That’s all she wrote (as a full-time employee for a multinational insurance company)

IMG_0616As 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
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 work
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.

IMG_0616

Me with a few of the lovelies that really made my days over the last few years.

The colleagues
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!

21 comments

  1. Loved this post. And can relate to so much of it too. Best of luck in whatever you decide to pursue. Personally I think you should take a mini break and head to London..?

    • I’m glad you like my post, Sean, and I thought you might be able to relate. I’m actually working on a permaculture diploma through the UK, so I’ll surely be popping over within the next few months…would be fun to meet the well-dressed, lamp-thieving trickster I’ve been reading about!

  2. Well done, Evo, very courageous of you. All the best with striking out on your own in 2014 and I look forward to more of your writing. Cheers REDdog

  3. Hi Evo,

    After 30+ years with the same outfit, I’ll soon be following you into a Brave New World. I’ll follow your journey with interest, regardless of whether you choose your path or life chooses it for you.

    Wishing you a profound and happy 2014,

    Navigator

  4. 1965, I can’t imagine what it must be like to be somewhere for 30+ years and then change directions…you must have been so young when you started!! 1.5 years is peanuts, comparably. I hope you write more about your experience around this…what it was like when you first started for example, compared to now? Is that a loaded question? 😉 So curious about where you go from here.

    • The Canadian military tend to “post” officers every three to four years or so. I believe the US and other western nations are similar. So, I’ve had a different job with the same employer often enough that I never got bored.

      The biggest changes that I experienced were: the introduction of women into combat roles; Canada’s repatriation of its Constitution and adoption of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the early ’80s (impact on the disciplinary system); and shaking off the Cold War status quo culture. My impression is that the allure of having women in combat roles died the day our first female fatality happened in Afghanistan, but no one has the courage to admit it. The feminists who so rabidly advocated for this were no where to be seen in areas of physical conflict.

      It’s been a fun 30 years, overall. However, I was fortunate not have defined myself by my being in the military. It’s time to move on, and I am happy to make the transition to the next phase of my life. Perhaps my book will be successful enough that I can think and write full time, but I’ll be very fortunate indeed should this come to pass.

      Let’s keep each other informed. Oh, and if you get bored and are looking for something to read, you know whom to contact. My test readers, which includes one lovely and intelligent Ph.D. English prof type lady, are telling me it’s a great read. The non-fiction that reads as good as fiction.

      Cheers.

      • You challenge me with your ideas, and some of them have upset me, although they have at the same time made me think a great deal. I can’t promise I will agree with you of course, but I will open myself to read it. It is only through dialogue like this that we get somewhere with these issues. Expect my honest take, and I thank you for the challenge to speak up when it’s not totally comfortable for me to do so, navigator.

      • Evo,

        We can only become wiser through reasoned civil discourse. Of course you are free to disagree with me. How can any person claim to have a monopoly on the truth? If my position on any matter cannot withstand your intelligent scrutiny, I must either modify it or abandon it.

        Too often we have emotional investment in certain topics without realizing it. We perceive ourselves as defenders of what is true or what is right, when in fact we cannot penetrate our own self-deception. I am not immune to this.

        Fire me an email at themirrorbooks@gmail.com if/when you’re ready for the book in .pdf. No offence taken at all if you’re not interested or don’t like it.

        But you will. }:-)>

  5. Leaving a job at the start of the New Year and taking a few months to write sounds like a dream come true (though admittedly a bit terrifying). I can’t wait to hear more about what’s next!

    • Aussa, I am feeling elated and freaked in equal measures, but I know it’s time to get real and do those things that make me feel truly alive. I recall a quote I read a few years back: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.” (Marianne Williamson)

      Thank you for your support as I make the leap!!

      • I think the best thing we can do for ourselves when we’re feeling “stuck” or in a rut is to terrify ourselves. Just do that THING that will make everything else fall away. Good luck!

  6. Welcome to the real world. The human species survived for nearly a million years without submitting to the exploitation of paid employment. In fact the majority of the planet survives without working at a so-called “job.”

    I had a friend who worked for Cigna – until they cut her brake lines for filing a racial discrimination complaint against them.

    • Thank you for the welcome! I was just speaking with another permaculturist about a book I am reading – a story about the slums of Mumbai – and how communities thrive and flourish when they have “nothing” and no “real” jobs, but instead do a great deal of just helping when needed as well as exchanging goods and services. This being compared to our western culture, where we have everything with a stable salary but are not feeling truly fulfilled or useful outside of our own family unit, often not even knowing the names of our next door neighbors.

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  10. Sounds like you have a great opportunity to have a break, collect your thoughts and think about getting yourself organised for whatever adventures you make happen in the future 🙂

    It’s been a while since you wrote this post, how are you finding yourself travelling so far? I noted you remarked on loosing track of the days…
    I took a few months off in 2010 after burning out and almost ending up under my desk rocking back and forth. The children and I went to Bali. It was amazing.

    Sometimes we just need a rest to balance ourselves.

    ML
    x

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