'm going to get emotional now…where I learn to value myself on my own terms because I depended so much on the value I held as them employee. That's what I took pride in, that's how I identified myself. When you lose that, that's very hard.

Now, months after the layoff, it's getting easier. She's taking control of her life- She exercises nearly every day at the Evanston YMCA. Twice a week she works out with a trainer.

Taking care of her physical self-becoming stronger is one way she's started thinking about what she appreciates about her new situation and about herself. Liz keeps a list of things she wants from life on a note, that she wrote years ago, tacked to a bulletin board at her home.

LIZ: Order, order in my house…order in my life…happy…
 
The list goes on. And right now, Liz says, she has a lot of those things. She also just recently got some freelance work-doing what she loves-designing museum exhibits.

LIZ: OK, so I'll tell you something that's really shows the kind of character I have. I don't even know what he's going to pay me. Laugh.

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