The other way forward
Illustration from iStockphoto
“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything…” This piece of urban wisdom, from Fight Club, haunted me since the first time I heard it. I never quite completely understood it until I was going too loose a big part of my “everything”.
January 11, 2010, was the first day of work for this New Year, after the winter holiday. In this first day of work I got fired. I was invited to a “start of the year meeting”, with all the executives. Every department discussed their plan for the next year and after two hours it was my turn to present my action plan. Then my boss started to express his disappointment about my work until that point and I was announced without any warning, that “something is not working”, and “it would be better if we part ways”. This was after only three months in office. I was for only three months, the Communications and PR Executive for a medium size Romanian company that is active in PVC windows and doors industry.
It became obvious right away that this “something” that was not working anymore was in fact everything. We just had presidential elections in Romania. To make a long story short it was a confrontation between two parties – orange and red. My city is a red city. My former company was medium size going for national size because it was red also and benefited from big lucrative contracts for public works, many of them secured by bending the law with the complicity of those red politicians elected with their help. The reds were in opposition for the last five years so this was a must win situation. They needed to govern again so they could have the power and control the resources once more. And because of the economic crisis and the bad social situation in Romania the odds were with them. Before the elections there were big plans. The company was going to expand to a national level betting on the reds to win. Well, the red party lost to a very narrow difference – seventy thousands votes. The orange, governing party won by obvious fraud. Our president in office lost the elections in Romania but was elected to a second term because of the votes outside the country where the government organized the elections to take place in our embassies and controlled the polls. Interesting, isn’t? And so after the free and democratic elections the orange mafia won, the red mafia lost and I was useless for my employer because without political support and those big public works contracts his expansion plans were going down the toilette. First they got desperate and then cancelled all plans and focused on consolidating the company by cutting costs. I don’t give them many chances of survival for five more years in this toxic business environment and this corrupt way of doing business will be the end of many hot shots.
And that’s way I got fired without any warning. Indeed “something is not working anymore”. These days everything is wrong. But I expected at least a fair reason for firing me, like “the situation has changed” or “we cancelled our plans about the expansion” or any common sense reason so I asked what was not working, because I did not received any previous complains about my work. The answer was the same: “I don’t know. Something is just not working. I am sorry we will have to fire you”, and then followed the usual corporate bullshit philosophy about the secrets of the universe and the way of the space monkey in the market economy. The other executives were stunned. I was absent. I suddenly did not hear anything anymore. My boss was speaking from his big manager chair. He tried to give me and the others logical arguments for his decision, hiding his despair and going on about how great this dead company will be. It was pathetic. I looked at him. I saw him moving his lips and gesticulate. It was so quiet. I looked around and everything was getting smaller, just like when you drive at very high-speed and the horizon deforms itself and tend to hide in one single narrow point in front of you. I felt like sinking in my chair and the walls getting bigger and closer. It was claustrophobic. I felt the need to lift off from my chair just like a space shuttle, going through the ceiling for a sky race, and burning everything down in the process. 5, 3, 2, 1 – we have lift off.
I returned to my chair. That asshole was still talking. I was back staring at him and suddenly I felt only a deep, black, blind fury. The meeting was over. I was send to the HR Department, where I had to sign my resignation because I was supposed to be in a trial period of three moths, detail that initially I was not informed, and confirmed by the fact that I had signed an undefined period contract. And I was recruited. I did not get hired by contest. I was disgusted. I felt like sitting in an infected room with a living dead. I only wanted to get out of there. I signed my resignation. There was no use in arguing. Because the employment period ended with my resignation, and legally I was not fired, the company will not pay me the any compensatory rights, according to the law and I will not benefit from the unemployment assistance. This is how the shit is going down here.
Again, I felt only a deep, black, blind fury. After I signed my resignation and turned over my company car, I went in my office. The word spread out like wild fire. On the way my colleagues looked at me with compassion and sorrow. That made me angry. I hate when people feel sorry for me. I don’t need their pity. Some of them tried to cheer me up cursing the management. I admit that was a bit fun. I cleared out my desk and I was ready to call my brother to come and pick me up from the office. I discovered that my cell battery was dead. It was one of those days. I felt only a deep, black, blind fury. I had to get away from there. I couldn’t stand being there even for a second. I left my personal effects on my desk and got out. On the way out I had to go through the factory and face the workers. They all cleared out the path for me and as I walked through. They gave me the same sad look as my colleagues from the office. I felt their zombie like looks stare at me just like in a bad dream. They were also stunned. If an executive can be fired just like that, it means anybody can. And indeed, later that day another nine workers were fired. I got out of there. It was the first day of work.
