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!