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Fresh Powder

Fresh Powder in the Fells

I am looking forward to starting this new year with a clean slate. Last year was wonderful in many respects, but I had a particularly difficult final three months which dwarfs my memory of the entire year. I haven't written about it on the blog, but it feels right doing so now.

At the end of September, on the day we returned from an exceptional vacation to the Scottish Borders, and the day of my father's 88th birthday, I found out that my job had been eliminated. That's a legal term in the US which means that you get to collect unemployment. This was a big blow to me and I shed a tear when the CEO told me. I'd been with this company for over 4 years and done a lot of fine things there, but the company strategy was changing and there was to be a realignment of the management team, minus me.

I resolved at that moment to part on good terms and accepted their offer to stay an additional 7 weeks to facilitate the transition. But, I had to keep it a secret in the company. While the extra income helped soften my exit, those weeks were absolute emotional hell. Can you imagine working with dear friends and colleagues and keeping such a secret from them?

I tried hard to stay focused during that transition period and focus on our quarterly goals and revenue targets. But it was very difficult and I wonder whether it was worth it. Blogging turned out to be an anchor, more than ever, and I started posting every day. It kept me busy and the extra interaction with readers kept me going. So did my wife, who is always behind me, and my hiking friend naturegirl, who ensured that I kept getting outdoors on the weekends. Hiking really helped me keep it together (as usual).

During my 7 week transition period, I didn't start looking for a new job. I really didn't feel like it. I started looking into alternative careers and re-education. The desire to internalize this lay off as the end of this career phase was strong, but in the end going back to school full time for 1 to 7 years really wasn't that appealing to me. I've already had too much higher education. I am very good at Internet product management and in the end I decided that it would be foolish to walk away from it now. I can still make a good living from it and there are many aspects about it which still give me incredible gratification.

Once the announcement was publicly made at work that I'd be leaving, I felt like a huge burden had been lifted from my shoulders. My colleagues were very kind about it and very supportive, but I'm sure that they were perplexed when I told them that I wasn't going to look right away and that I planned on spending the winter climbing in the White Mountains in New Hampshire.

I still hadn't starting looking for a job and really dreaded it. People who have been laid off always have the appearance of damaged goods. Plus finding a job at my level of seniority in this horrible economy…well, I was resigned to have a long search. I enrolled for unemployment insurance and tried to structure a daily routine.

Back in September, when I was told that I was going to be let go, I went home and wrote a list of all of the things I would do if I had some free time. Here it is:

  • Dust off my fiddle and start playing socially again
  • Hike mountains in New Hampshire
  • Get into really great physical shape
  • Meditate again
  • Write a book
  • Go on a 30 day NOLS course – some place really remote
  • Go on the Adirondack Club mountaineering course in January
  • Finalize my network security certification. Learn penetration testing.
  • Play squash again
  • Do trail maintenance work
  • Get a chain saw sawyer certification/training
  • Go to Japan and hike the 80 temple walk. 
  • Take some avalanche forecasting classes
  • Get back into writing haiku
  • Visit my parents and sister more
  • Hike the Long Trail again, end-to-end, in one shot
  • Get back into kayaking
  • Sell of a bunch of old hiking gear
  • Donate lots of books to the library
  • Start waterfall climbing in New England
  • Simplify our life dramatically
  • Find a stone mason internship
  • Hike the Virginia Appalachian Trail for a month
  • Start on the Connecticut and New York Appalachian Trail
  • ……

But I found out something I didn't know about free time. I really found it hard to use my time efficiently when I had lots of it. For example, when I was working full time, it took a lot less time to write a blog post than when I wasn't. Same with my daily workouts. They used to take 90 minutes. Now, I was spending up to 3 hours at the gym, doing more, and enjoying the steam room and jacuzzi, which I rarely had time for in the past.

On hindsight, I think the underlying issue is an overabundance and lack of urgency. When working, you have to interleave the most important life tasks with work and it is a given that you can't get to everything. That becomes harder when you don't have the pressure of a full time job – at least for me. Whatever, I didn't like the pace or the fact that I was being interrupted by a lot of tasks that I never did previously. I didn't like it a lot but I did come to understand how hard it is for people who are unemployed to stay focused. I didn't understand that before.

