Friday, March 25, 2011

Rock Bottom

Yesterday was quite possibly the single worst day of my life. Or maybe it's all for the best. I'm really unsure of how I feel about it right now. And it will likely be several months before I really know how I feel about it.

Let me explain. Over the last 3 months or so at work I'd been getting "coaching sessions" (really, they were formal write ups) about my work being unsatisfactory in several ways. To go into detail over them would take far too long, but suffice to say at least some of the complaints were deserved. My manager and supervisor told me very clearly what had been done incorrectly and expected me to show signs of improvement.

From that first meeting with HR I knew I was on the hot seat. The problem was, things weren't getting any better. The bad stuff had piled up on me, and things came to a head yesterday afternoon. I was called into a meeting with my manager, supervisor, and a rep from HR for the third time. The HR rep came straight to the point: I was being let go as an employee. I hadn't been improving in my performance, and my manager was getting phone calls from VPs about me and demanded my removal. I sat there in silence for several seconds to let the reality of everything sink in before saying anything.

I kept my cool as much as possible, and I like to think I did a fair job of it. First I tried requesting to be moved to a different area within the department with new tasks and responsiblities, but no options were available. I asked for at least some more time so I could find a new position and leave on my terms, but the VPs wouldn't go for that. The impression that my supervisor and manager were giving me was that this decision came down from over their heads, and despite not necessarily agreeing with the call they had no choice. (I have no idea if that's really the case, but that's what they told me)

In essence, it truly was the worst of times.

I called my dad after packing my things up and saying goodbye to my coworkers who were still in the office at that point. I told him everything, and I got really upset and emotional on the phone with him. I had no idea what to do at this point. This was the first time in my life I was being let go from a position versus leaving on my own terms with a new job already lined up. Fortunately he quickly came up with a plan: I stay put in my apartment for at least the month of April and apply for jobs throughout the month. I also apply for unemployment in the meantime to have some extra money beyond my final paychecks coming to me from my job. If I still don't have a new job lined up by the end of April, I'll terminate my lease early and move back with my parents till I find something new.

When I got home, I called around and told some of my closest friends about what had happened as well. After making the normal rounds of phone calls, I did what any full grown adult who had just gotten the worst news possible would have done: I got piss drunk.

I pulled out a half full bottle of Jack Daniels from my freezer and cracked open a couple cans of Coca Cola. I had finished three full glasses of Jack n' Cokes, and got about halfway through my fourth glass when my mom called. I had to sober up fairly quickly while talking with her, but I'm sure she could tell I wasn't exactly sober. Fortunately I was home, so the worst that would happen to me would be falling off my bed if I stood up.

After having talked to about 5 different people on the phone, in addition to my coworkers, about everything, there was one major common theme in their advice for me: Maybe this is for the best. The sky may not be falling. This whole situation could turn out to be something great for me in the long run. I may not know for sure for several months, but anything is possible.

In essence, this could lead me to the best of times.

I did have a long conversation with God though. It wasn't a prayer at all; it was a full on conversation about where my life is right now and where it could be going. I really don't know what plan is in store for me here, but I have to believe something good will come of this. It could involve me moving back to the Baltimore area ultimately, or I simply find another job in Virginia.

What really helps here is knowing my family and closest friends are there for me right now. I've gotten text messages, phone calls, and emails from a number of people since last night checking on me. It's times like these that remind me of how easily people take for granted their close relationships. Words simply don't do justice to how grateful I am for my friends and family who are willing to do whatever they can for me right now. As emotional a time as this is right now, it's comforting to know I have a support system in place, and possible options for what happens next.

Right now it feels like I've hit rock bottom, and in a way I have. The good news is that there's truly nowhere to go but up; it's a just a question of how long it'll take to get there.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

There Will Never Be Another You

Tomorrow is the tenth anniversary of my grandfather passing away. To celebrate his memory, my relatives on my mom's side got together this morning at his grave in Annapolis. My uncle, who had spoken at his funeral, also led the small memorial today and also allowed everyone in the family to share whatever stories they wanted.

I was pretty amazed at how quickly the last ten years have gone by without him. This morning made me think back to the day when I first got the news of his passing. My parents were in Paris that week on vacation, and one of my sisters was on spring break in New Orleans. I was studying for a midterm exam for that afternoon when my aunt called to talk to my mom. I told her she was out of the country and hard to reach, so my aunt told me my grandfather had a heart attack and was gone within seconds. Needless to say, the news took the entire family by surprise, and the situation was compounded by most of my family on vacation.

I tried to concentrate on studying for my exam, and somehow brought myself to take the test that day. I came home to find my sister home from school and told her the news right away. She was just as upset over it as I was, and my aunt called back to check up on us. I couldn't bring myself to call my mom in Paris and ruin her vacation by telling her about Gramps, so my aunt volunteered to call her herself. Coincidentally, my other sister just happened to call that same night to check up on us as well, and I had to break the news to her, despite wondering if it was the right thing to do.

There were other significant details that had to be worked out in order to arrange for his funeral, and fortunately they were completed by the time everyone had come home from their respective vacations. I recall at his viewing my relatives all sat around and talked about the last few years of his life. He had quadruple bypass open heart surgery a couple years beforehand, and nearly died from infections from his surgery. He eventually recovered, but I'm sure his heart attack was related in some fashion to the surgeries he had. Regardless, we all took a moment to realize the gift he was given in the last couple years of his life.

I also thought a lot about some of the best memories I had of my grandfather when I was young. Probably my favorite memory was of many weekends when my parents would drop me off at his house when I was a kid, and we'd rent movies and walk through a park together. We'd read books, design wooden toy trucks and cars, and talk to the squirrels in the park (he told me many times I was a natural at talking to the squirrels). I'm also certain my parents had no issues at all of giving me over to him for a couple days at a time so I'd be out of their hair for a weekend.

Visiting my grandfather's grave was a task on my list, so I can now cross that off. In fact, I actually got to see my grandfather's tombstone for the first time this morning since his funeral, and the inscription on his tombstone was very fitting for him:

Robert Wilton Stevens: There will never be another you.