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Sunday, March 31, 2019

Shadows Falling & Running Out of Breath: October 14th through December 18th 2016

I've been on something of a writing lull lately.  It's not as if there aren't things to write about; mostly it's about just where my head is at the moment, in a kind of in-between place on two or so different fronts.  That brought me to what you'll read in this posting.  

Below you'll find a few paragraphs I wrote every week or so after I was "retired" from my last employer.  My intent was to eventually publish this as part of some kind of victory lap once the career gods smiled on me again.  That smile has been somewhat elusive, although I've obviously been busy enough in the 2+ years since.  The last entry was on December 11th, which wasn't planned to be the end-point.  However life, as it often times does, got in the way.  The life part in question was mostly related to my younger brother.  

So why resurrect this stuff now?  The best answer is that, well, the words now just seem to make sense.  By the way, the last time I read any of this was in early 2017.  It's been that long.

Anyway, here goes...


DECEMBER 18, 2016

"No sympathy for the devil; keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride...and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well...maybe chalk it off to forced conscious expansion..."
- Hunter S. Thompson

* * * * * *

A Warning (of sorts)

What you're about to read is...

...unscripted times sloppy

I make no apologies for the content in this posting, since, as much as anything else I've written in this blog over the years, it's truly how I have felt at the moments.  I wrote this for me, as a way to cope, as an anchor of sorts, as a testimony for a future date.  You can judge this to be a wonderful work or down-right horrible.  Honestly, I don't care.  

This is this dialogue inside my head during a difficult time.  It is me, blemishes and all.

* * * * * *

Day 1 - October 13, 2016
After 27 years, 10 months and 10 days, my employment with Prudential ended.  Not necessarily by my choice, but these things happen.  Call it a "confluence of economic factors" if you will; a far less artful but more direct description is "I was laid off".  In any event, it happened.

Like most big things in my life, I have a near compulsion to put my thoughts in writing.  Now given that I will be in the job finding phase, and since this blog is something of a public kind of thing, I'm somewhat conflicted as to how I can marry those two thoughts.  Put another way, I don't want to screw up a potential job on account of a silly blog posting.

So here's the deal...I'm going to chronicle my feelings, thoughts, and actions here in the blog.  When all is set and done, when a new job is acquired, well then maybe this will see the light of day.  Maybe.  If you're reading this now, then the obvious answer was a resounding "yes".

Seeing as though editing is not my strong suit and that this may end being a rather lengthy posting, I'm going to apologize in advance for the numerous typos that will be found in this string.  Sorry.  Time to move on.

* * * * * *

Day 2 - October 14, 2016
All told, I'm still in this fuzzy kind of, almost conflicted, place.  I know that in the grand scheme of life, this change...thrust upon me as it still going to be good.  But yet, and at the risk of evoking unwanted pity, I can't help but mourn for this loss.  I've felt this way before when I was going through a divorce.  Complicating matter is the fact that I naturally just so very impatient.  I want this solved now.  My lesson from going through a divorce is that, to be blunt, "it just doesn't work that way".  I remember back then when others (who had been through a divorce) telling me that "it's a process", and feeling very discouraged, as I have no need for "a process"...I just want a resolution.  This is what impatience rearing it's ugly head actually looks like, and for me it's frightening.

Another difficult part is all of this is that it will require me asking for help.  I hate asking for help.  I hate that I've been put into a place where I now will need help.  I don't get help.  I give help, damn it.

Maybe, just maybe, all of this is part of the plan.  I need to be reminded and taught, whether it's about patience or pride.  These are hard lessons for me.

Something Positive - When a friend and co-worker spend an hour of their time talking to you...just because they are concerned.

* * * * * *

Day 3 - October 15, 2016
Another day and my head is still trying to wrap itself around this "thing".  Changing the dynamic is the fact that I've finished my school work for this semester, so I don't have the mental distraction of a paper to write anymore.  Then there is the anxiety, which really just sort of just grabbed me a few minutes ago.  This kind of empty feeling of non-specific gloom, lacking in substance but yet still substantial enough to make me think "this isn't right".  In the many blessings department, I am glad that I have the blog at times like this, as it's a kind of cathartic release that I come to rely on during difficult times.

