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Finding a Job: Saved by the Ax

Losing my old job probably saved my life—literally.

When I received word late last year that my engineering position at a biopharmaceutical company was being eliminated, I was understandably disappointed, but also moderately optimistic. Since then, I’ve seen the bottom drop out of the job market and the ranks of the Brotherhood of the Vocationally Detached swell to almost unprecedented levels. Mom had always told me, “Cheer up, Bob, things could be worse.” So I cheered up.

Sure enough, things got worse.

The colonoscopy that I’d put off while too busy at work revealed early-stage cancer. I should have listened to the experts, including my wife, and had my colonoscopy five years earlier. It might not have uncovered my problem, but it would have reduced anxiety about the procedure. For those who haven’t had one yet, it’s done while you’re in a blissful state of sleep—the doctor definitely has the worst view.

I’m feeling pretty lucky. Usually, this type of cancer isn’t found until it’s further advanced. Ironically, if I were still working, I might have continued to make excuses to delay having a colonoscopy until it was too late.

Regarding my vocational detachment, I had a good run, and my company treated me well, but I focused too hard on the job and didn’t prepare adequately for the inevitable changes that were occurring as the company shifted focus. The job market is rife with challenges, but opportunities as well. I’m reaching out in many directions to find the right mix of both. In the future, the networking I’m doing now—and have neglected in the past—will continue to pay dividends.

Some would regard these life events as an emotional roller coaster. They’re more like the stock market or the current financial crisis; you never know when there’s going to be a rise or fall, but you know something’s going to happen.

Learn from the past. Deal with the present. Plan for the future. And for goodness sake, if you’ve been putting off seeing your doctor, go!

The AARP Bulletin’s "What I Really Know" column comes from our readers. Each month we solicit short personal essays on a selected topic and publish some of our favorites in print and online. Robert Morgan is a reader from Lawrenceville, N.J. He can be reached at


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