Emotional Aftermath.

by Regan McMahon



The day I left the newspaper where I’d worked for almost 25 years, I was so busy I didn’t have time to fall apart. As book editor, I was still dealing with assignments I’d made for the daily paper, the production of Sunday’s Books section, which would close at 5 p.m., and the daily avalanche of emails from publishers, publicists, writers and editors of other sections at the paper asking, “When is this story coming in?’ “How much do we pay this freelancer?” “Have you got everything lined up for the holiday issue”?


In between, I was training my replacement. He had been named only Monday, and this was Friday. We hadn’t gotten much time together during the week because he was busy doing his other job, and I was busy doing mine. That’s the way it is in a newsroom. There is very little downtime, if any. And since the downsizing of recent years, I’d say there is none.


My friends had planned a goodbye party for me: Margaritas and appetizers at a local Mexican restaurant, to begin at 5 o’clock. At 5:20 I was still writing my farewell letter to the staff (a tradition that accompanies departures of folks who’ve been there a while), as a colleague stood over me telling me to hurry up and get to my party. I sent it off and rushed to the restaurant, where at outdoor tables off the bar I was presented with a mock front page featuring stories about me (another newspaper tradition), I made a teary speech and friends toasted my tenure and my future. It was a very happy event, and when people asked me what I’d be doing next, I told them about the two hot jobs I’d applied for. “Of course you’ll get one of them — probably both!” the well-wishers said.


Then I didn’t. Somewhere between the festive tequila toasts and the harsh email rejection letters a couple of weeks later, I had gone from “a person who took the buyout,” the envy of those left behind to slave away overworked and underpaid, to “unemployed,” an unattractive status in the best of times, but a subject of horror and pity in the middle of a financial crisis of historic proportions. The day of my farewell party, the stock market plunged to its lowest point in decades.


Yes, the buyout package would tide me over for a while, but I needed to find a job soon so I could use the buyout money to help pay debts and my kids’ tuition costs, not for living expenses. My perfect plan was in tatters. My identity as a journalist was in jeopardy. And I hadn’t been in the job market since 1983.



Hi. I just read your column. I left The San Diego Union-Tribune in Oct. after 23 years. I also accepted a buyout and decided to reinvent myself. It's exciting. I'm surprised by how little I miss the paper. It was getting to be a very depressing place to be. I've started a Web site called Such A Smart Mom. It's a Web site for parents who want to help their children thrive at school. Here's the link - http://suchasmartmom.com How is your search going? Best of luck. Ruth McKinnie Braun


I left a job and career two and a half years ago that I was similiarly emotional attached to and defined by. I also had commitment up to the bitter end, working unpaid overtime to make sure that everything was left nice and tidy for my successor.

It was a hard transition for someone who never left a job without another one lined up. I don't generally deal well with uncertainty, I like my ducks in a row. But over time the experience became a liberating one. It forced me to not allow myself to stay in a safe zone, and pushed me to really assess what I wanted, what I could do, and "have the courage to imagine a different life." It is a process that continues, but I will say honestly that I do not regret taking the leap.