Note: This isn’t a quick read. It doesn’t have funny graphics, and there’s not really a punch line. Don’t get me wrong, it’s classic, entertaining “Anth” reading. Or something to read to pass the time while you’re working out a bout of constipation. It’s not like 50 Shades of Grey would be any better in that situation, so don’t look at me like that. But if you’ve had to clean out your office desk because you work at home (a remote desk), or know me, you’ll understand. If not, read and maybe you’ll learn something about me.
Everyone has their moment where a major life event hits them. I’m changing jobs after almost 12 years. The past few weeks have been a blur of paperwork, anticipation, questions (my poor onboarding people. I actually saw “here’s another question from Anth” in the email as it was forwarded. Crap, I’m that guy already!)
I’m employed. I retained my job, and got a very fair deal. In this market, that’s a great deal. I’m happy in that respect. But there’s a moment when the reality sets in that everything you’ve known for a long, long time is about to change, and you’ve got to make it change for the best.
Mine was when I replaced the taped-to-the-wall “2012 Corporate Paid Holiday Calendar” from the wall with the one from the new company where I’m about to start in 2 days. It just hit me that I’m leaving, moving, replacing, copying, filing, and organizing files and documents (to store for “never again” use, no doubt, where they will be discovered only after I retire someday as a long-forgotten collection of relics and wonder why the hell I even bothered keeping “this crap”). I have company branded Cyberscholar stuff from 2001, the original employee manual, and my 5 and 10 year anniversary gifts proudly displayed on my wall. The Tiffany Clock for my 5 year Anniversary is still about the classiest thing in my office (placed next to the second classiest thing, a Pink Floyd DSOTM poster), and I cherish the engraved sentiment celebrating a milestone with people who changed an industry.
Over the years, I’ve moved within industries. I even moved territories only to find the same one major jerk I looked so forward to leaving appear in my new market as a “recent transfer”. I’ve been to weddings with my clients, celebrations, birthdays, wild parties where people would drink enough to inebriate an elephant, and even a funeral of a retail partner that passed long before he should have. People decided that I got to be part of their lives that way, and there’s something beautiful about that. You’re interacting with humanity, and what you do is not just a job. You mean somehing to people.
Additionally, I put well over 100k on my car in just a few years, and was lucky enough to pay it off. It still runs great. I’ve eaten more fast food “dollar” chicken sandwiches and burgers than should be consumed by large groups of people in a lifetime. I’ve thrown up in parking lots, been screamed at by complete strangers in stores, and helped Post-Thanksgiving Day retail partners free of charge to gain favor (and favors!) with stores to improve ROI. I’ve had good managers, completely inept managers, one that wrote me up (which I later respected even more as a result because he had to knock me down a few pegs, and I was better for it!) and one whose dismissal left a hole in my heart. I’ve worked with people who really liked me, some who hated me, and several who misunderstood me. INFJ and A+ Personality types with ADHD aren’t exactly the kind of people that “connect with everyone”, but I sure as hell tried. And you do it right when SOMEONE hates you. That’s just the odds for standing up for what you believe.
I decided long ago: Haters make you better, because they force you to justify to yourself why they’re idiots. And you can’t be disingenuous with yourself, so you’re forced to face the mirror and make sure that you’re right. I always faced that mirror head on, and walked with my head high. Let them waste their time.
And my own innovations are pretty worthy too, and I have an amazing goal that was set, and I reached it. It was a nightmare, and I loved it. People I met would be impressed that I’ve been with the company for almost 12 years, and there’s a pride that a history with a company brings. You get to be “that guy”. People look up to you. Comparing other people’s resume on LinkedIn, 12 years is an eternity.
It’s just weird that it starts over. A career “Fire Sale”, like in the latest Die Hard movie. Reset the system back to zero, and put society back in the Stone Age. I’m back at the starting gate. Sure, I have seniority and an awesome career and position as a result, and I’m still an industry “veteran” (surely I’ve met that status by now? Please? After 15+ total years in electronics and related retail?? Whoever determines that, I’ve GOT to get confirmation! I’m writing that down to do). I’m going to celebrate year 1 with a company in 368 days, when I start in about 3 days. Maybe I enjoyed that too long. Could be.
Every year for over a decade, I feared the worst – that a contract renewal would end my career. It never happened. Then when I least expected it, it happened. It happened after I told everyone who asked me, who counted ON my experience and longevitiy, and I said NO CHANCE. “This always happens every year”, I said. “Delays are part of negotiations. Relax. Nothing is going to happen.” The next thing I know, here we are. I’ve decided it’s the ultimate mind teaser. You get to the point where you convince yourself that you’re an expert, and then you’re a rookie. Maybe that fits in this whole thing in some random B52’s-esque sort of cosmic nonsensical fun inside joke. I don’t get it, but I”ll fake a laugh and shake those honey buuuuuuns.
