“The thing is, Bob, it’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care.”
~ Peter Gibbons, Office Space
I was Lay’d off from my job last week. Meaning…..this the first Monday in like, ten years, where I didn’t wake up and feel the need to mumble….”Fuuuuuck.”
But before you say, “Awww” and then prepare to quickly “X” out of here before I direct you to my Go-Fund link….please know that my termination was not abrupt.
As much as I would like to say that George Clooney pulled me unaware into a conference room last Friday….where he delivered the news as I sobbed into his shoulder….because who wouldn’t want to be comforted by George Clooney?
The truth is, a woman more closely resembling Anna Kendrick….and ten years my junior….broke the news a year ago….at a Starbucks….after I’d already bought my own coffee.
Even before that official advanced notice though, I’d known for an even longer time that it was likely coming.
Three years ago, my employer, The Really Big Company, launched a pilot project that tested the feasibility of outsourcing my job. I really couldn’t blame them. I had been considering outsourcing my own job for a long time myself.
I’d felt certain I could economically obtain a chimpanzee and teach it to do my job for me. So, I guess you could say that The Really Big Company and I were on the same page about the matter of my usefulness.
When they announced the project, it wasn’t clear if the outsourcing would result in my total elimination, or if there would be something left to do in the aftermath.
I didn’t really care either way, but since life requires money….and I don’t have a tree that grows any….a girls gotta prepare if she wants to continue to live indoors and maintain her Netflix subscription. Also, I have kids who expect to be fed….every day.
So, I regularly asked questions and my boss regularly dodged them.
Then, I was accidentally copied on a number of emails that basically said, and I’m paraphrasing here: “That chick’s days are numbered….muahahaha.”
Fortunately for me, this inadvertent head’s up did give me a lot of time to prepare and to consider my next steps. I interviewed at other companies, but at the end of the day, I didn’t have the desire to leave on my own.
It wasn’t because I felt any loyalty conflicts, or a sense of commitment to The Really Big Company….or my work for that matter.
I spent my time talking to people who said things like, “I can’t work on the weekends because I’m a Seven Day Advantageous.”
I toiled away many a wasted hour in the events room of an Elks Lodge, or the basement of a public library attending job fairs….where the “job seekers” seemed more interested in collecting free trinkets from recruiting tables….than they were a job. I blame the number of people who came dressed in white’ish tank tops and pajama pants, for this cynical assumption.
Once, while spending a day at a local unemployment office trying to recruit people….who just wanted to be left alone so they could check their email at the computer lab and take advantage of the free coffee and donuts….I was nearly poked in the eye by a boob.
Its owner had reached across me for a pamphlet and her nipple escaped through an opening in her loosely knitted cable sweater. Later, when she left the room….probably uncomfortable by my inability to stop staring at her boobs as I marveled at the destructive nature of gravity….she crop dusted on her way out.
I know, it all sounds glamorous. Like a lot to lose. But really, that wasn’t what kept me there. I guess you could say that I lacked the motivation to leave….because there was no where else I wanted to go.
When I interviewed at other companies and the hiring managers talked to me about the exciting opportunities for advancement that awaited me should I join their ranks….the only thing I could hear was John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls singing, “See the young man sittin’ in the old man’s bar, waitin’ for his turn to die.”
For this, I thank cancer.
Before I was diagnosed, I believed I had it all figured out. I wasn’t going to be one of those women who slowed down her career trajectory simply because she started a family.
I fully intended to keep the pedal to the metal, no matter what, because if I wasn’t a vice-president by the time I was in my mid-thirties, was life really worth living?
But in the days that followed the initial shock of finding out I had cancer, made doubly more complicated by the fact that I was twenty-two weeks pregnant, my mind played the scenes of my life over and over in a loop….and what I saw, was a lot less impressive than I’d imagined it would be.
There were far too many 15 hour days spent hunched over a computer screen while the rest of my life passed me by in a blur of abandoned hobbies, books I never had the time to read, vacations I never had the time to take, sacrificed friendships and meals-on-the-go.
It was depressing.
Still, I struggled to believe that it wasn’t worth it somehow. I had so deeply bought into the belief that aspiring to greatness in my career was my path to a fulfilling life, that I had no idea how to define myself if not by what I did for a living.
And, I worked for a great company. We were a “family.” Together, we had goals to advance the business….surely, those goals were worth sacrificing my free time, weekends and vacations for….right?
But then, the Really Big Company, a self-insured entity, denied a course of cancer treatment recommended by my physicians.
Would you tell a family member, “I’m sorry, but I can’t give you the kidney you need. It’s nothing personal, it’s just a business decision?”
The rejection stung. But, it also forced me to see my employer….and it’s ranking within my life….through a fresh set of eyes.
Instead of leaning-in, I gave myself permission to recline.
I continued to meet my business objectives and I earned my pay, but….above and beyond?
They would get what they paid for and I would establish a work/life balance that leaned more toward life and less toward work.
Within corporate America, this is essentially the equivalent of putting yourself out to pasture. You are expected to give more than you get for the sheer privilege of serving in their ranks.
That might prove worthwhile for some, but I couldn’t justify the personal sacrifices it would take to continue to climb the corporate ladder.
I decided my life was a business worth investing in and the more I invested, the more I realized I had a lot of passions and interests and goals….and none of them included dying a slow death while trying to drag myself out of the trenches of corporate America.
Instead, I became perfectly content to fly under the radar. The pay was good, I liked my co-workers and I’d been in the same role for so long, that it required little to no brain power to do what was expected of me.
I knew it wouldn’t stay that way forever. A shark has to keep moving and feeding in order to survive and I was more sediment like; just sort of there, comfortably settled and drifting only when forced.
Of course, now that its over, being a reluctantly responsible adult means I can’t cruise along on my severance forever.
The good news, is that the Prince of Djibouti recently emailed to tell me I won their lottery….I don’t even remember buying a ticket!
But my back-up plan, in case this whole lottery thing falls through, is to start my own small business.
And no, this is not the part where I attempt to sell you a timeshare or the Secrets of the 21 Day Fix. Rest assured, I won’t be attempting to sell you anything.
This is actually something I’ve been thinking about for a long time….and with my lay-off looming this past year, I’ve been working hard to turn the thought into a new reality.
It isn’t going to make me a millionaire, but it will allow me to make a financial contribution to my family, while also doing something I love.
Wish me luck….