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What did I do all day?

What can we learn from robotics in packaging?   I was boasting to a colleague who retired from the same company that cut the program I was on that I could write on any topic.  The truth is that I am not really able to write on any topic.  Or am I?  Just kidding – I am not writing on the topic above.

The topic we talked about and I find myself inclined to write about is massive structural change in our day.  This is the first day that I would have been back to work. This is the first day of the business year.  This is her first day of not going into the office and she feels the impact of retiring.  That really is weird. She retired and I my contract was cut which is different and yet weirdly similar.  In fact I couldn’t believe how, in the conversation with her, I was missing thoughts and words.  I remembered it’s been happening the last couple weeks.  I thought I had early onset of Alzheimers but it could really be just stress.  Stress does amazing things to your mind.  And you can’t feel the damage.  But you can see (feel or hear) the damage in loss of words and loss of finishing sentences or loss of focus or motivation.  Remarkable.  I am supposed to be so tough and bold.  But when it comes down to it …I am just as weak and fallible as every other human being.  While my intention is to create or find new sources of revenue I am going through some of the same reaction to the massive change. Really?  Me, I am supposed to help other people through these times.  Right….except that in order to help them I have to be available to help myself through the same awkward steps.  Oh, and I have to be real about the process they are experiencing with me and them.

The toughest part of the change is losing the social aspect of work.   I realized this several times when in the past six years in and out of corporate contracts.  The people you miss are the ones you wouldn’t see if they didn’t walk past your office and drop in or you run into them at the cafeteria getting a cup of coffee.  You also miss the ones you’ll pick up the phone to call or set a meetup with them.  But now they’re busy and you’re, well, not.  There is no explaining how the emotions flow:

  • Fear – lack of clear vision of how this will turn out okay…
  • Elation – waking up in the morning realizing that you don’t have to be anywhere in particular.
  • Terror – waking up in the morning realizing that you don’t have to be anywhere in particular.
  • Curiosity – I see other people appear to enjoy the freedom of retirement or working from home, how do they do it?
  • Anger – I wasn’t ready, I was talked into it, I should have thought this through, they shouldn’t have let me go, what was I thinking?
  • Relief – the process of leaving is over and I don’t have to hold my blackberry 24/7.
  • Confusion – really I looked at my blackberry that many times a day? What am I going to do instead?
  • Shame – I wish I had a blackberry to look at now, what was I thinking, I am nothing without the brand of a large corporation, what value does someone who isn’t productive or contributing to the larger world, what’s wrong with me if I just want to garden or don’t want to garden?
  • Inadequacy – the preparation to retire doesn’t really prepare you for the emotions of retirement or layoff and the awkward feeling of retooling a lifestyle.
  • Greif – remember the stages from Kubler-ross?  Yes, they apply; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance with no chronological order or consistency.
  • Memory loss – emotional stress causes the loss of words, or thoughts
  • Isolation – in your bathrobe until noon … or later?

Seriously now what on earth do you do with all that?  The truth is that with massive change it takes longer than you want.  Jumping from corporate to “freedom from corporate” isn’t for the faint of heart.  You are probably getting so much “great” advice in the unsolicited category.  But what advice would you give someone whose entire lifestyle is suddenly different?  Would you bring down the hammer and say, get productive!  I certainly hope not.  I hope there is a bit about being gentle.  You may even want to allow yourself a certain amount of days where you “ease” into a new lifestyle.  Creative space isn’t forged but it does flow to fill a vacuum.  So be very gentle and what the heck, maybe your first outing is to buy a better bathrobe and new coffee pot.   Peace out, be gentle and enjoy!

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