A pep-talky post about oranges and brawn

In a world that’s rife with problems, quitting things may seem like a good idea. Or taking up smoking. Developing a co-dependent relationship with the couch and a computer. Identifying a scapegoat and dumping buckets of insufferable angst upon him or her. Suddenly getting a haircut with bangs.

Sometimes we all feel sort of like this:

Everyone needs a deliciously unhealthy time-out once in a while. But it isn’t the obstacles that measure how we fare, but the way we handle them. Just ask an emotional intelligence expert who’ll say the number of altercations between people doesn’t matter as much as how they are resolved. Or ask an immigrant who’s mopped floors for minimum wage, supported a family and tried not to sound funny when talking about beaches, sheep and sheets of paper.

This week, a creative director from a DC-based ad agency came to speak in one of my classes. The presentation, as expected, was clever. Yet at the end, the guy suddenly produced a giant orange crate from under the desk.

We all got kind of excited about the free swag. I mean, oranges wouldn’t me my top choice for a souvenir, but I was hungry and many people have been getting sick, so why not? “These aren’t real,” he said. That orange crate was actually his portfolio. A big shot now, the creative director had once been laid off. During his two months out of work, he didn’t pick up drinking or start slipping poisoned candy to the neighbors’ children. Instead, he thought about how to rebrand himself to stay competitive and fulfilled. And he built an orange crate, among other things, to keep his old and new work. He liked the color orange, he was from West Virginia, and he wanted to show the world he was homegrown and self-taught. He came to interviews hauling his orange crate and was eventually hired.

Similarly, a fellow blogger, Miss Displaced Worker, was out of work for three excruciating years. She went back to school and networked. She sent out nearly 1,000 job applications that led to two part-time offers and, finally, one full-time offer. “The last three years have been unlike anything I’ve ever known…I don’t have any magic answers other than I stuck with it as best I could,” she writes.

So here’s a little something for those who kept hunting for jobs and finally dragged them back barely kicking, who’ve lost a home but built a new one, who’ve moved for careers or people they’ve loved regardless of the outcome, who’ve made plenty of sweet margaritas out of lemons:

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