I suspect part of the timing for non-specific gloom was the fact that we had a full day today, hiking with the parents of Ms. Rivers.  It was nice being outside and feeling the forest around me.  Ironic in a way:  I felt okay being out in the big indoors, but things shift when I'm left alone with my thoughts.

* * * * * *

October 20, 2016

I discovered that I'm terrible at counting the days ("Day 1, Day 2", etc.), so that's out the window.  Moving on.

It's a week since I lost my job, and I'm at a better place, at least for the most part.  I still do, every once in a while, come down with a general sense of anxiety about things, but those episodes are coming on a less frequent basis.  What's been helping is the realization of just how unhappy I was in my (now) former life.  I bemoan no one and nothing, but the fact is that I felt somewhat vacant at work for a while now.  "Vacant" in the sense that I knew I wasn't doing my best work because of not feeling connected or motivated.  I could, somewhat rightfully, claim that I was starved for challenging assignments, but that's at best an unfair statement; at my level, I shouldn't be waiting for assignments anyway.  No, as I've noted in others over the years, I allowed the events of last week to occur...I did indeed see it coming...but I made the choice to do nothing about it.  In a way, the word "choice" is interesting within the context, as my inaction was itself a choice.

So the here and now is filled with learning and developing, two topics that, according to my newly revamped resume, I should be good at.  Well, I am good at it, truth be told.  I enjoy learning, and there is, in fact, much to learn.  The outplacement folks, so far, have been wonderful as well.

Two final thoughts for today's one week anniversary:

1) Rear-View - I'm proud of myself for spending virtually no time rehashing the past or ruminating over "what if" statements.  The past is done, and unless it helps me with the future, well then it's best left in a personal history book...on a shelf.

2) I Choose - I'm also proud of myself for taking the attitude that I choose my attitude.  I, and I alone, decide how I feel.  I  give that power to no one else.

3) I Get Tough - Throughout my life, I have always been at my very best when things are at their worst.  When life gets difficult, I get tough.  The harder I get pushed down, the faster I get up.  In the end, I win.  

* * * * * *

October 24, 2016

How are things going?  Well let me count the ways:

...I still suffer from some seemingly random attacks of anxiety.  The good news is that the state is hardly the majority of how I feel.  In fact, "attacks" is probably the best description, as the feeling just seems to come over me like a kind of ground fog, only to dissipate later.

...I am getting the grove of the tactics suggested by the outplacement firm.

...My resume is taking shape.

Probably the biggest lesson to date has been in the area of teamwork.  I really do have a kind of team helping me.  It's an odd feeling, of sorts for me to have, as I've never thought about myself needing help like this before.  My assumption has been that I need to...and I would have this alone.  However, in the arch that is this story, I'm wrong.  And I'll gladly be wrong.  So here's to "Team Steve".  

* * * * * *

November 3, 2016

When I think about everything that has happened over the past few months, at this point one thing stands out:  I seem to be okay.  In fact, I'm mostly and fairly happy.  It all, well, doesn't make sense.  Perhaps it's a testament to how I've grown as a person; perhaps it's a testament to the power and longevity of shock.  I'm not sure.

A few revelations that seem fairly certain:

...I was not always happy at work, likely for a number of years.  That has, surprisingly, helped a lot.

...I've (mostly) gotten by the feelings of pride-fullness that filled me early on.  Hopefully, that's a permanent thing.

...The moments of anxiety continue to be fewer and far between.

Is this how it's supposed to feel when you are laid off after nearly 28 years?  More to come.

* * * * * *

November 2, 2016

Vacation time in Orlando, Florida.  We've had this time planned for a long time and, while it may seem odd to be taking a vacation during this time of quasi-uncertainty, I'm never the less glad we did (besides, the big vacation expenses have already been paid for).  The place we are staying at, the Marriott Cypress Gardens, is nothing short of beautiful.  We're here for a week.

My plan, by the way, has been to work on my "Career Plan" (I dislike the term "Marketing Plan") and polish the resume a bit more, with the idea being that I'll hit the ground running with actually looking for a new job starting early next week.  I'm both anxious and excited about the prospect.

