A lost art, it is, to send letters and cards…and the sad part is that I always want to be the kind of person who sends them (remembers birthdays, is gracious for gifts and time spent on me) but I only ever seem to be that woman with any consistency when I am out of work. I think it’s the pace of my life that leaves me with the time to do it: out of work I keep myself busy on things that need doing all the time (laundry, errands, exercise) so that I don’t spend money on things that I don’t need (Starbucks, trips to the Container Store, idle clicking on jcrew.com).
Truth is, though: I’m really and truly grateful lately. I’m grateful for this time to myself and to slow down, ponder what I want to do next. The leanness of our bank account is a little unsettling, but that isn’t forever: we can make do; certainly so many people in the world get by with much less than we have. But this time…this out-of-work time, this was my choice. I said, “This isn’t a good fit anymore: I’m not what you need.” And I left: in many ways, I was the bigger person and my departure was probably looked at as a blessing for more than a few reasons.
The last time I was out of work, it wasn’t by choice: I was downsized; ejected. It was sad and semi-abrupt and I didn’t know how to feel about it. Some people didn’t get cut: was I not worth saving? I started to doubt myself. A lot. In the absence of a deeper reason “why,” I filled in the blanks. I was washed up. I was too big for my britches. I was any number of metaphors for have-been.
You’re not really any good at what you do, said the voice in my head. They have sent you to the farm: be grateful your death sentence came with a severance package. I believed the voice for a long time. I ran from my profession: did a complete 180 and ran away, convinced that this event was the death knell for a passion I had held for what seemed like my whole life. Making things on the Internet wasn’t what I was meant for, I decided.
So I went back to school for a bit: I chased some things, I learned even more things, then I got a new job, back in the same field I’d been downsized from, I wore myself out doing both school and job for a while, then I abandoned the school tangent and went full-bore on the job again. And the job was really great and the people were really great and I was in my element. But small companies are like small worlds as they form: volcanic activity, wild temperature shifts, and mass extinctions. For months, it wore on me; things were just not like they once were and I felt like I was part of the problem. I am opinionated, but my pushing and questioning wasn’t welcome anymore like it had once been. The leaders went into seclusion to try to make a plan and, though I had very recently been counted among them, I felt shut out. Worse still, when I tried to help, it was made clear that the ways I was trying to help were somehow objectively wrong. It was obvious by the second month of no new business that things were going sour and that I had a price on my head.
How much could we save if we made a case to eject her?
And so I left. Rather than let them make a case against me and possibly damage my reputation, I left. Like a grown up: I walked. There was nothing I could change about myself to act differently or think differently: I was working as hard as I could to try to be what they needed and it was being rejected, sometimes in demoralizing ways. And there was nothing they could change, either: money was growing tighter and tighter, their stress-coping mechanisms were not healthy, much less aligned with mine, and at the end of the day, it is their company; they aren’t going anywhere: they sink with the ship. I have the luxury of a jump.
It’s a funny feeling, leaving a job with no real plan. I’ve been trying to ponder what it is I want to do. I have learned a lot about myself in the last two years and I realize now that this profession is what I am meant to do for the moment: I love it. I am good at it. I just have to be (more) ready next time…keep my options open, maintain an attractive portfolio, blog about work-type or personality-oriented stuff, consumable by a future employer. Things keep presenting themselves more and more…I am confident that it was the right move (not that I never had “buyer’s remorse”: I did, a bit) but it’s invigorating to leave when things are wrong. Life is too short to fret over things such as this. I have the support of a wonderful partner, a family who loves me, and talent for days.
Everything goes just like it should, doesn’t it? We can perceive the alternate reality that could have been, but we only have today to act in…maybe just the next five minutes.
So I am grateful, and I send letters and cards, and I hope they make someone else grateful, too.