I walked trough the gate and there I was on the street. It was heavy traffic. I looked right, I looked left. People were going by every direction. It was a busy Monday. People had work to do. I did not anymore. It was only twelve of clock. I didn’t know what to do, where to go. At that time usually I had a lot of stuff to do. It was going to be a beautiful sunny afternoon. I looked at the sky. Just a few clouds, but they were friendly. I saw birds flying high up, doing their thing. I was confused so I went left. I started walking. I had my shoulder bag, filled with my pens, my notebooks, my markers, my mp3 player, my laptop, my plans and my dreams. It was all there. I had my bag and I was walking forward. I thought that if I walk on the ground with the sky above me because I am in the northern hemisphere the people in New Zeeland and Australia should walk on the ground above them with the sky below their heads, because they are in the southern hemisphere and the Earth is round. That picture was fun. I guess it’s normal to go a bit crazy some times. I was grateful that in Romania we do not have easy access to guns. I know that if I had a gun I would have easily open fire in the meeting room. I understand now the temporary insanity. I still feel the need to see the splattered brains of my former boss sliding down on his office walls. It could be a nice piece of modern art – Organic Marketing Chaos in Red. And it’s been a few days since then.
As I walked forward with my shoulder bag, I remembered those couple weeks of winter vacation. I remembered watching the news reports about hundreds of thousandths of unemployed people, about hundreds of companies closing down, about the colossal economy meltdown, about the non stop and stupid political scandals, my God, what a mess. Everything was wrong. And in all this time I thought about my self what a lucky guy I was, I had a job, a good job, I was an executive, I had big plans, I had important things to do. I saw the desperate people on TV, almost every day, each one of them with their own tragic story, about loosing their job, their home, about the children who can not afford going to school, about people who can not afford medical health care anymore, I watched all that, I felt sorry for them just like I felt sorry when Jack Dawson died in the freezing water of the Atlantic and left Rose on the raft, after the Titanic sunk, it was tragic. But I was used with tragedy. Aren’t we all? I felt sorry for all that but then I went shopping for Christmas gifts, I saw Avatar and I made love to my beautiful girlfriend. It was tragic what was going around me but life goes on, isn’t it? What was I supposed to do about it?
And just like that, out of the blue, here I am, walking down the street with my shoulder bag, going forward. This was not a news report anymore. This was not some other tragic story played out in my 40 inch flat screed TV. This is me, a free man walking up the street. A free man filled with absolute anger. What was I supposed to do now?
I decided to embrace my anger. I decided I needed it because for that moment everything was gone. My plans and my social security, my company car and my vacation plans, my monthly targets and organized life, it was all gone. The anger was only thing I could hang on. I felt the need to fall down and cry. I felt like screaming in the middle of the street until the windows would shatter and the glass shards would race down the street, hitting the people in a violent burst just like a killer rain. I felt the need to tear down the public lighting poles and stab the surrounding buildings with them. I wanted to hit the ground with my fist and make it tremble. I wanted to see the street crumbling down around me in agony and chaos. I wanted to set on fire everything that was beautiful and to destroy any cheerful and positive asshole. I wanted to see people hurt, I wanted the world to feel my pain, I wanted them to stop and cry with me, because everything was wrong and it was not fair.
It is amazing and stirring how those powerful dark energies are gathering and boil down in a single person that is moving free among people, in the streets, near homes and in the offices. It’s unsettling to know that others feel the same destructive force building up inside them. I wonder how a map of those pressure points would look like. What would we do if we could see those walking disasters waiting to happen? Maybe if we had such a map we could see a real-time image of despair and happiness so we could plan our vacations in a happy place and avoid the sad streets.
And there I was, trying to analyze my own personal meltdown, trying to reach a logic conclusion, trying to understand what just happened so I could move on or destroy my self. So I did what any person would do. I looked up. I saw the sky above me. I searched for something. I searched for an answer, for guidance, for my celestial father that always knows everything. I wonder why we do that. Why do we look for God upstairs? And why do we need something bigger than us only when tragedy visits? Why when we are successful it’s all about how great we are and when we are broken down it’s always somebody else’s fault and we need some greater than life, supernatural force to help us?
Does this mean that God is the loser’s sidekick? I was broken down, I was looking for an answer, for a solution, I was looking at the sky and guess what? There was no shining bright light coming down and enlighten me, there was no angelic chorus, I did not see God, there was no great answer. But I saw high up in the sky some birds circling around the clouds. I guess they were swallows. Only they can fly so high. I wondered why their playful flight was so hypnotic. And just as I was looking at them suddenly I saw one of the flying dots became bigger and bigger. It was coming down very fast in a straight line towards me. And I stood there with my eyes wide open. Just when I though it was going to fly right through my head, the crazy bird stopped just as suddenly, ten inches from my face and stared at me flapping its wings. It was indeed a swallow.