Ever since I started taking a certain medication for sleep...about a year ago...I've been prone to very vivid dreams.  Now I'm not some new-age "dreams are windows into your soul" kind of person, but every once in a while I can sort of sense the machinery inside my head turning in the form of what I dream about.  Last night was no exception.  What I remember was being at my (former) employer and seeing visions of things changing radically, mostly nonsensical things by the way, and for whatever reason, I was back to watch.  It was if I had turned a fork in life's road and I was given the opportunity to see what was down the other path for a just a brief moment in time.  It wasn't frightening or even disturbing, and I didn't wake up in some kind of panic.  It was, though, thought-provoking.

* * * * * *

November 11, 2016

Vacation time is nearly concluded, and I can say with complete and good conscience that I wasn't obsessing over career concerns.  I did think about the thing, but it never got the level of distracting anxiety.  I did happen to get a text from a former co-worker with a tip about an opening at a local university.  After pondering it for a bit, I did actually apply, doing so ahead of my plan for such things, but it's a great opportunity that matches up well with my skills, so who knows?  If anything, this will be my first entry into the realm of managing expectations.

* * * * * *

November 15, 2016
There are times when I just wish...and I really do wish...I could just explode in a fit of rage, alone in my truck, for about 30 minutes...and then be done with it all.  I'd yell out all the anger and disappointment I myself...and it would somehow be purged for good.  It would be a grand and glorious exercise.  It would be healing.  But that's not to be, because that's simply not me.  

This morning, driving back from my once a week breakfast out ritual, I felt as if I was "this" close to an emotional outburst.  It just doesn't happen.  It's as if I'm one of those World War II-era Jeeps with a governor installed on it, so that, in my case, I can't exceed an emotional speed limit of 40 miles per hour.  It reminds me of how I felt after 9-11:  I was angry and emotional, but I just couldn't get it out.  It had to stay bottled up inside as if it's exposure to the natural world would somehow cause a catastrophe of global proportions.  

In point of fact, I am angry.  Very angry.

I'm not angry at my former employer, or my former manager.  Heck, in all likelihood they've done me a tremendous favor, and at this junction, I just can't imagine going back, in spite of how I feel.  No, I'm angry at me.  Furious at me.  Livid.  I've seen this movie time and time again:  You get older, you get soft, you get complacent, and you get expendable.  Now for some folks, well it's just bad luck.  Bad timing.  Bad karma.  But for others, the whole thing is telegraphed over time.  I saw this coming.  I really, truly did.  And I did nothing about it other than wait.

Now maybe that last sentence isn't true.  Maybe going back to school, maybe a few other things I've been doing are in preparation for that fateful day.  Maybe I'll see that in the future.  Maybe I'll never see it.

One thing I do see is what a former colleague told me the Monday (or so) after I was "retired"...she said that, while I felt bad now, I would likely feel worse.  Fast forward a few weeks, and well maybe she was right.  The thing is that I felt the "worse" part would be associated with the inevitable waiting associated with a job search, which may still be true.  Maybe though the worse part is now, that moment when I stick my toe into the pool of anger I'm feeling, only to discover that I can't just jump in and get it all over with.

* * * * * *

November 18, 2016
Not a good day.  It started with getting less than six hours of sleep last night and progressed through hours spent looking for job opportunities online.  Nothing really popped out at me, but the truly difficult part is fighting through negative feelings about this whole situation.  Feelings of wounded pride and the notion that I'll likely have to deal with at the least the perception of taking a step backward career-wise.  Feelings of, well, self-pity...for lack of a more artful way of describing what's in my head.

Perhaps this is what Connie meant when she said: "it will get worse".  

I'm fighting the negative thoughts, by the way.  "Beware of darkness" is what George Harrison wrote once, and he was, of course, right.  My lack of patience creates an enormous doorway for the darkness I will add, too.  Ironic, huh?  I've done a few things in life that required tremendous patience, yet it's still one of those things that I struggle mightily with, especially during times of stress.  And this is one of those times.

I know (and I've written about...) that God talks to us in ways we don't always sense.  In whispers, if you will, and I'm trying to remember that all of this, all that I am stewing in, is for a purpose.  A reason. I am trying to listen, and trying to remember that this is the place I need to be right now so that I can be somewhere else in the future.  I am trying to remember that I will come out the other side of this better than when I entered.

