Thursday, November 1, 2012

What Matters Most - Part 3

Finally the assignment was:  whichever you didn't write about “before” or “after” those five minutes — write the other.
I don’t know how accurately I’ll remember that meeting. I went in to the conference room thinking about how awkward this was going to be; I had my frustrations. With a successful (so far) educational program that more schools were wanting and my new boss NOT allowing me to move forward, frustration was an understatement. I kept thinking I was going to convince him that not pursuing these leads was bad business in more ways than one.

The news that I was being laid-off blindsided me.  I hadn't even thought that was a possibility; in hindsight I don’t know why. Guess I was just being clueless about my own fate and the circumstances I found myself in.  Perhaps somewhere in me, buried deep, I’d known it was inevitable, nothing had been working lately and still — I never saw it coming.

While I was sitting at the table I looked down at the letter and it said something politely definitive that they would no longer be needing my services. I don’t recall if it was “moving in a different direction” or “shifting the allocation of resources” or “we just don’t get along” but there it was — the end of more than a decade’s worth of work.  My blood, sweat and tears (literally).  For a moment I was stunned. Then I got mad.  Really mad.

“You’re firing me?”

“No, laying you off.  You’ll....”  I didn't hear the rest.

“And this is because of what exactly?” I snarled.  Still the roaring in my ears prevented the words from entering.  While he was explaining what would happen next, all I could think of was my kids. My job entitled me to a huge college tuition benefit and they were just about to head off to college that fall!  What would happen now? What would we do?  That tuition benefit was why I came to work at this institution in the first place.  

We needed that money. My kids deserved that money. They OWED me that money.

While I was listening but not hearing, my eyes scanned the room and took in all the details: the unusual and elegant frosted glass Scavo pendants (each with an exotic name) from Italy I’d discovered and ordered through a broker in New York (“scavo” means “excavated” in Italian; the comfortable, arm-less dining room chairs surrounding the huge conference table — chairs that I’d found, had recovered in a fabulous autumnal basket-weave fabric, and had castors added so you could easily move the chairs around; the carpenter-built mini-kitchen wall with its decorative shelving — even the emergency red-lit “EXIT” sign I’d insisted the workers move so that it wasn't the first thing you saw (an ugly focal point) when you first walked in to the room.  Even crafting the argument that got us the space from the university FOR this conference room — I had done all this. 


The space, the programs, the stationery, the website, the events, the outreach, the reputation — I had poured myself into building all that at this program in this office.   

Now I was being shown the door.   



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  2. Most of us KNEW how unjust this dismissal was and that the world within those office walls was largely due to your creativity and effort, late hours, and dedication to making our space unusually nice. I think of you (and point out the lights) whenever I am in that Conference Room, and know that your Spirit lingers there--for GOOD! ("No good deed goes unpunished!" as "Wicked" reminds us!) Happy All Saints Day! --YKW

  3. Thank you for sharing this painful story. Betrayal regardless of the packaging has been for me the most hurtful emotion to process. I am glad your children in the end got their debt free degrees but can relate to the hell you endured working your way through this experience.

    1. Thank you Selene..I hadn't thought of it, but I think you are right that betrayal may well be the most harmful and difficult to endure. In some ways I am still not over it! Maybe sharing with this audience has helped in mitigating the damage. Appreciate your comments.

  4. Posting for a friend who had difficulty doing it---

    "Their loss and your gain"...CC