A year and a half ago, I was kicked to the curb after almost 10 years from a job I was doing spectacularly well -- and into which I was pouring 80-100 hours a week -- so that others who were in greater political favor could be spared.
I was let go a few weeks before my tiny pension was vested. A fight ensued over that. My small "victory" was bitterly Pyrrhic. I'll tell you about it someday.
I remember stopping at a Radio Shack on the way home to watch the impeachment of Governor Rod Blagojevich live.
Turned out, Blago and I lost our jobs on the same day.
This time around I have been remaindered from an organization that I was hired to help turn around. Which I did. Ferocious economy and all, I brought it back from deep in the weeds where it had gotten lost. Got its key numbers back up into the range of respectability. Rebuilt damaged relationships and internal discipline. Restored its good name in places where it had gotten tarnished. Hacked the kudzu off of the web site and got it looking sweet again.
In general, I made organizationally straight what had once been crooked, and while it never paid enough to cover my nut, it did slow the slide into penury while I tried to stitch together enough such gigs to keep the wolf from the castle door.
But others were in charge of the budgets, and they were not paying such careful attention, and so what was going to be a tough, lean, belt-tightening year next anyway turned into a catastrophe. It did not have to be so, but now it is, and so once more into the teeth of the Great Recession I go.
And this time around it is General Stanley McChrystal with whom I share a termination-date.
I know the ins and outs of the issues facing the labor force very well. Better than most -- from the for-public-consumption bad news delivered via Yahoo News to the heartbreaking personal accounts that show up everywhere these days (One selection from Andrew Sullivan's "The View From Your Recession" feature):
...I am a 58 year-old male, and my white hair proves it. I was laid off an executive position in a real estate company in January 2009. I directed international marketing programs and was responsible for over $200 million in transactions. But I have been unable to find work, even well below my former position. I am told that I appear too smart, too qualified. I have applied for many, many jobs - jobs I could do in my sleep.
Playing by the rules, I post and scour Monster and Career Builder to no avail, not even an interview. When I see a job that particularly fits my skills, I break the "rules" and contact the employer directly and consistently. Still, no job. The State of Florida has a service to help the unemployed. When I met with my counselor, she was shocked that with my resume I didn't have a job. As we pursued opportunities, she finally suggested that I dumb down my resume. That proved a bit difficult. I was in charge of a large development marketing operation. My former company was extremely successful (until the financial world changed and mortgages disappeared).
How do I feel? I cry. From there it is anger, then depression. As I like to say, I lost my job that January, and lost my pride by June. I have now lost hope...
to the technical and policy literature on the subject -- I am well-versed and I know that in so many ways I am a lucky guy: my situation is not in any way unique, and I am blessed to have more tools at my command and more supportive people in my corner than many millions of my fellow unemployed Americans.
I have no idea what comes next. Probably going to have to start over and re-invent my career for (Pauses to count. Shakes head in disbelief. Counts again.) the eighth time, which, to be frank, is starting to lose its charm.
Three things I am pretty sure of.
First, the topics I cover on this site are going to change a little in terms of emphasis. I have always covered the subjects of work, organizational behavior and the root causes of (and possible cures for) middle class anomie, so expect more of that.
Second, based on my own, exhaustive-if-exotic research it is clear that absent a patron, a spouse who can carry more than their share of the weight for a long time, a clean, well-lighted place at a profitable publication, a Wingnut Welfare gig, a call from "The Daily Show" begging me to help hang onto The Funny, or a sinecure in academe, in these parlous times there is no chance that writing will ever pay the bills. Not even close.
Third, I'm done working in a strategic or planning role for people in the thrall of the latest management fad, or hustlebuck consultant, or political fantasy that -- when you strip away all the knowing winks and aromatically bovine byproduct buzzwords -- means they're making one ruinous decision after another based on magical thinking and the notion that 2+2 does not equal 4. It doesn't work in politics, government, education or business and following the Pied Pipers who tell you it does only ever leads to tears.
I'll hire on to do any of the many things I do very well, up to and including helping to mop up up the mess left over from their last, disastrous assignation with snake oil salesmen. I'll even help chart courses out of dangerous waters and into better futures, but to do that I have to seek, speak and act on the truth, and if you don't want the truth, quit pretending that you do, and quit penalizing people who hand it to you on a silver platter.
Because 2 + 2 does equal 4.
Every single time.
UPDATE: In a feat of pitch-perfect timing, I just returned from some intense oral surgery which I had scheduled before I knew I was going to be "at liberty". And I'll tell you, if you ever want to take your mind off of looming disaster, may I recommend having a nice man pound away at a tooth for an hour with what strongly resembled tin snips and a coal chisel.
Sometimes there is nothing to do but laugh.
Hydrocodone take me away... :-)