Thursday, March 19, 2009
How Can I Supposed to Carry On?
I was recently telling E. about an Igbo prayer, sometimes whispered into the ears of newborn children that I have always held in high regard and hoped would have application in my comings and goings as well: May your life always surprise you.
What I like about these words, I think, is the fact that they do not in themselves constitute a blessing, at least not as we understand a blessing to be. They do not hope for success or happiness, contentment or riches. They understand that life's narrative fails only when it fails to surprise. In this regard a life of unceasing and undisturbed contentment is something to be avoided, or at least something to be hoped against. We may be blindsided in this life, with great triumphs or stunning failures, but I think the Igbo mean to say that that's okay, that that, in fact, is what has been hoped for us.
With that in mind, I report news of great surprise: I have thoroughly mismeasured the dynamics at my office, as explained below, and -- yes, I'm burying the lead here -- just after posting perhaps my darkest post in quite some time, a post excoriating them, the Gods of capitalism, who cast me out so brutally in October, have made the surprising choice to invite me back into the fold.
On April 6th I begin a new job. A permanent one.
I have been deeply humbled by my five months in the woods of professional confusion (though I am constitutionally incapable, I suppose, of being able to adequately demonstrate humility in this forum). And I am deeply grateful -- despite my protestations otherwise -- for the chance to resume my career, or a career, in any form or fashion. The new job is with a law firm, a smallish one. It's not saving kittens from trees or anything, but it's a gig. One day yet I will find myself doing good works. That day is not today, but it will be here soon enough. For now, I go back to the private sector's teat. But fear not. Having mother's milk makes Jack a happy boy for now, but soon enough he will go back to his ungrateful, bitching ways.
I received word of this new job two Fridays ago, mulled it over for a few days, and then accepted last Wednesday. But strangely, in so doing, I found myself contending with various emotions. You see, I have spent the last few months, as you know, cultivating a deep bitterness for my "co-"workers, the alien robots who treat my co-temps and I like human vessels of the Black Death (a virulent strain of Black Death that not even aliens and robots are immune to). Augusta, Tessie, and Abigail especially have made it clear to us that we are there to be seen and not heard, and certainly not acknowledged. Given the malignant work environment I found myself in, for months I had hoped that I might have a chance to quit the job before the job quit me, a chance to give notice with great scorched-earth gusto. But the day I accepted my new job, I found a strange new feeling growing within. Like the dull pain of a toothache you push against with your tongue, like the scab that you get used to picking, the job had become -- very much to my surprise -- the sad-sack routine I was already beginning to miss.
On that Wednesday, I called the bossman at the new gig, exchanged some pleasantries, professed undying fealty, and returned to my cube, returned to an electronic batch of documents, perhaps my last, returned to my overgrown Wesley shrine, and to charts of my ever-declining metrics that Adam had sketched and affixed to my bulletin board, returned to Lindsay Poohands' soothing voice ("Linked-in is in my opinion the top professional networking site...Myspace, on the other hand, is mainly for teens."), I returned to all of this and saw that I had made a home for myself here. Unwittingly, I had turned my torment into my solace. And now I was readying to leave it all behind.
A man, I suppose, will miss anything if he is entertained.
So, I sat on the news of my immintent departure through that day. Finally, at the end, I mustered the courage to tell Adam, causing a great rift in our beautiful bromance. But still I could not bring myself to inform Augusta, or Abigail, or Ira. The next day, I told the other two reviewers, "Rookie" and Helen, and did so, weighed down with survivor's guilt. They were happy for me, to their limitless credit. But I felt like a d-bag. I was getting out, but why me? Finally, I made my way to Augusta's office, a moment I had always fantasized about, but when I told her the news, the strangest thing happened: my semi-despondency was trumped by her clear disappointment. Wait, you're leaving? You found another job? When's your last day? I mean, I can't believe it. You're going to leave? I had spent so much time hating these people for their social awkwardness, their petty pullings of rank, I had never entertained the notion that maybe, possibly, they actually kind of liked me. Augusta leaned back in her chair, bowled over by my news and told me how happy she was for me -- how genuinely happy -- and how much I will be missed, how invaluable I was to the project. I said earlier in this post that I am not always good at the humility thing, but in this moment -- quitting my limbless, lobotomized chimpanzee job -- I was deeply humbled.
And then Augusta said something that I am still trying to process. So, we're going to do a happy hour in your honor. What do you think? We can book the roof terrace where I know you and Adam like to have lunch, and we can do it next Friday, and you can bring your wife. Does that sound good? I agreed, of course, baffled. And as I got up to leave, she said, So, what's up with you guys and Wesley Snipes? I mean, you two are so funny. I looked at that [your shrines] and got such a kick. What's Adam going to do without you? We had always thought there was little we could do to make these people notice us, to convince them that we were their equals, but I was clearly wrong.
My head reeling, I returned to my desk.
The next day, which was last Friday, Augusta told Ira and Abigail of my resignation. Abigail, stoic to the last, said this to me in lieu of parting words: Umm, so your ID, remember to turn that in to the receptionist. Ira hugged me and promised to watch Let the Right One In, which I had recommended to him months ago. Adam and I were denied bromantic histrionics because he was out of town for a wedding. I put a bottle of Jack Daniels in his drawer, and consolidated my Wesley shrine with his. I packed up my cube, which took about three minutes, and put my feet up on the desk and shot the shit with the other two reviewers for a while. In these blog posts they have been bit players, but they are good people, and I very much enjoyed distracting them from their jobs.
As my melodramatic heart waxed and waned, as I considered all that happened in that space for the last three months, I was expectorated fully and forcefully back into reality. Abigail -- perhaps for my benefit -- did maybe her most what-the-fuck act of my entire tenure at _____ Consulting Group. She picked up the telephone and dialed Helen, my co-reviewer, who sits five feet away from me. This is to say, Abigail, who sits fifteen feet from both of us IN OUR OPEN OFFICE PLAN, decided to introduce a telephone into a conversation that could well have been whispered into the air. I almost died right then and there. These people. They are complete fucking disasters. All of them. Nothing they do makes sense, and I am convinced that they are an alien robot race sent from the future to confound us.
But I'm going to miss the fuck out of them. It's true.
I grabbed my coffee mug, waved a few goodbyes, promised to see them at the happy hour, and sauntered into the sunset.