I never did really look for work. In the end, or the beginning in some sense, I sent my resume to an old colleague who is working at a company I like. They had a position open and I thought I'd submit a resume through him to sample the waters. I got a phone screen within an hour of sending in my resume and after a few rounds of interviews, I got an offer which I accepted. 

I start again, fresh, this Monday. But before that, naturegirl and I are going to the White Mountains for two days of climbing in fresh powder and I want to bag my first 4,000 footer of the new year.

Oh and the section hiker blog played a roll in my getting this job. One of the people I interviewed with and who I will be working closely with is a regular reader. How do you like that!


  1. Great news, I'm really pleased for you. For me backpacking and blogging have helped me through some difficult circumstances and kept me (relatively) sane. Thanks for the effort that you've put into your blog.

  2. I love your list. I had a similar list when I decided to leave work that was not satisfying. I side stepped into fun job, thinking it was temporary, just over a year ago and I am still there. Funny how those things work.

    Congratulations on your new work! Sounds like the blog has worked on many levels for you. I enjoy the results of your offerings here.

  3. Congradulations, I suspect you'll have "grown" from the experience – though rejection is never fun. Best wishes with the new job & keep up your interesting and informative blog.

  4. Good news but at the same time I wish you had more time to savor the flavor of life. The next time you take a hiatus do it when there is more sunlight so you can squeeze all those 4000 footers in. Your blog the best one I have ever read. (probably because of our similar fondness for the outdoors)

  5. that is great news ! Glad to hear you found a new job and had time to reflect on what is important. Keep hiking.

  6. Sorry the last three months were so hard, my brother, but talk about a happy ending! Sounds like you learned some good stuff on your downtime, too.

    That said, if the guy who gave you the job wins the stove, you'll be hearing from my lawyer. ;-)

  7. Happy New Year and congratulations on the new job!

    It's really hard going through transitions (happened to me 20 years ago, at age 54) but the end result was worth it–the new company (from which I've now retired) turned out to be a far better fit for me! I hope things work out the same for you!

  8. Thanks all for your kind remarks and continued friendship. Now it's time for another glass of wine before we tackle Mt. Cabot tomorrow. There is new snow in the mountains!

  9. I love the list… even if you didn't get around to all of it, it's better than I do when I have downtime like that. I've been a seasonal worker for the past three years, so I know how you feel with the big chunks of downtime (although I usually know when mine are coming when I sign up for the job). I wish finding new jobs was always so easy and stress-free! Congrats, and happy trails!

    Hmm… if you don't post every day now, does that mean I'll actually have to hike to enjoy the outdoors? ;)

  10. My husband went through something similar in '09. The tech company went under that he worked for. It was scary at first obviously but we worked everything through and it was nice having the free time for awhile – lots of gym time as well. Then he got head hunted within a month. No vacation for him! The new job has been good to us, it was a 6 month contract position that then was offered as a full time employee position that he accepted.

    In the end it did all work out though had he had another month free time the new books would be out…..and our website 100% finished ;)

    Networking is everything in this economy!

  11. Keep the bucket list – and start ticking them off one by one. Good karma to you for finding a reader at the new job – best of luck with it.

  12. Fresh powder, indeed! Good luck with the new year.

  13. So much of this post resonated with me. When I resigned my last company, they wouldn't let me tell anyone (internally or externally) for four months. It was desperately unpleasant. But many congratulations on landing a new position – and if you do ever find yourself with time on your hands again, the 88 temple hike (and many other things) will still be waiting for you in Japan!

  14. I went through losing my job 18months ago and it was from a company I had been with for 17years so it was incredibly hard and I felt institutionalised. Glad you have found something else so quickly and also glad that you have kept writing the blog so fully over the past few months

    Hats off to you sir!

  15. Dave – I think that good karma you sent me last month via email helped tip the balance in my favor. Losing my last job after 4 years was hard but I've been through it before. But losing your after 17 must have felt like the end of the world. It must have been hard to rediscover your independence after that.

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