Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Shock to the system

I discovered, first hand, what a shock it is to your entire system when you are laid off from a company where you had worked for more than twenty years.

For me, the event began only five days ago, and I, at the time, had worked for the company exactly twenty years and three days.

At first, I was really upbeat and able to see it as a great opportunity. Then, for a few days, I felt as if I had some sort of serious energy-sapping ailment.

It turns out that, when something like this happens, your entire body reacts, not just your thinking and feeling self. When your body adjusts to one pattern and is soothed with it for more than twenty years, it yelps, loudly, when it is changed.

So, I was really fine that day, the day I was laid off, as I had dinner plans with friends, each of whom had connections (past or present) with the same company. We talked a lot about the situation, but we also simply had a good time with each other.

The next morning, I spent lots of time emailing old friends at the company to let them know how much I had valued their friendship and collaboration. That afternoon, I visited with the chairman of the board. It was a difficult conversation only because we had so many shared experiences over those many years. He did not know, ahead of time, that I was among those who were cut.

We had a good conversation, the highlight for me being the moment I reminded him when his eldest child decided, at age 8 or so and completely on his own, to write Isaac Asimov, seeking a meeting. Asimov was tickled by the letter and immediately replied, inviting the kid to come to New York. When I mentioned the story, my friend leaped up from his chair (we were in his sitting room, one of the benefits of being the chairman, CEO, and largest stockholder of a company of this stature: you can have a sitting room) and walked over to the cork board where he had many dozens of snapshots of his kids, now all grown and moved out of the nest.

Sure enough, he found the shot of his eldest with serious intent visible on his face, his only son, barely reaching Asimov's waist he was so small, walking toward the camera with a smiling Asimov behind, hand on the shoulder of the child in front of him.

I recalled that photo--I had seen it many times and heard the story from the kid, himself, when I was helping him with his computer a couple of years after he met Asimov--and I recalled that event, right then as I was talking with my friend and saying goodbye, because it, for me, is the perfect example of living a life free of self-inflicted limitation. The little boy (he is now 28, by the way) had no idea that it would be in any way difficult to arrange a meeting with Isaac Asimov. So, he made it happen.

It's an important lesson for me, as I seek to prove the clich├ęs wrong and find just the perfect job for me, even as the economy is a bit down and my age is a bit above what some employers would prefer.

There's a place for the silverbacks. I'll find mine.


Kate I said...

Rick, I know we all say change is good...but it always feels better when it's on our own terms! The good thing is that when it hit's us at our (more mature?) stage in life I think we have an added advantage for coping...we've had the time and experiences to amass a great wealth of wisdom and skills, which helps us move through the experience with a bit more grace and ease.

Yeah, there may be times of doubts and worry but the truth at the bottom of it all, is that we know that we've worked through other challenges in life and we'll do just fine with these and any others that come up along he way.

I came across a quote the other day by Napolean Hill that I had to write down. You've probably already heard it, but it's a great reminder for all of us right now...

"Within every adversity is an equal or greater opportunity".

Blessings to you on finding a new and fullfilling direction in your life.

Lynilu said...

You are so right about the total reaction one has to life events such as this. It changes everything. And the body will certainly react. I hope you find a balance again soon.

It is trite to say that when one door closes, another opens. But I feel compelled to be trite, simply because that has been my life experience. I don't mean that it is always easy or that doors opening that are the ones of my choice, but somehow things seems to work out in the end.

I hope your opening of doors is a quick and easy task. I hope that you find your next assignment to be pleasurable. I wish you peace and happiness wherever you are and wherever you are going.

Rick Hamrick said...

Thanks so much, Kate, for your affirmation of the value of experience.

I fully agree, and I'm working to leverage all I know to benefit not only myself, but some future employer. Or...who knows? Maybe I will cook up some concoction which isn't the traditional employee/omployer situation.

Regardless, I am very grateful for your rapid and fully supportive message, Kate. It means a great deal to me!

