The World Turned Upside Down

I just realized that I have totally missed the anniversary of a highly significant day in my life.

Last Wednesday came and went without my even realizing that it was different from any other day.

Now that I’ve had time to think about it, this was probably the most healthy response that I could have possibly had on this particular date, October 17th.

Let me give you a little background. By late 2007, I had been employed without interruption for 31 years. On the afternoon of October 17th, I walked into my boss’s office for a meeting in which I was going to bring him up to date on the status of a number of projects that I was managing at the time.

As I handed him a couple pages of notes outlining what I was going to talk about, he set them aside and said, “Before we get into that, I have something I need to tell you.

Without getting into the nitty gritty, over the next few minutes I learned that my current position was being eliminated, that my services were no longer needed, that there were no other positions in this company which employed over 40,000 souls worldwide that I would be qualified to fill, and that the only option available to me was to accept early retirement.

At that moment, I had no inkling of the unrelenting sense of confusion, isolation, and loss that were to become part of my daily walk in the weeks and months ahead.

Likewise, it is impossible to convey the degree to which disbelief engulfed me as I walked out of the building after the meeting ended. I felt disembodied, separated from and unaware of my surroundings.

By the time I arrived home, disbelief had morphed into a state of extreme agitation which made it nearly impossible for me to sit down. I paced through every room in the house. And then paced in the front yard. Finally, I paced in the garage waiting for my wife to arrive home. How was I going to break this news? What was I going to say?

My state of nervous energy was not fueled by anger at what had just happened to me as one might expect, but rather by a deep and painful realization that at that moment in time I had no idea how I going to be able to meet my responsibility, as father and husband, to support my family. As I was to learn in the days ahead, these thoughts and fears would remain my constant companion for many months.

Within a few days, I discovered that I was not alone. Eventually several hundred of my co-workers also found themselves unemployed. Most of them were called to an unannounced meeting where they were informed by a consultant, whom they had never met, that their employment had come to an end. They were then unceremoniously walked, by two equally unfamiliar security men, to the front door.

For reasons that I was never to learn, I was allowed to continue working until the end of the year and thus was spared the added humiliation of being brusquely escorted out of the premises.

In the intervening years, many things have changed in my life. We’ve learned to get by with less. I’ve changed my working-life/career model to one in which I now pursue multiple streams of income, rather than relying on one. I’ve started a small business and I maintain a part-time seasonal job as well.

Throughout my corporate career, I was constantly reinventing myself by accepting jobs in a variety of disciplines and functional groups. My post-corporate working life has proven to be just another in that series of on-going reinventions of self.

The best news is that the sun did rise on each of the days immediately following my unexpected exit from the corporate world; as it has done every day since.

My family is still together and in some ways they, and I, are perhaps stronger than ever.

Life goes on.

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