despair

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players . . .”

It always seemed that I was in control of my life. I worked hard at full time jobs while raising a child by myself, owned and took care of a home, with an abundance of pets, volunteered here and there, traveled for work on occasion and went to school at nights over 11 years. I learned what I could along the way and always wanted to learn more so I could support my home, my daughter and our futures.

Ten years into my last corporate job, I was surprised one morning to find that my boss, the company President at the time, was fired and replaced with a new CEO. This was not a welcome surprise, but as much as I loved my boss and as a company girl, I would continue to work with whomever was in charge, as I really loved the company I worked for. I loved the people, the products, the customers, the factory and I loved what I did.

It was very quickly that I felt I would soon follow my former boss through the etched glass door that would close behind me one last time—and for good. We’ve all seen how it begins. Little by little, pieces of your work are quietly given to another person. No more invitations to sales meetings taking place in the conference room a mere 10 feet from your office, or the company barbecue to which every-other-person was invited. Then you are basically shut out of every decision relative to your work. When the new guy brings in a “friend” to help him with a few things, the same friend who you have to hand over a plethora of your files, photos and data so she can get a feel for what the company does, you realize what’s happening. You confirm you are not imagining things when finished work from “the friend” is presented to you in front of your colleagues as the new plan. Punch gut.

Your colleagues—the same ones you worked hard with for more than a decade—the ones you did extra projects for and usually at the last minute, traveled with, laughed and shared inside jokes with, the ones who confided in you, the ones who you grieved with during hard times, yes, those colleagues, start to distance themselves in order to save themselves. You are wearing the big neon red, flashing, bullseye of shame and they now want no part of you.

You are brought in to an office to be told that you are, after 11 performance-issue-free years now, not doing your job. You are suddenly incompetent and unreliable and, “You must own it”, as the HR lady says to you, as she bobs her head up and down. This same HR lady who only the year before fought tooth and nail to get you a long-awaited and well-deserved raise. But, we’ll give you 10 weeks severance—at that point, the programming is complete—you have been humiliated to the point where you just go, there is nothing, no one and no reason left for you to stay.

I could have easily accepted that this new boss would have preferred to work with “his friend” instead of me and as much as that would have still hurt, diminishing my contributions and using flimsy lies to trash my reputation was unforgivable.

Even 8 years later as I write these words, the pain begins to rise through my body and wells in my eyes. I suppose it was just business, but for me it was so much more.

So here the stage is set and not by choice, and from here, I must play the role I’ve been given. The role, it seems, is that of a periodically unemployed woman, whose career is essentially unrecoverable.

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