Rick Hamrick said...

Lynilu--bless your heart!

There is nothing at all trite when one offers, to another, the blessing of encouraging words.

Thanks so much for your encouraging words. It means the world to me to hear from you, and from others in my little group of blogging friends, that you wish me well.

Sylvain said...

Rick. I understand the whole body thing. Be careful of the mind too. That's what played havoc with me the first time I went through what you are right now. I think we, perhaps men in particular, become our job. Who was I? Well, I was Syl, the phone company guy. "Hi, nice to meet you. What do you do?" Well, I'm Syl, I run diagnostics on phone systems" Then they downsize. So who am I now? And that loss of identity was the hardest part for me. That and the loss of my community, my co-worker community.
It took some time to get out of that mind mess, but I did. And things work out. They do. I know you feel you have the age thing, but I had the wheelchair thing. I felt I was at a huge disadvantage. And maybe I was, but in some respects I have always been like that 8 year old. I just go for it. And I was working again in a short time. As you know I'm on the bubble again, but I think I can get through it much better this time. Then again it hasn't happened yet for me. We'll see.
Take some time for yourself, get your head around NOT working, and then get out there and get it done. You will. I know it.

Rick Hamrick said...


No more inspirational words exist, for me, than the ones you wrote!

I, too, spent a bit too much energy in being my job, and now it is time to adjust to NOT being my job.

You are exactly right in that I have everything I need to become employed again, and nothing of the imagined barriers are any more than just that: imagined!

Thanks so much for your contribution, my friend.

Angela said...

Rick, I'm sorry about the loss of your job. I know you will be fine, but it's a difficult thing to go through anyway, especially when you've worked somewhere that long! It seems like you've got rule #1 down: don't panic. The right thing will come along.

jylene said...

dear rick, i agree with the advice offered by sylvain. take some time for your self. don't rush into a job in a panic of not having one. at some time in our life we come to a place where we just have to jump, and trust that the universe will catch us. and like angela said, the right thing will come along. you just have to open the space for it and it will show up. i have great faith in you, friend. best wishes and love.

Rick Hamrick said...

Angela--thanks so much.

Being in it is a bit different than talking about it--often, I have offered advice to others looking for a job. It's a bit like clinically discussing the concept of drowning, vs. inhaling water.

While I am inhaling water, I am also working get my nose above that critical point where air is more available than water.

Just my long way of getting your point: I'm working to be nodding "yes" when the chance stops at my house and seeks my help.

Rick Hamrick said...

Jylene--I love your reference to jumping without regard to the location of the net.

As I am able to get all my parts pointed in the right direction, I'll also be looking for the perfect point from which to launch!

Thanks so much for your encouragement, my friend.

storyteller said...

You’re the 3rd person I know who has been laid off in the last week or so. Your visceral reactions and am reminded of a time in my past when something similar occurred to me. Most astonishing to me were the unexpected doors that opened in the aftermath … leading to more authentic opportunities for which I’m exceedingly grateful. You’re right … you will find your place. In the meantime, you’ll be in my thoughts & prayers.
Hugs and blessings,

Rick Hamrick said...

Thanks, storyteller.

Every good wish is another sail powering my craft these days.

My sense of things, this morning, is to be fully prepared to accept a job before I am actively seeking one.

In other words, I have the luxury of looking for work on my schedule, not based upon desperate need.

And, as I emailed a friend this morning, if I can fit an interview between my spa treatments and my massages, I'll take it under advisement! [big grin]

Sphincter said...

Dear Rick,

Holy crap! It all sounds so disconcerting, and yet you had the presence of mind to thank your former co-workers and boss. Amazing. I know you'll find your place. We're all here cheering you on while you look.

Rick Hamrick said...

Sphinc--thanks so much for your thoughtful comments.

I'm happy to say that I feel much better, just in the 'who the heck am I??' sense, just in the last couple of days. It seems that life does go on, so I'm hopping back on the wagon to see where we stop next.