June 1 will long be a day of infamy for me as that was when, a year ago, when I walked into my office with one foot in a cast and one hand holding onto a sickly Veeka. I had planned to be at work merely an hour to gather up some papers and work out of my home so as to be with my little girl. I found myself getting hauled into the editor’s office and informed I was being laid off. Being that it was five months after everyone else got laid off, I knew this was a hostile action directed at me. Still, I had to pack up 14+ years worth of effects in about four hours while Veeka languished about the office. Fortunately, a WaPo photographer caught the whole mess on film as I was packing my car and a few days later, news of my leavetaking appeared atop the Style section.
So much has happened since then, including the fact that the yoyo who executed this decision himself got tossed out the door by the Washington Times a few months later. I decided that I’d spend enough years working at 3600 New York Avenue and it was time to turn my energies elsewhere and so I have, with my best work appearing in the Economist and in various places around the Washington Post.
Naturally all this happened simultaneously with an epic downgrading of the religion beat nationwide meaning that those of us who have reams of experience, clips, awards and contacts in denominational offices and religious groups everywhere are having a tough time selling our wares. Nearly everyone is hiring political reporters faster than they can say “2012” even though the average American is already sick of the thought of Obama running against Mitt, Newt, or Sarah. But bring on someone who explain what kind of theology made Osama bin Laden tick or why the Arab Spring has turned into a winter of discontent for religious minorities? Not on your life. One hears all the excuses from news organizations: the budget, the economy, hiring freezes. And yes, the economy has been horrible to my occupation. But doggone it if they don’t go and hire another political writer.
In all this, I must give thanks to my parents who have supported me throughout all this and without whom I’d be on my way to losing my home. You really learn who your friends are when you’re down and I certainly have made some surprising discoveries. People who I thought would stand with me have disappeared into the ether. Others have cone in out of the fog. Being unemployed or rather underemployed is not glamorous and let’s just say the phone is not ringing off the hook with offers to bankroll my next book. Which is why I really appreciate folks (and you know who you are) who have tossed freelance assignments my way because that is truly putting food on the table for me and my 6-year-old.
Speaking of her, these photos are from her kindergarten graduation ceremony last week and a pizza dinner she had beforehand with Raffie, her little boyfriend. After that, we went to Pittsburgh for the weekend, she to spend time with some old family friends who have a little girl her age. As for me, I got to go on a retreat for the first time in four years. It was only two nights but at least it was something. And now we’re gasping through multi days of 95-degree weather. And now I am back to sending out job application after job application….