Thursday, January 31, 2008

Job Security

Almost two weeks ago, I got some unsettling news. "They" were "reorganizing" the "company."

It was difficult to hear my boss telling us what was happening. She talks quietly and sometimes it seems like the timbre of her voice blends with the beautiful white noise the "company" pumps into our office space. Sometimes I really appreciate the white noise, other times, like when we're being told borderline bad news, it's infuriating.

She delivered the news. Everyone stood there. "What is she saying?" We were all thinking. Our job descriptions were changing, we were all being bumped up, would be earning salaries instead of hourly wages, we'd do less copyediting and more farming out. "So, we're not being laid off?" I asked. I could tell everyone was kinda sorta wondering the same thing. I also asked if some other employees in our office would stay where they were. They would. And those employees were also wondering the same thing. I'm a mind-reader.

But two of us would be moved to another department. Everyone was thinking the same thing: it would be me and the other employee who was hired about the same time as I was. Last in, first to go. So we prepped ourselves for the move. We heard nothing else about it, except that the change needed to be completed by February. We had two weeks to adapt to the news.

The following Tuesday morning, just as I walked in, a coworker asked me if I'd heard that it was me that would be leaving. I hate mornings, and though it's been on the books for many years that I'm waiting to become a morning person, I especially loathe Monday mornings. I even feel snarly on Tuesday mornings masquerading as Monday mornings. This was one of those. So I wasn't in the mood to deal with emotional upheaval first thing Tuesday morning. My co-worker -- there were two of them actually -- asked me if I had heard the new news. I said "no."

"You're the one who's leaving," they said.
"Just me?" I asked.
"Just you," they said, nodding.

I sat down, trying to hide from their eager faces. I couldn't tell if they were glad or what, exactly. They seemed excited, but it wasn't clear whether they were excited that it wasn't them (or the person who was hired two weeks after me -- that person is, admittedly, better than me at what we do. Older. More experience), or if they were just putting on a happy face about it for me. I felt a little let down. It was one thing to be shuffled around along with a coworker, a peer. Another to be the only one picked out of the litter to be carted off.

A senior coworker asked if I wanted to go see where I was moving to. I said maybe later. Then, literally a few minutes later, after I'd been stewing over my irritation that the "company" had lied to me, that it was only me leaving and not two of us like they'd said, the senior coworker popped into my cubicle with my future boss, and insisted on introducing us. They led me back to the new cubicle.

Two flat panel computer monitors. A Mac G5. Oh how those sweetened the somewhat bitter deal. Yes, I can be placated by better technology (for a time). Because I love technology.

And the raise isn't so bad, either.

But I ask myself, over and over again: is all this worth my life? My life is the time I sit here in this cubicle, fulfilling the dreams of other people. This isn't my dream. How many of us sat through high school classes, elementary school classes, and dreamt of a far off cubicle decorated with pictures of loved ones and other reminders of why we endure the bourgeoisie torment? There are worse things, but in this society where we are buffered from physical suffering and other oppressions, isn't this numbness exactly what we fear?

Or maybe I'm just spoiled. I know I am. When the news came that one of us would be going, first I was thankful that we weren't being laid off (though deep inside I felt skeptical, wondering if this was some sort of preliminary song and dance before they cut us off completely), and second I felt bitter that they could bandy me about like an object, a resource sans feelings and opinions (I wasn't ever really asked if I wanted to go). Sure they can placate me with the promise of more money, but what have they taken in exchange for that?

We exchange our dreams, I guess, for the security of a promised income and the benefits to patch the wounds we cultivate from sitting motionless in our cubicles. Some of us break away and become the owners of the "company," and they know just what we'll sacrifice for those feelings of security, because once they were one of us.

I am a slave to the feeling of security. Will I ever achieve my outlandish dreams while sitting in a cubicle? Or do I have to up the ante by putting myself in harm's way first, by losing the benefits and the steady income? Who knows.


mdpart2 said...

I'm going to start calling you Kip...

Nathan Marx said...

Everyone has dreams but most of us don't have the nerve to go for those dreams. I went for the practical approach, went into a science field where the demand is good and pay is ok. Regrets... No, but I still dream of doing something that I love.

Nik, this little piece you wrote really is great (had me glued to my monitor). Don't give up on your books!

Aries327 said...

Nathan -- Thanks for the compliment! The challenge is not letting yourself accept what others say your life should be, and believing that you have the power to shape it. Some people have a clearer view of how they need to arrive where they wish and they also have the will to do it. I must lack the will or the vision, I guess.

MD -- You WOULD. I'm glad my reference wasn't lost on you.

Jodie K said...

First, you DO realize this appears to be a good move, yes?

You're being too hard on you. You gots to pay the bills, dream chasing or not. But it is that spark that'll take you to what's next. I LOVE my job. But's it's still a J-O-B.

Aries327 said...

Yeah, it's a good move. :) I'm getting a new job without having to apply for one, and a pay increase without having to ask for one.

But I'm still suspicious. It's just my nature, ha ha.

Sometimes the cubicle walls just close in on me, you know? And I want to run away.

BIGMANlittleWORLD said...

When in a cube, do you ever feel like you are in a game of wac-a-mole?? I do, and I even love my job, but still flinch everytime I stand up. It's possible to have your dreams and do your job, and you of all people can and will do it.

Aries327 said...

Big Man:

No, I don't. Thanks for the faith, though. Hey, technically I don't think you can keep calling yourself a "big man."