– Hi! Are you a talking swallow?
– Apparently. Are you looking for God?
– Yes. Do you know where I might find Him?
– Why are you looking for Him?
– I am in a bit of trouble and I heard that God can help if you ask Him?
– Hm… why do you think God can help you? Why do you think He can help anyone?
– Well… isn’t that what God does? It’s not His job?
– And what is your job?
– That’s the thing. I don’t have a job anymore. That’s why I was looking for Him.
– You want God to give you a job?
– Well… no. I mean… I just feel lost and useless and I felt the need to talk to someone.
– Why don’t you talk to a shrink about it?
– I guess I might. But I don’t trust them.
– I know. I don’t trust lawyers either.
– So can you help me?
– With what?
– Can you help me find God?
– I am just a talking swallow. And God is not in Heaven anymore.
– Really? Well… where is He?
– I don’t really know. He is God after all. But I could send Him a message if you like.
– Ok. Well you could tell Him that…
– Wait! God is not in Heaven now. Please leave your message after the beep. Beep!
– What, can I talk now?
– Yes! The message?!
– Aha. Ok. Well… God… I would really like to talk to you about things, because I don’t know if you are aware but there is some really disturbing shit going on down here and I feel that something is terrible wrong with this world. So, when you are available, maybe we could talk about some solutions and stuff. Anyway… call me. Bye!
– It was ok? You will send Him that message?
– Consider it done. Well, nice talking to you. I have some clouds to visit. So, good luck!
– Wait! Wait! Where can I find you? Can we meet again and talk?
– Of course my lost friend. We can meet when you like. After all, every thing is in your head, right?!
And the swallows continued their hypnotic fly dance high up in the sky. I walked away. I did not feel that dark anger anymore. I felt my self very light, I felt like almost walking in the air. It was great. I started laughing. My God! That was some really amazing shit! Who would believe that I just had a conversation with a talking swallow and I have sent a message to God It Self? Well it doesn’t matter.
The important thing is that I am a free man, just like that swallow. And it’s my turn to fly away and visit the clouds. I don’t need to blend in that corporate world of white-collar slaves. Fuck them! They are dead anyway and don’t even know it. I will find my path. I know that there is a place for every single soul in this world. There are so many opportunities out there. It’s like living in a treasure chest in this world of ours. We are surrounded by beauty and wonder, we can do and create so many great things, all we have to do is to be open-minded and seek the really important things that matter to us, that could bring joy in our lives and make us better. But when you have a job that consumes your day and keeps you away from thinking for your self its like being locked up in a single gold cup, that is laying among other cups in that huge treasure chest that is our world. You have to get out of your safe cup. You have to find the strength to get out and just see the wonders next to you. People are not ment to be tied up to a single place. When you live in the material comfort without any challenges you will feel less and less until your life energy is drained and you are nothing more than an empty carcass walking around like a living dead. I see that now! I was thrown from my secure golden cup and I landed on a place filled with glowing hope and extraordinary things, just like that talking swallow. I live in a bigger world, in a greater one where everything is possible and there are no limits and boundaries to what I can do, because I can think for my self and not for others. I can make my own choices and not ask permission to do one thing or another. I can pursue any path I want without concern about any company’s rules and regulations.
I need the pain, I need the suffering, I need the disappointment because those are the things that make you stronger, and those are the means to overcome any downfall. Only going through despair you can see the other way forward. Only facing great difficulties a man can achieve the impossible, only living the downfall and going against the odds we reach greatness and only when you lose you can appreciate the good things in life and find out what matters and what doesn’t. Only then you will fight for what is important like any sane and free man should, with the strength of your convictions, with the joy of victory in your mind, with the absolute confidence that you are embracing your destiny. Only when you live like you’ve got nothing to lose you will feel alive and free.
And just like that I arrived home feeling amazing. I turned on my soul music and I called my brother. I told him all about it and it was great to have someone to talk to. Later that day my beautiful girlfriend came home. I told her everything and then she embraced me and we made love. The next day my brother got a job offer for me. It was a job that required me to work twice as less and earn twice as much, with no boss around me. It was in banking and it was something that I had never done before. I accepted and in the third day since my downfall I started training for my new job.
And just like that I took another path. Because my new job allows me to have more spare time I can do other things that really matter to me, like writing. I am still waiting God to call me and talk stuff, but I have the feeling that He received my message. This new job seems great. So did the last one. Maybe it will work out, maybe it won’t. But one thing I know. There always is another way forward.
Illustration from iStockphoto
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