Daily Post: A Fortunate Failure

by Michelle Lasley

Michelle Lasley is a mother, wife in Pacific Northwest learning to balance green dreams with budget realities.

March 7, 2011


Image by KennethMoyle via Flickr

[2011-03-10 Note: this post was prompted by Plinky’s daily questions, blog prompts: Describe a time when a failure turned out to be a blessing in disguise.]

I was laid off. I was the one, previously, to quit. I had never been fired. Okay, so I wasn’t really fired because I was gently laid off with remuneration (in the form of unemployment) and the promise that if work picked up I’d be picked up again. Sure, I was called back a year later… oh, and how life changed in that year. The blessing was opportunity – oodles and oodles of opportunity. It was one of those times when a failure turned into fortune.

Granted, I suspected things. The day before, the architect apprentice was let go. She was let go immediately. I was given a week to clear off my desk. Those weeks are the strangest – when you’re working, but you’re not given any new tasks. The whole week was dedicated to creating my “how-to” manual to emptying the inbox. Tidy, tidy, and tidy some more. I cried one tear when it was all done, a simple morning for the loss of what I had hoped would become a somewhat stable job while I finished school.

I was let go in the middle of the fall term. It was too late to add more classes. I qualified for unemployment. As such, I was required to look for a job, and log the jobs I looked for. I was also required to take the first thing that came a long, as you were penalized if you declined a job offer. (How’s that for feeling in control of your life situation?)

It all worked out. I looked dutifully for a job, and was only on unemployment under 3 months. I found a student-temporary-employment-position with the Forest Service that was scheduled to start in January, just two and a half months after being let go from the full time gig. This allowed me to go back to school full time, and during that two months where I only had two classes – I was able to explore this fabulous place I call home: the Pacific Northwest.

One year before my job ended (late 2004), my then colleague asked me, over lunch, what I wanted to do when I grow up, after I had just asked him. I began with the trite, “I don’t know.” But, a whirl of thoughts cascaded telling me what I already knew, that was a cop-out. The books I read, the conversations I had, the ponderings I reflected on lead me to one thing, which I stated, “I want to educate people on the importance of a sustainable society.” After stating that goal, I believe the next ten-months were more or less consumed with the full-time gig and taking classes to bring up my GPA. My practice run to get back in the groove of school. Over that time, my GPA rose, and I was accepted as a legitimate transfer student at Portland State University. When I was laid off, it gave me the opportunity to go back to school, then work for the Forest Service where I was able to learn a little bit about how park management worked. I also had opportunities to participate and manage some fantastic communication studies and learn how public opinion is tabulated and considered in public policy.

That April, 2006, PSU opened up the Sustainable Urban Development Minor. I was already a Social Science major because it best encapsulated all the courses I had taken from Michigan State University. I was able to take Political Science, Urban Planning, Geography, and maybe even Anthropology – and it would all count toward the same major! My efficient desires and ways had me doubling up classes and assignments so clusters would work for both majors, minors, and overall credits.

The lay-off coincided when I was ready to go back to school. I had figured out what I wanted to do. I had matured during my twenties. I had the drive. I had the ambition, and I knew how to do homework! I graduated with nearly a 4.0 in my major because the timing was right. Sure, it wasn’t a great feeling loosing that job – but the opportunities have been fantastic. Without it, I wouldn’t have been to Italy, learned an even greater appreciation for art history, and might not have polished my love for volunteerism. Being let go from that job was one of the best obstacles given to me, in my life.

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