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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Getting Rid of Excess Baggage

Since my job elimination in the great headcount chop of 2009, I’ve kept a low profile related to my former employer. Sometimes I speak to a vendor who, over the 23 years of our association, morphed into something resembling a friend. I’ve lunched with my old staff and taken a couple of walks with similarly affected individuals. Besides that though, I cut the ties. Not that the few remaining people I know who still work there don’t matter to me, but seeing folks from that old world threatens to dredge up an uncomfortable  “Why me?” outlook that doesn’t offer any benefit. It’s difficult to move forward if you are still regurgitating the past.

In the same way I relegated those relationships to the closet, I ignored the one remaining box that traveled home from my office on that fateful last day. It’s been sitting in the corner of our guest room for almost a year. Other than consolidating a second box into it and sliding this remaining container from the living room to the guest room before Thanksgiving last year, I haven’t opened it. The surface became a convenient resting place for the camera bag and accessories during occasional house “clean sweeps.” Other than that, it’s been the proverbial “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Basically, all things relating to “That Place” as we jokingly call my former employer at my house these days, remained packed in hidden corners, until the end of August when I accepted my position at the cheese/gourmet food shop. Then, it occurred to me that in my new role, chance meetings with current and former personnel from the old joint were going to be likely. My new job is located in a downtown section of the same small metropolis in which I worked for almost half my life. The store is two miles away from the corporate headquarters that I drove to daily and less than 100 yards from the company’s oldest retail branch.  Still, I kept a lid on thoughts of who I might bump into for as long as I could—which is to say until my first day selling cheese, when a long retired associate of the old place ended up being one of my earliest customers.

Since that day, I’ve waited on quite a few former employees from “That Place.” I won’t deny that blood rushed to my face when I greeted a still-employed vice president whose job offer I negotiated in my role as recruitment manager. After bumping into her though, it got easier. As customers I know from that time in my life have appeared, I've just squared my shoulders, lifted my chin and offered them a sample of some yummy food along with my biggest smile, no matter how much quivering was happening inside. Then, I encountered one woman from my former department, who got her walking papers three months after me. She is one of the most positive, upbeat people I know. No word of a lie, the first time she came in; I squealed and clapped my hands.

It turns out this woman works part-time, in a shop a few doors down. She stops in  for a quick bite before work or during a break and always, always, greets me with a big-ass smile. I look forward to her quick visits to the shop, not only because she is a sincere and engaging person, but because meeting her in this new context has allowed me to recognize how her life, as well as mine is moving on.  Talking to her every week, hearing her positive outlook makes me feel more grounded in the  "leaving the past behind" process. Thanks to her optimistic example, the shakes are almost gone.  So much so that the other day, when yet another old acquaintance from “That Place” stopped to purchase cheese on Monday, I greeted her before she noticed me, with a smile that felt honest and real. No angst— it was simply nice to see her.

I kept that in mind yesterday, which made it a breeze to open the flaps and purge the useless papers from that dusty box in the guest room.  I stored the few remaining things I could conceive of ever needing again, downstairs in the basement.

17 comments:

Tabitha Bird said...

Good for you Liza.

Here's to opening boxes at the right time.

Your blog is looking AMAZING. I love that big photo and the colors, everything. Wow. Looks great.

Jon Paul said...

Congrats on the forward progress! You tell your story so well, we can't help but feel a part of it!

Thanks for sharing this...

Bish Denham said...

You go girl! And sometimes the past belongs in the basement (or attic) where you can't trip over it or be reminded of it on a near daily basis.

jbchicoine said...

Wow, Liza--I understand what a huge step that is. The past is a great place to visit--sometimes--but a really bad place to live...

Purple Cow said...

This is such a moving post! You aren't alone...we've all been to "That Place"...

You've got the right attitude...keep smiling. Chin up! Everyone gets their commupance in the end...

glnroz said...

your writings are always fun to read and have "snap"..this one is exceptional. A lesson for all of us is woven within, as well as just a "good read"..

Helen Ginger said...

What a wonderful story, Liza. And thank you for sharing your journey with us. By the end I had a broad smile on my face.

Colette said...

Liza, such a great story! My own box from work went straight to the basement with no regrets. It's my closet that I can't seem to tackle -- still filled with suits for the corporate world.

T. Anne said...

I've been there. There are some boxes I've yet to reopen in life.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Good for you!
You faced your fear and conquered.

Rose said...

cong. for you getting control of the past. it's a new world. rose

Robin said...

It feels so good to let go of that baggage. You didn't even know how heavy it was until you cut the cord that was binding it to you. How does it feel walking two feet off the ground?

WritingNut said...

I know how you feel - we've all gone through this at some point or another. I'm very proud of you for taking control and finding the courage to let go.

Catherine A. Winn said...

I'm so happy you've come to grips with it and are moving on with the new path in life. Now journal about those feelings and one day let a character go through it:)

Ann Best said...

What difficult things we face in life! But you've found another job (it sounds great - cheese/gourmet shop) and you've confronted your past with courage and determination!! Catherine's comment above is something to seriously consider. We use our painful moments to create stories. And journaling helps us work toward that end, or just helps us get through it all.
Ann

Arlee Bird said...

I too have some unpacked boxes from the job I left in 2009. I have tackled some and thrown stuff out. I was the one who turned out the lights and locked the door when we shut down and their hadn't been too many employees anyway prior to the day when I left so I don't really think about seeing any of them. I was sad to see my branch shut down but I totally understood the economics of it and there are no bad feelings on my part.

I haven't found my cheese shop yet. So far there's just been a lot of jobs that I "don't qualify for". Glad you found something, but it's not the same as it was.

Lee
Tossing It Out

tsonodablog said...

Fabulous Blog. So glad I found you on Over 40 Bloggers. I, too, am an unemployment statistic of 2009, and am still looking for a job. I have options and feel lucky that I do. As for my "That Place", I still get teary-eyed when I drive by the street where I used to work, and see the name of the building. My old manager wants to be my "friend", and I just can't because it hurts too much. I loved my job and know I was let go because of downsizing, but still think, "why me?" on occasion. Just wanted to share. Again, glad I found you and I will most certainly be back. Keep 'em coming!
Terri