I am trying to remember that faith, well, it manages.  I just wish it wasn't so difficult at times.

* * * * * *

November 20, 2016

It's worst when I don't have a lot of structure.  That's today's micro-revelation of sorts.  I need to work on creating more structure for myself, and clearly, my enemy is sitting here, just waiting for an email to arrive with good information.  

Another revelation:  I might be angry at myself, in a way, for all of this happening.  I know, I know, there is a ton of logic behind not being angry, least of all at myself.  This happens all the time.  It's just business.  It's not about me as a person.  I get it, all of it, but part of my deep down feels like I allowed this to somehow happen.  I've seen the movie before in others...they get soft, they get complacent, they get laid off/retired.  I clearly have plenty of work to do in the negative self-talk department.

I final revelation for today:  I am truly at my very worst when I am tired.  It's as if physical tiredness creates an opening for all manner of demons to enter into my head.  It really does feel like a kind of possession.

* * * * * *

November 26, 2016

The usual roller coaster of emotions has been on the menu of late, along with turkey, stuffing, and then the rest of the typical Thanksgiving fare.  I confess to a certain degree of worry going into actual Thanksgiving, as what do you say when someone says to you "So, Steve, how's work?" or "How's the job search coming?".  I don't have good answers to either.  Fortunately, I didn't get (much of) either on Thanksgiving.

As for the actual work of finding a new job, well, part of it has been a waiting game.  I've had three potential opportunities, but nothing near even a remote "sure thing" related to either.  I also have to work on the most difficult part of all, related to job search for me:  Networking.

* * * * * *

December 3, 2016

It's been a while since I've written, but in my defense, my intent here has never been to write simply for the purpose of writing.

There has been not much action on the job search front, other than my continued diligence at looking for opportunities and for people to talk with (a.k.a. "networking").

* * * * * *

December 11, 2016

There can be no better example of relativity than what is experienced by someone in the space between jobs.  Time just operates differently.  I'm sure there is a Genius Grant waiting for just such a study.

As Christmas approaches, I'm probably looking at something of a lull in the job search work, which is something of a misnomer in that it's not exactly a 9 to 5 endeavor to being with.  Yes, finding a job is a full-time occupation, but it's just that, for some folks, there isn't full-time work required for the task.  For me, I'd end up having to pick random people out of my high school yearbook for networking purposes in order to spend all of my time doing this work, and for what end?  I'm actually somewhat convinced that part of whole "networking thing" is primarily designed to give job seekers something active to do, lest they go completely bonkers while looking for employment.

Since it's nearly 11pm on a Sunday and I'm into revelations at the moment, here's another one:  I find this whole time, this space between jobs, to be somewhat humiliating.  If you've ever been in this position you will know what I mean.  It's particularly difficult for me, not necessarily because I have an outsized ego, but actually because of the opposite:  I don't have much of one, so things that do take away from it, from my identity, seem to hurt even more.  Very dramatic, I know.  But also very true.  I'm the kid from the housing project that made something of himself...that narrative changes if I, well, fail to make something of myself.

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Ago Gratias | Team Steve
I've written this as a journal of a journey, and I can think of no better way to end it than with thanks.  Specifically, I give thanks (Ago Gratias) to all those who have helped me along the way, those folks who have been on my team, especially these wonderful individuals -

Allan, my partner in crime, for checking in on me early on & for his hospitality.

Connie, for helping talk me "off the ledge" (figuratively speaking) early on.

Jean, for her gift of time, key advice, and calm demeanor.

Luke, for being there at the very beginning when I needed help.

My daughters (Katrina, Korin, and Becca), for reminding me that the most important title I will ever have is "Dad", and no matter what I do professionally, my personal legacy of success lives in them.

Robin (and the rest of the staff at Lee Hecht Harrison), for being consummate professionals and wonderful coaches in this endeavor.

Sue, for the pep talk, when I needed it most.

...and Linda, Sean, Danielle, Mary, Jen, Nadine, and countless others who have reached out to me, simply because they cared.

And Most Especially... wife & chief proof-reader, Chris Rivers, for caring, for standing by me, for being my biggest fan, for never doubting me for a moment (especially when I may have doubted myself).  You're the other half of my sky.

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