Tuesday, November 25, 2008
(Yes, if you're doing the math, that's really Day Minus-5, but let's not quibble.)
Wow, did that not feel like getting laid off. All three of my previous involuntary departures - and even one of the voluntary resignations - had been relatively traumatic bolts from the blue, with little or no time to prepare - or even to absorb the news. Still, this also didn't feel like any of my planned, "two-weeks' notice" job departures, which were always happy escapes from bad jobs or at least happy moves to something better.
This was a slow death.
It was certainly as unwelcome as any other termination, but by the time Day Zero arrived, all that was left was exhaustion and sadness - and maybe a measure of relief. Three months earlier, in the rumor-fed angst of the days just before the announcement that those asshats from texas were acquiring us and there would be few survivors, this was the white board in my cubicle:
Originally, this was my artificial "window" to my sandy beach, towel, umbrella, sunset etc. - drawn by my favorite coworker. The "South Park Underpants Gnomes" business model on the left was added later, adapted for my job at Vortex of Doom Communications, in red. In the chaos leading up to The Announcement, my awesome boss lady added the OMG and STFU. As things got worse, we made the sea all messy and stormy, drew some people being ejected from the Ship of Fools, and set it (and them) on fire. The dolphin, originally drawn merely frolicking, is now fleeing, squeaking "So long, and thanks for all the fish" as he departs.
That seemed so very long ago, by Day Zero. The artist was gone and already re-employed. My awesome boss lady - easily the second-best boss I've ever known - was gone. Most of my department was gone. The transition work and partial-year audit for which I had been kept around those last couple of months were over (at least, as far as my involvement was concerned).
Except for a couple of days when the auditors needed things with which I could help, I basically coasted through my last week and a half. I searched the internet job boards, sent out résumés, called recruiters and socialized. By November 25, we had done all the reminiscing we could do. All the stories had been told and re-told. We no longer felt like getting T-shirts that said "If you want happy, get a dog." The office was getting quieter each day.
I've tried in previous posts to illustrate why it was hard to lose this job, why this job was special. I know I have failed to do it justice. I'll try one more time: It was a chemistry thing. I was part of a group of people who meshed personally and professionally in ways I had never witnessed. It wasn't just with my boss and immediate coworkers, either. The company was just full of good, sharp people. Of course, it had its faults, and it's a shame that we couldn't get out of our own way.
It's a bittersweet pill to swallow - knowing, knowing that this was the best I'm going to do, and that it was over. Everyone has that stretch in their working lives where everything just clicks like it never has and never will again, and for me, these had been those years. I know - never say never. So I won't say never, but I knew by Day Zero what a challenge it would be to ever come close to replacing this gig.
The office was calm, that afternoon. It was peaceful. The sadness comes from feeling like the peace marked the end of a war, and that it was a war we could have won, but did not.