punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

Another golden bullet

One of my best friends, Brad, host of this site, got laid off today.

He certainly doesn't feel sorry for himself, and he is relieved because he's hated working there SO MUCH, it's immeasurable. I think it was driving him to an early grave. The only reason he stayed on was that quitting doesn't look good on a resume, the tech market is still bad, and he wanted in on any severance and unemployment that he could only get if laid off or fired. But he had to work for one of the worst-run tech places I have ever seen. I mean, some days I deal with potheads and the clueless, but that's NOTHING compared to the twisted crap Brad had to deal with. I mean... damn! But he's probably going to celebrate because not only does he not have to work in hell anymore, but he's probably going to get severance, AND he already has a cushion of money to last him well into next year at his current rate of living (smart man); longer if he lives frugally. He's discussed things like getting out of the tech industry altogether, and maybe become a bartender. IT just burned him out. He had one really great company where he started from the bottom, and worked his way up... then got laid off, went to work for another company that went out of business, then went to another place that was terrible, and then went to yet ANOTHER place, where he just got laid off. The last three places just left a sour taste in his mouth, and I could see the change in him from happy-go-lucky ex-actor to angry and bitter. He was so hoping to get laid off, for almost a year, and today... he got his wish.

I am happy for him, and while he's certainly going to be okay for the next few years or so, the whole "laid off" stigma puts a nervous fire in my belly.

See, nothing is stable anymore. I mean, right now, at this very moment, I do very valuable work for my company. Without my highly praised work, everything would go to pieces in my department. But that doesn't mean I have job security. One day, out of the blue, they could lay off or outsource my whole department. I could argue that the quality of the work would suffer, but to a big company like this, it's like arguing that a Kia is a crappy car compared to the Cadillac. It's true, but at a savings of 75%... "We'll make do," says the bottom line. While my company's execs would get huge multimillion dollar bonuses, I will have to face my family and tell them we have to move within two months if we are to survive.

This is very nerve-wracking, and while I try to plan for this calamity as best I can, you just never know. I mean, you kind of hope for the "good work = stable work," but that's just not good enough. Where Christine grew up, in Keyser, West Virginia, they only really had four main sources of income for the town once the coal was all mined up: the chicken plant, the glass plant, the plastics plant, and the paper mill. The chicken plant moved, and the glass and plastic plant closed down, leaving Westvaco, the paper mill. Whole towns died. There's a town called Piedmont in nearby Maryland that was THE place to go for hundreds of miles around until the late 1970s. It was like West Virginia's panhandle version of Cairo. Now the town's main avenue is totally dead and deserted; it looks like the set from "Damnation Alley." It once had a population of tens of thousands, and now it has only a few thousand impoverished or retired people. Keyser is going the same way. So are a lot of small towns.

I am sure I could easily extrapolate the whole thing into one of those "the wealthiest 1% control the other 99%" or something, but I don't have all the facts, and even when I do look them up, they all conflict with each other, and the bottom line is that while trends and changes come and go, I have to take care of my family. This would be easier if I was a strong, mentally healthy person, but the fact is I am broken and probably was born defective anyway. I have no heroes, no one to look up to or model after, and no higher force to give me a hand up. I am thankful of all my friends who give me advice and tools to get me muddling about the confusing tangle that I call my world, but there's only so much they can give and sacrifice. There are times I look at my wife and son, and think "Dear God, they deserve better." At least a pillar of strength of some kind. But in our family: we are it. There is no support at all. Both our mothers are dead, fathers missing, and while Christine has siblings, they are too poor to help us if things went bad. All my relatives are across the US, or in Sweden. So it's the three of us, with four cats and two dogs, alone on a ship with no port to call home.

But things could be worse. In our daily struggles, we have grown attached to each other, and while we have our fights, faults, and foibles, we're still a unit. No one is vying for personal territory, trying to win useless arguments just for the sake of being right. There are no power struggles to dominate or shame each other. Christine does not wantonly spend money on foolish things, and always thinks about the family. CR has a good heart, deep empathy, and while I wish he'd do better in school, he's certainly not stupid by any means (I am also a victim of American education, but that's a whole 'nother 4-page rant I won't get into). Our family is pretty tight. I am fairly sure if I said, "My company sent me home, I have no more money, we'll have to sell the house and move..." they would not leave me. But it's not the leaving me I fear most, it's disappointing them. And I have no control over whether I keep my job or not, other than stay clean, work hard, and then if I do get laid off, it certainly wasn't because I was a slacker. Even Brad did his best at the work he hated, because he has the same sense of duty as I do. And in the end, that's all one can be expected to do.

I wish I could turn to this philosophy and just not worry. But I worry anyway. I worry day and night, and lose sleep because I worry so much. I get that from my mother's side. My mother worried so much, she drank herself to death. If I was a CPU, I would say my worrying takes up 15 - 30% of my computing cycles normally, and when things get bad, the worry process with take up so much computational background work, it will literally slow me down to the point it's hard to get anything done. If there is nothing in the short term to worry about, I worry about long-term. It goes back to that "find pattern and control" thing. But the problem is, it affects my health. Badly. I have had an ulcer since I was 12, and while I really *did* have something to worry about back then, I feel jilted because now I don't have NEARLY as much to worry about now, and I am still worrying. I will die young, and would be surprised if I made it past 40 without at least one stroke or heart attack. Hell, I even worry just when bad things happen to other people, even fictional people on TV.

Which is why I worry when Brad got laid off. It's like a nudge of "could happen to you," and I have done this through all the layoffs my friends and even my company has gone through. Of course, Brad is probably whooping it up as I type this, like he's gotten released from prison. I'll do all the worrying for him. I have enough for both of us.

This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000161.html
  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded