Today I Lost My Job

May 05, 2000

Today I lost my job. This is my birthday weekend and I had taken Friday off as a present to myself. Midway through the morning I got a call from a work mate suggesting that I might want to come in to the office. When I asked why he said they were letting people go. He had been let go. I lost all the feeling in my limbs. In that moment I entered a free fall, the elevator cable had snapped. The world, once sharp and stable around me, had suddenly become blurry and frightening.

The drive into my office passed quickly. There was a small group of my fellow employees by the door as I drove past to the parking lot. The knot in my stomach grew at the sight of them, and I couldn't bring myself to look any in the face. As I walked into the building we all muttered furtive hellos. We were all unknowns to each other. I didn't know if they were staying or going, and they didn't know that about me. Suddenly people I had worked with were strangers. They were 'them'. And I was a 'them' as well.

Upstairs I searched out my immediate supervisor. The room felt chaotic and tense. Walking up to him I bluntly asked, "Do I pack or do I stay?" I could tell by the instance of pain on his face that I was packing. The free fall was now complete. No parachutes, no way out, please keep your hands and feet inside the elevator until it completely crashes in the basement.

Things that had been important only a few hours ago no longer mattered. The dentist appointment two days out was no longer looming large in my anxiety. My fears about my latest work assignment melted away. I no longer had any work assignments.

My anger slipped a few times getting through the severance process. I had little or no patience for the party line about why this was necessary. Looking at the corporate hatchet man I said, "I don't need to hear your confession, I can't give you absolution. You have to live with what you've done to all these lives today."

Coming home and telling my wife that I had lost my job was devastating. It felt like I had failed us, like I had failed her. She spoke the only words that could have made a difference, "I love you. I believe in you." The process of understanding had begun. We spent the rest of the day exploring our rage, tears, sorrow, laughter, fears and hopes. We believe in the TAO, that all things happen for a reason. We know that all events, joyous or traumatic, bring with them a gift. The trick to growing in this lifetime is to discover the gifts and incorporate them into you.

I have yet to discover what gift this trauma brings with it. I know that I will pass through the fire and emerge on the other side stronger for having been tempered by its heat. Yesterday is only a memory. Tomorrow is still a dream. Here and now all I have is today. Here and now I lost my job. Here and now I have gained my freedom to explore and grow.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.