Off and On

I walk into my office and the boxes  – empty, open, half-filled cardboard containers fill my periphery vision. There are several vacant cubes with aimless, hanging wires, dark monitors waiting to connect or light up. It is cumbersome to go all the way into my office, feeling a slow, twisting stab after witnessing that so much has been left behind. So many have moved on and distributed with no hope of getting back together.

I stare at my screen, missing the enthusiastic Good Morning vibes from my ex-colleagues. I shuffle towards the break room, start a fresh coffee pot and wave at another colleague who is still around, like me. Last few of us are scattered – one, perhaps, in every corner, minding his/her own business with regular workday consumption – making sense of our loneliness with the satisfaction of being employed.

I have gotten used to layoffs but not goodbyes. I have changed many jobs in past few years – worked at same place off and on – closed the door not knowing if I’d return and remember the turn that led to a restroom instead of break room. I have learned to travel light. I have seen too many people going to a meeting and coming back with an envelope that sums up their accomplishment in terms of severance, the discontinuance of benefits after a month or a few more, and an uneasy feeling smacked on their faces. A layoff is more than interruption of regular income or perks – it is the feeling of rejection. It is that nagging, shameless voice that sticks – what did I do wrong?

I discovered the answer not too long ago. Two important facts and exclusive in most cases:

  • I did not do anything wrong.
  • I was not needed.

It took me sometime to figure that out. Until then, the demon of rejection kneaded inside my head – manipulating my self-confidence with every little squeeze. And when I realized there was something I should have done/known better – I was ready to clean up, learn and move on.

I moved on from jobs,  buildings, parking lots but never from the people. Most of the subsequent job offers came from ex-colleagues. It happened because that wasn’t my only goal. They saw value in my work and presence.

My work, in essence, never coagulated in spite of setbacks. I sharpened my techniques to do things faster and better with the knowledge that a layoff can come my way even on a clear, sunny morning, without any inkling. The best I could do was to stop being afraid of it and use my experience to wade my way.

I acknowledge that no matter how many times it happens, it is going to hurt every time. It is going to leave a scar, no matter how insignificant. And that acceptance has humbled me. It has also made bolder. It made me laugh at the craziness of it; it made me cry at the unrewarded sincerity I have bestowed upon my work. It made me aware that I cannot live my life and yet be too careful with it. And while I disliked it every single time – it made me accept the follies of our world and learn the tools to work with it. It made me believe as long as there is a streak of strength in every failure – I can start all over again. And again.

One of my ex-bosses said: It is important for every entrepreneur to go bankrupt just as it is important for every employee to get laid off. At least once.

I cannot agree more.


Word count: 590

Above inspired by yeah write #157


21 thoughts on “Off and On

  1. This was really well done. And sad, but true, especially since there’s no going back to the “company man” model where people worked the job for 40 years before they were pensioned off. Getting laid off sucks despite it’s inevitability. It’s awesome you’re able to draw strength from it.

  2. As Larks noted, there is no loyalty in the employer-employee relationship anymore. Lay offs and dismissals are a fear that so many of us live with daily, it really is shameful the point we’ve come to.

  3. You put this struggle so eloquently. Failure is an important step to identifying your true calling. I’m so glad you are embracing the process, and sharing your feelings on it!

  4. This is my story. Exactly. Five times it has happened, and all 5 times it has lead to a better situation, but the scars remain. Thank you for telling my story. I really could not have said it better, and believe me, I have tried.

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