"I'd have jumped off a cliff for my boss ..."

I've been calling them Sequestration Campers, and it was the next word in his sentence that really made me pause.

"I'd have jumped off a cliff for my boss ... so I guess it's time to re-evaluate." 

In campgrounds up and down the east coast, there are more Maryland and Virginia license plates than one might expect for this time of year. And as I meet people, I'm realizing a not-insignificant number are people who lost their job in the government's sequester.

In the Outer Banks I met Mike, who told me he'd always expected to work a few years, take some time off to do something fun, and then find a new job.  "People don't have that loyalty to one company anymore, so I figured I'd keep doing new things," he said.

"That was 14 years ago. I never took the break." 

When I met Mike, he was camping out of his car and kite surfing. He'd lost his job and was finally taking some time for himself and job hunting from the road.

And in the Great Smoky Mountain National Forest, I met Dan. He'd also lost his job and was considering a change. He has a security clearance and language skills, but it was that next word that really got me: SO. 

"I'd have jumped off a cliff for my boss," he said. 

If you asked me to re-write the sentence I'd have used "BUT."

" ... so I guess it's time to re-evaluate." One idea follows the other. His loyalty was not returned, and so he needs to rethink things.

Back in D.C. I knew people who had lost or had their jobs downsized. Some took the opportunity to make changes they'd always wanted, but never acted on. 

Losing your job is one of those top-five stressful situations. It's on the list with losing a loved one and divorce. Change is always hard, and unplanned-change thrust upon you is shitshitshit.  I'm not saying the sequester has been good.

But I do see people seizing the moment. They talk about loyalty, and how it's not there anymore. They talk about taking time for themselves, stepping back, embracing the uncertainty. I've had this conversation a lot lately. 

Granted, the people I've met have had the luxury to take some time, look for a job slowly. That's a small subset. But I think it belies an important idea: Maybe we've given away a bit too much. In the search for stability we've given up a little bit of the magic that comes with not knowing. 

Posted on November 6, 2013 .