I’m A Casualty Of Mass Layoffs

For the past eight years, I worked as an editor for GameSpot and Comic Vine–and I was a freelance writer prior to that. During this time, I wrote and published thousands of news pieces, editorials, features, reviews, and listicle galleries that I often called, “Fun toilet reads.” Additionally, I had the role of host/producer/editor of a wrestling podcast called Wrestle Buddies. I had what many considered to be the dream job. Then, one day, it was taken all away, as I was part of a group of people that were laid off by our parent company.

This isn’t something new. Throughout my years working at GameSpot through various parent companies, I saw this happen a few times. It was never easy. You lose people you talk to every single day, as they’re no longer in your work Slack. And from there, you grow apart from many of them. But after surviving numerous rounds of layoffs and seeing people move on, I was brought into a meeting on a Thursday morning and told I no longer had the gig of a lifetime. It still stings. It still hurts. And it’s hard to pick yourself up.

I’m not the only person in this current situation. Thousands of people across journalism and tech are in the same boat I’m in. Corporations overhired, bought and sold properties, and these mass layoffs are all course corrections to these actions. And that’s all backend, upper-management decision making. It’s about numbers, and mine was up. I am bitter about it but hold no ill-will to anyone, whether it’s the decision-makers at the top or the machine that makes everything run. I’m just a cog that’s served its purpose, and I guess it’s time to move on. 

When you’re passionate about your work and love the people you work with, being laid off feels like your best friend just died. I had been laid off before, many times in the past, but those were all different. Every layoff prior to this was retail, and it always meant “your store is closing.” And since I was a teenager back then, I just did what you had to do and walked two stores down in the mall and got a new job. You move from floor supervisor at Imaginarium to technician at Time Out Arcade. However, this time is different. 

The reality is that this is more than losing income. I lost a community of people I cared about–people I mentored and people that did the same for me. I lost daily chats with other editors and freelancers. I lost morning stand-up meetings, which I always went into early, so I could catch up with co-workers. I lost a large part of my social life. I feel like I really never got to say goodbye properly, like in a morning meeting–but I’ll forever remember when friend/former coworker Matt Espineli announced he was leaving and did a dance for everyone. I still think about this, Matt (Happy Friday). And yet, I still get up every morning and head to my desk in my home office at 8 AM like nothing has happened and stare at the computer screen, pondering just what the hell to do next. I’m 40. I feel old and worthless. I feel like I’m not providing for my wife and son. I shouldn’t. But I do. 

Throughout the following week after being let go, people reached out, and I heard the same thing again and again, “You’ll land on your feet.” It stings every single time. There may be truth to what people are saying–maybe I will land a sweet new gig that I’ll fall in love with–but the reality is that I’m at a crossroads in my career. Change terrifies me. Do I continue to be an editor or try something else?

I ask myself this every single morning. I apply for jobs on LinkedIn and pursue jobs I have no idea if I’m even qualified for, and I slowly spiral in and out of depression and hopelessness. I question my own worth as a writer and editor. I work on putting up shelving and lighting in my son’s room. I make way-too-fancy dinners for my family. I start smoking again after quitting one year prior. I try not to drink alcohol so I don’t completely fall apart. Then, every single day, I put on a “brave face,” and pick my son up from school and act like nothing is wrong. After he and my wife go to bed, I bury my rage and sadness in writing satire editorials under a pseudonym, as comedy seems to be the only way to release all these emotions I’m having. 

I feel like I have no purpose. Yes, I’m a loving father and husband, but something that’s defined me for way too long is that I’m a person who got paid to write things on the internet. I should never have let that define who I am, as that’s where so much of this pain comes from. But that’s where I’m at. 

I always felt like I was good at my job. I worked well with others and tried to help when I could. But when I was told I was let go, I felt worthless and like a failure. But in reality, I didn’t fail at anything. I did my best work of my career and worked with some of the best people I’ve ever worked with. I had managers that gave a shit about me and helped become a better person (Tam, Chrispy, Hayner, looking at you all). When my wife and I had our son, the people above me told me, “When your workday is done. Leave. You have a family. You shouldn’t be working all the time.” And this is in journalism, a field where you end up working a lot of nights and weekends to meet deadlines or cover something. While I did–and still do–feel worthless, I know for a fact people around me gave a shit about me. So I buried myself in positivity and remembering the good times.

Was this positive mindset toxic to my emotional growth? Probably. But from that day I was laid off, I had two choices: I can be bitter or I can appreciate everything I’ve done and everyone I worked with. I obviously chose the latter. There was no point in getting sucked up in sorrow. There’s no point in spiraling and making my family deal with that. I have to stay strong not just for myself but for them as well.

And yes, I’m aware this piece is tonally all over the place. Am I mad? Am I bitter? Am I appreciative? Am I happy? Am I sad? Yes to all of it. It’s an emotional rollercoaster I’m on, and it changes minute by minute. And yet, I try my damndest to move forward. 

So here I am, at Fancy Boys Club, writing for free because I need release. And because I did stand-up for such a long time with Matt Drufke and Jack Baker and they’re cool with me doing whatever, apparently. I also like them and this site. I need somewhere to unload my thoughts on what I’m going through–on what so many of us are going through right now. 

Where do I go next? I have no fucking clue, but I’m trying to figure it out. That’s all I can do.

Mat Elfring is a writer, podcaster, comedian, and just absolute sweetheart, Follow him on twitter: @immatelfring

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