So I thought about it. Packing out a real desk must be an awful experience after being terminated from a company. I’ve never had to do that, and go through the motions of being let go while your co-workers stare, and the word spreads with whispers and “oh hey” conversations where you can overhear, and heads cautiously peek over the soul-less grey cubicle walls as you either scramble to break out, or sadly waste time procrastinating before leaving. I imagine it’s humbling, humiliating…. Or maybe in some cases, I guess both parties are happier. Who knows?
But how do you clean out a remote, virtual desk?
So not having the actual knowledge, I would submit that packing a remote desk sucks even worse. Okay, so nobody is escorting me off the property. That’s a plus. Because I’d be the guy in the breakroom hanging out, wandering my eyes around the walls I’d probably have memorized after decades of lunches, reminding myself with every glance that “this is it, this will be it, after today, no more”.
But when you’re a virtual (remote) employee, you don’t even get the chance to walk around the office, take a few pictures, laugh with co-workers, take that pondering last gaze at the lobby you daily take for granted as you walk through and collect a few memories before stepping into an elevator and letting a chapter of your life close between those heavy quasi-reflecting metal doors as you descend to your new future. Instead, I send out emails to people. Scramble to connect on LinkedIn or Facebook. Someone just rang the doorbell, shoot, I can’t answer that. I’m on the phone. Ugh. It’s a pathetic excuse for a goodbye. Undignified, impersonal and unless I drive for 13 impractical hours to stop by, also impractical to do.
I don’t care what you think about me for this next part. I cried. There’s passion in what I do, and the people who, like me, are hungry and driven for success. And when it means enough to you, it can hurt. People who are fueled by motivation and the next deadline do that. And who do whatever it takes to get the task done, on time, and correctly. People who are perfectionists drive some people crazy, but they make me drive harder. And when it catches up to you, it’s an emotional kick.
So how do you pack a remote desk? I have the answer.
You move paperwork from the old company into a big binder and put it in the closet, somewhere between your mortgage agreement binder, and the employee manual from 2000, set the fresh new binder nearby on the desk and get back to work. You replace a stupid holiday calendar with one logo on it for the calendar of another logo and have a dawning moment that your life just changed. You replace the phone extension list of old company with new company, and realize one list contains people you know really well, and the new list offers you ONE person to start with, and the rest are all opportunities. Then you ponder some good thoughts, put them down on paper, and thank the people who really made a difference to you. You call them, catch a few words, share some mutual appreciation, and hope you can do it without being interrupted by something that comes up. If you’re lucky to get through the call, then you hang up, nod to yourself, and get back to work.
Despite my attitudes, outlooks and conditions in life, I’m an optimist, and I wasn’t always that way. But I believe it matters to choose, and that’s what I choose every time. Everything is an opportunity if you choose to make it one. And I chose to make it one every time. And this is where I learned that. Oh sure, I have connections. I could have probably stayed, or “eeked” in somewhere. Okay, that’s either pride, arrogance or confidence speaking – I’m not exactly sure which one. But I have a mission to accomplish, and a lot of people count on me for my experience, technical knowledge and internet savvy and expert wordsmithing. That’s what I do. That’s what I’m great at. It’s worth a lot, and I’m proud to always have the ability to retain that. Maybe I’ll do better, having not the luxury of being casual around people I’ve known for long periods of time. I get to re-define myself, and make a name for myself with a new group of people. No problem. I’ve done it before. But this time, I’m the new guy, and I have to be impressed with the guys who have been around for a decade. Well, I raise my bottle to the new experts to learn from. And lower it to take a big swig.
Still, goodbyes are sad, and I would have preferred to do it in person. Time to hang up the phone, and nod to myself in a mock gesture that this really is the close of a really great era.
And get back to work. Time to get hungry for innovation and move forward.
Living in Arizona, dusk is my favorite time of the day. The sun has set, and these amazing pastel blues, pinks and oranges radiate the sky, as if clouds were glowing and the sky behind it was even lit with bright colors. It’s good to sit and reflect sometimes on a time that was good, and know that tomorrow has opportunities available beyond your wildest dreams. I have to figure out how to continue to innovate, and see what new opportunities lie down the road. That sunrise isn’t far. It’s this Monday. But I’m watching the dusk, and the dusk is good.
Goodbye, old company. It’s been a great ride, and I’m grateful to have worked with you. I took a chance on you (okay, the better pay and better hours won me, I won’t lie), and you took a chance on me. We did some great stuff, and we rocked for our client. Those of you who believed in me – and you know who you are – thank you.
Hello new company. I’m stocked, cocked and ready to rock. Let’s get this party started.
And not to be too hard on my new people: I *am* that guy. You had me pegged, and it’s not hard, because I’m not hard to figure out. You’re going to love what I do, and you’re going to know that I’m on top of what I do, and I’m intense and energetic and a really nice guy.
Okay. I’ve listened to Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin'” about 20 times in a row now. I’m ready to move on, both metaphorically, and to something more 80’s and hair-bandish.
Chapter closed. Day Done. A Parrot Bay Coconut rum 5-count pour over my Coke. Vinyl on the platter. Dusk is over.
I got plans on Monday.