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Bumping Into Former Co-workers

Posted By Ester Venouziou, Wednesday, October 26, 2011
When I still worked at the St. Petersburg Times, almost nine years, I rarely ran into any coworkers outside work. But now  it seems I come across a former coworker almost every other day.

First time it was the day after I was let go. I was o
n a major "I'm free!" high, and I was spending the day bouncing around town. Reality hadn't set in yet, and financial worries were nowhere in mind. The sky was the perfect shade of blue, the water was glistening, even the geckos seemed to be smiling.

He approached me, almost afraid to speak.

—  I saw the notice. I'm so sorry.
Oh, no, don't be sorry. I'm happy. It was time to move on, but I was afraid. So I think it was just the push I needed.

We talked for a while about the paper, about the economy. We both agreed layoffs were inevitable. We both agreed that there's something better out there. He thinks about quitting almost every day, he tells me. That's how I felt, I respond. I tell him to wait it out. If he quits, he gets nothing. If he gets laid off, he gets a severance.

The next day I'm downtown, meeting friends for dinner. (Another perk of getting laid off, at least the first couple of weeks: everyone insists on taking you out.)

—  I can't believe it. I'm so sorry ...
Oh, no, don't be sorry. I'm happy. It was time to move on, but I was afraid. So I think it was just the push I needed.

And so the conversation went again ... And then again and again, similar conversations with former coworkers I've been running into.

Today I was at Kahwa South, downtown, waiting to meet a business owner who had recently joined LocalShops1. This was a coffee shop I frequently visited when I worked at the Times, and it was a strange feeling of two worlds colliding, my past and my present.

What happens when the severance runs out? Am I crazy for trying to make it as full-time entrepreneur, instead of looking for a "real job"?  Should I have pleaded to keep my job?  I don't have insurance now! What if I get sick? Should I even be here, be spending $2.50 on coffee? What am I doing?!?!

Then, a Times reporter sees me:
—  I've been reading your blog. You seem happy.
(pause)  Yeah, I really am. I'm feeling free.

And right then, I knew things were going to be OK.

Are you starting over after a layoff? We want to hear your story! Please email us at, and include your story and contact info. We will try to include as many stories as possible in future blogs.

Ester Venouziou, founder of and co-founder of Gulfport! Magazine, is available for freelance projects: writing, editing, design or social media. She can be reached at or 727.637.5586.

Tags:  diving into entrepreneurship  kahwa coffee  layoffs  layoffs at the st. petersburg times  st. petersburg  st. petersburg times 

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