Wednesday, May 18, 2011

After the layoff

So gather up your jackets, move it to the exits
I hope you have found a friend
Closing time
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end

—Semisonic, "Closing Time"

On an ordinary day in February 2003, my boss IM'd me with a request to see him in his office. As I got up and exited my little cubicle, I mused about how it used to rattle me when I got those messages. See, for most of my three years at the company, the projects I worked on were finite. They had a beginning, middle, and end. My worry had always been that one day, they'd run out of work to give me.

But there had always been more. And after countless meetings with the boss passed without incident, I'd finally stopped worrying that THIS time, he was calling me in to tell me I was fired. So with confidence, I walked in, sat down, and the first words out of his mouth were

(of course)

"I'm going to have to let you go."

A few minutes later I was sitting outside where nobody could see me, cursing my fate and mourning the loss of the job. I loved this job!

Well, no. Not really. I used to, back when the projects were fun. In the past months, however, my primary mission had been to write and edit the promotional mailings our company sent out on a too-frequent basis. Not the most odious thing I'd ever been paid to do, but not interesting either, and an absolute conversation killer at parties. ("What do you do?" "Oh, I write spam." "...")

What I loved was the company itself. My coworkers were the kind of people I'd hang out with outside of work. The hours were flexible. Every day was frickin' "casual day." The perfect environment. I'd never find another place to work like that.

Still, even in those first moments of shock, I tried to look at the bright side. I'd have more time for music. Maybe I'd finally start my own band. You know, after I learned to sing.

* * *

Soon after the job ended, I agreed to back up a musician friend on keyboard for one of her gigs. I mentioned the layoff during our rehearsal together, and Amber suggested I look for work as a lounge pianist.

The idea intrigued me. I didn't know any standards, but I could improvise. The trick would be finding an affordable way to record a demo of myself doing that, something I could send to resorts. Wendy Adams, my vocal coach, recommended that I call Hank Childers at VGB Studio.

Done and done.

As we wrapped up the session, Hank asked me what my plans were.

"I'd like to find a guitarist and start a band eventually," I said. "Maybe in a few months. First I need to become a better singer."

"I know a drummer who's looking for a project," said Hank. "Would it be OK if I gave him your number?"

The rest was history.

* * *

If Cinder Bridge emerged as a result of the previous layoff, I wonder what this one will make possible.

The trick is to be prepared for anything.

At least I already know how to sing.


Minimalist Russ said...

Joe Dominguez once stated, (paraphrased) "When a person loses their job, they are going to react to the loss in one of two ways. Either they are so wrapped up in their job and completely identify themselves with it, that when it's gone their lives tumble with it. The other way is to view it as an opportunity to spend more time developing a life doing the things that are loved; subsequently leading to a much more fulfilling life.

It seems to me that you are most definitely the latter; fully aware of the possibility that your life will indeed turn out positive.

Good for you!

Even though my job is not horrible by any stretch of the imagination, I sometimes wonder how I would deal with such a situation. Would I become a festering pocket of negativity or would I find myself being thankful because now I can start to build a new life that is in alignment with my current values?

I am very curious to know how this will turn out for you.

Jeff Shattuck said...

When one door opens...

You've heard all the platitudes, I'm sure, but they have some truth in them.

By the way, have you considered an ad agency gig? Agencies tend to have the kind of work environment of your old job and the pay can be decent. You will write some spam, though!