Friday, April 5, 2013

Solo staff meetings

My friend calls them Solo Staff Meetings, those three a.m. sessions when your brain is spinning so hard it wakes you up and invites you to join in. He gave up working for himself because of them, deciding he'd rather limit his working time to daylight hours.
I'm no stranger to these meetings. I've always edited the magazines and newspapers as if I owned them, and often end up planning photo shoots or jotting down story ideas when the stars and I are the only ones up.
This week, the meetings had a slightly different agenda. Among the items up for discussion:

1. What happens next?
2. Those bastards.
3. Look on the bright side.
4. Run through a list of contacts.
5. Start building a to-do list.
6. Why me?
7. Give thanks for supportive friends.
8. What happens next (recap).

Attendance was 100 per cent. There was no recording secretary, so any decisions were lost. Some items will be revisited at the next staff meeting. Meeting was adjourned by the alarm clock -- will reconvene tomorrow night.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Grief and relief

We turn to metaphors to explain those things which are too complex to capture otherwise. Marriage. Death. Birth. Job loss.
Doors open and close in these metaphors; we emerge from ruts; we step from one vehicle into another. We even use one metaphor-laden experience to explain another: losing a job is like seeing a friend die.
If that's true, let me clarify the metaphor. Sometimes, losing a job is like a death that comes after a long illness. You've been hoping for a recovery, but when the end comes there's an element of relief.
That's the metaphor for many in journalism. A lot of us have been losing our jobs lately, and those who remain have felt the spectral shadow looming over them as well. When that bony hand finally lands on your shoulder, at the very least you can end the anticipation.
It's not much consolation, though. It's still a loss, and it still stings.
But the eulogy is nice. I've been buoyed by messages from friends and acquaintances, offering support and condolence and saying nice things about how well I've done my job. I feel a bit like a character in an old movie -- maybe one starring James Stewart -- who gets to go his funeral and hear people say positive things about him. It's comforting. It takes away some of the sting.
Those words will help today. To switch metaphors again, I've walked through a door. Been pushed, to be precise. I know another will open, but first I need to start walking down the hall.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Life rethought

At 10:12 on the morning of April 2, 2013, life was pretty much as it had been at 10:11. Deadlines were being met and missed, emails and phone calls were happening, the busyness of my busy life was whooshing along. I knew what I was doing in that minute, and for most of the minutes for most of the rest of the day. I was rescheduling meetings for the end of the week, and planning other events weeks in the future.
At 10:13, my boss came into my office. "Can I have a minute?" He led me toward the boardroom where the head of human resources sat and waited.
It took just another two or three minutes for my life to change. And, with a buzzing in my head and a manilla envelope in my hand, I began saying goodbyes to the people I'd worked with, some of them for more than a dozen years.
12.4 years, to be precise, and the accountants and human resources are nothing if not precise. I have this many weeks of pay, this much of a lump sum payment, this many days to sign the release form. No reason was given for changing my life, just "it's a restructuring. A business decision." I know there were numbers at work there, too -- somebody in an office in another city looked at the number of people employed in our office and the amount of money being made, and made a business decision.
By 11 o'clock or so, I was at home, wondering what to do next. I called my wife -- not to worry, I said, the pay will keep coming in. We're financially OK.
It's 12:32. I'm still being paid. But I'm no longer sure what I'm supposed to do. For 12.4 years, I've been the editor at this office. For more than 20, I've been in the newspaper and magazine industry. In eight days I turn 47.
Life has just been rethought for me.