As of January 1, I’m officially unemployed. I’m pretty happy overall, but I’m also a little freaked out. A lot of emotions swirl through me when I wake up in the middle of the night, and certain questions have been camping out in my gut lately: where will I go from here? What’s going to happen next?
The financial company I worked for went through a restructuring, and I chose not to reapply for any of the newly-created positions. Instead, I gratefully took the money and ran.
It was the right thing to do, but I’m still scared…mostly of myself. It’s a fear of setting out once again on my own, and this time, I really am setting out on my own. I don’t want to work as a contracted employee anymore, and the company I left will help me in getting started up. But before that happens…I need to make sure I’m not camping out on my couch eating potato chips for brunch. I won’t…really, I won’t..!!!
I’d joined this company just 1.5 years ago, and I never intended to put down roots, but rather use it as a financial spring board for higher career ambitions. Still, I’m catching myself getting really sentimental about the whole experience, and I dare say that a large part of me will miss the daily grind. I went into the office this morning to drop off my laptop and Crackberry, and after completing a final task, I just sat there for a few minutes knowing that it was the last time I’d be using my badge to access the third floor, secured even from the rest of the employees (in other words I worked in a glass box within a glass box, a hallmark of the company’s risk-averse culture…god love ’em).
The office environment was like working in a light version of Gattaca. Situated in a flex-desk environment, we had to clear our desks of all personal items at the end of each day, and no plants were permitted (celebratory bouquets being the exception). The company’s heavy investment in fine art did add a smidgen of humanity to the walls and corridors, admittedly. The place was freezing cold though, so to keep warm, we covered the floor vents with copies of our corporate magazine. Windows ran continuously along all the outside walls, but they didn’t open, and when the sun did shine onto our desks (a rarity in the Netherlands), the blinds would automatically grind shut. One of us would eventually break our concentration and open them again, creating sort of a daily dance between man and machine. It was simultaneously hilarious and depressing.
The days passed as I hammered out articles on hedging longevity risk, information security, and insider trading, among other fascinating corporate topics. I remained optimistic knowing that employees weren’t reading any of it with much interest, even as I wrote the very employee letters that foreshadowed many of our positions’ demise. I enjoyed the writing process through it all, kind of like assembling a puzzle of a boring floral display – it was still a puzzle.
Initially, my colleagues looked like corporate clones: suits, ties and wing-tipped shoes; gray/navy/black business frocks with upswept hair. I was annoyed that they all pecked away on their laptops during the editorial meetings that I tried to make interesting. At one point, I started doing the same thing at other people’s meetings.
As the months wore on, I became familiar with their smiles and individual ways of laughing. I belly laughed at their inappropriate jokes during lunch, and we’d talk over morning coffee about incompetent people and the ridiculousness of certain tasks. At the end of the week we’d let it all go, sometimes dancing like the bunch of corporate monkeys we were. I came to love these people. We supported each other through the challenges of work and play.
Maria, Alice, David, Takis, Scott, and Tim: Thank you for all the laughs, all the learning and most importantly, for your friendship.
And the future beyond...
Starting tomorrow, I’m taking things up a notch. I need to use this platform to break out of potential molds of solitude I may or may not create, and you, lovely fellow blogger, will be the closest thing to my colleague for the next few months. I just need to write, and it’s crucial now for reasons I’ll get into soon. As always, thank you for your support and camaraderie!