Got laid off last week from what was supposed to have been a long-term contract instructional design job.  For budget reasons, I was told.  The group manager asked for X amount of dollars to fund projects for 2013.  She got back half of that.  Seven people went in the first round, 20 more followed in the second, including me.  I got two weeks severance and assurance that I’d get invited back when things improved.

Fortunately, I had a scattering of side projects that kept me fairly busy in the evenings and on the weekends.  One of them was with a small company here in Louisville that produces online training videos.  I was involved only in the script writing process, not in the production.  Since my first contract job in e-leaning development five years ago, I’d marketed myself as a one-stop, script-to-screen producer:  help develop learning goals for the training, plan the project, write the script, produce the piece in Captivate or Camtasia or whatever the tool of choice would be, record and edit the voice-over, edit and resize any video clips, and put the whole thing together in a big, bright package.

I became hungry for that kind of work, yet with few exceptions the jobs I accepted didn’t let me show off every skill I had.  I was like a rock star who suddenly could only find bookings in bowling alley lounges.

Then came the layoff.  Immediately afterward I contacted my freelance clients.  One of them began sending me short scripts assignments for an ongoing project.  Now I have a batch of old scripts to edit and put into the new script template.  I’m back to writing, which is my bread-and-butter skill.  I’m learning to chop wood and carry water – relearn the basic skills.  Work the coffeehouse circuit, so to speak, and step away from the realm of smoke machines and towering Marshall stacks.

When I was a junior in college I took a class called Introduction to Film as Literature.  The last movie we saw in the course was Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo.  It’s on my list of favorite films, but I have seen it only once.  It was later adapted as Sergio Leon’s A Fistful of Dollars.  It’s the story of a ronin (played by Toshiro Mifune) who wanders into a small town run by two gang lords, both of whom try to recruit him to be their bodyguard – a yojimbo.  The ronin is severely beaten at one point in the film, but manages to escape to a small hut outside the town.  There he recuperates and rebuilds his skills.

During his recuperation, the ronin throws a knife and pins a leaf scuttling across the floor.  It’s an iconic scene.  He’s still battered – the damage is done to his body and his honor – but he still has his skills.  He later returns to the town and destroys the gang that hurt him.

Would this be a good time to pick up another skill?  Indeed, but I’m pulled back into the craft I’ve worked at for more than two decades.  My springboard into the other skills I’ve acquired and opportunities I’ve pursued.

To relearn what I already know.