Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Crucible

Last Friday I alluded to a big change in my life.  Those of you who know me personally and have to put up with me on a daily basis now know what that change is.  But for my fans in Moldova (hello there!):  I got a new job.

I've had the same job for almost nine years, through three office moves, several different titles, and one complete turnover in the name and ownership of the company.  The only constants over that entire span were my boss and me.  The industry we work in is almost entirely dependent on the commercial lending and real estate sectors - great news in the early 2000s, when growth was meteoric, but you might have noticed what happened to those sectors at the end of 2008.  Without going into a long dissertation on the details, over the course of 18 months I lost two-thirds of my co-workers and almost 30% of my salary.  And, not surprisingly, about 90% of my morale.

I didn't leave my job for any of those reasons.  In fact, when all of that was happening, I didn't leave my job at all.  I stayed because I believed in my boss and the skeleton staff that struggled mightily to keep all of our heads above water.  (Full disclosure:  I also believed, with good reason, that I couldn't find another job.  Recession, remember?)  In the last six months, as lenders and developers and investors have all decided that it might finally be a good idea to pump some money into the economy again, business has rebounded to an extent.  Not a full recovery by any means, but at last we're on a growth trajectory.  The future looks as bright as it has at any time since the crash. 

And that brightness illuminated some realities that had been hiding in the shadows.  When you spend two years in a haze of fear, uncertainty, anger, pain, and impending financial ruin, you miss things going on around you.  And inside you.  When the fog finally starts to lift, those things become not just visible, but glaringly obvious.  In my case, I realized that I had spent two years moving slowly backwards.  I wasn't totally oblivious:  I was painfully aware that I wasn't making progress toward any of my life goals, just like millions of other people.  But I thought I was at a standstill.  Not until recently, when I was able to raise my head a bit from the fetal position and look around, did I realize that I wasn't even achieving that much. 

Turns out that recessions don't erode only your financial stability.  The downturn drains your aspirations, your resilience, your confidence, even your ability to recognize the inertia that is turning your path to the future into a treadmill stuck in low gear.  Over the last several months, I came dangerously close to believing that the damage done by the recession was permanent and irreversible.  Not the damage to the economy - the economy always, always comes back - but the damage to me.

My expectations had shrunk to these horrible, malformed masses of insecurity, dangling uselessly like an old man's testicles.  (Now there's some descriptive language for you.)  No matter what happened - good, bad, or indifferent - I had become lulled into thinking that that was just the way it was.  The most important thing was to take the blows and stay the course.  It wasn't that I believed things would change eventually.  It was far worse:  I had started to believe, with all my heart, that things would never change.

Getting this new job came through a combination of good timing and plain good luck (more about it in another post).  Taking the job took all the strength I could muster.  It wasn't the first time I'd been offered a position in the last nine years.  It wasn't even the first offer I'd had since the recession hit.  I'd turned down opportunities with other companies because - especially over the last couple of years - my need to stay had become greater than my need to change.  In fact, I barely recognized the need for change as a valid motivation.  When I was offered my new position, it was very much like clouds parting to let the sun through as I realized that this time, finally, different felt like a better game plan than same.

Please don't get me wrong; I have great respect and affection for the coworkers and clients I'm leaving behind, and especially for my boss, who is a great leader and an amazing person.  The sense of inertia that gradually engulfed me started out, with the strongest of hopes and purest of intentions, as loyalty to him and his vision of a successful company.  That it curdled into something spirit-crushing is no reflection on him.  The last couple of years have been an unfortunate crucible for bad vibes.  Maybe it served some purpose for me to simmer in it for a while.  Maybe it was just bad, and best left at that. 

But now comes something different.  And although nothing is certain, I think that different finally has a fighting chance of taking me somewhere.

No comments:

Post a Comment

You're thinking it, you may as well type it. The only comments you'll regret are the ones you don't leave. Also, replies to threads make puppies grow big and strong.