I can still remember the first time I was ever laid off.
Not fired, laid off.
My soon-to-be former boss pulled me into his office at the very end of the work day, as I was packing up my briefcase and preparing for another road rage-inducing commute home.
The meeting was a blur. It started with small talk then degraded from formal pleasantries to the matter at hand.
Once they said they were going to have to let me go, the buzzing in my head drowned out all other sounds in the room, including my now-former boss, who kept speaking, though I was reduced to reading lips at this point in the conversation.
I can’t be sure, but I think they said it wasn’t me, it was them. I can’t be 100% certain, but I believe they told me we could still be friends.
I made no speeches, I gave no retort. I just sat frozen, uninvited tears swelling up in my eyes.
It came out of nowhere, like an assassin jumping from the shadows. I wasn’t prepared.
I left, defeated—deflated.
Now, I’ve been fired before. It has almost always sucked, but I could usually see it coming. Usually it was time to move on anyway.
I could usually make my exit with venomous parting words, a bridge burned and a conscience clear.
But this was different.
This time, it was less my fault and more the side effect of a crumbling economy.
This time, I wasn’t ready to go.
I returned later that night to pack up my belongings in solitude. I couldn’t face my now-former coworkers.
When they came to work the next morning, all they would find would be an empty office and perhaps an email from the Vice-President of the company.
For the first few weeks, I didn’t know what to do with this new found free time.
Sure, I updated my resume and built a web portfolio—I combed the want ads, Monster.com, Hotjobs and Creative Hotlist.
But a Bush had taken office, the dot.com bubble had long since burst and we were in the throws of 9-11.
There were no jobs to find.
I had far too much idle time on my hands—hard liquor and internet porn can only take you so far.
The more time that passed, the more often I replayed that final meeting in my head; Every time I relived the fateful exchange that left me laying by the wayside, I grew angrier and angrier, full of impotent rage.
After months of fruitless job searches, countless reruns of the Rockford Files and no less than 567 naps taken, I began fantasizing about what I would have liked to have said when the hammer dropped.
Shortly thereafter, I found myself unconsciously writing it all down.
The words flowed from my fingertips as if I were in a trance, speaking in tongues.
When I was finished, I had ten pages of corporate-casual rants written in far more eloquent a diatribe than had I spoken it off the cuff.
But I didn’t know what to do with it. I liked my now-former bosses and coworkers. I’m sure (or at least hope) the decision was hard enough for them without my literary bitterness adding to it.
Still, I hit the ‘save’ button before stepping away.
A few more weeks rolled by, a blur of bad daytime television and time spent staring blankly at a wall, before I reopened the document and read it again.
While riddled with bitterness and uncharted anger, it was at times quite entertaining. Though quite dark, there was humor lurking beneath the venom.
So I kept going—and going.
A new fire was burning within. Where time once stood still, suddenly there weren’t enough hours in the day. Morning, noon and night saw me hunched over my keyboard typing.
For the remainder of my unemployment, and well into my next three occupational downgrades, I kept writing—laboring over what would eventually become Rorschach’s Ribs.
That’s how I became a writer.
And now ten years later, nearly to the day, I find myself swept back up in long naps, hard liquor and bad daytime television.
It’s a vicious cycle.
I guess that means it’s time to finish another book.
I started one a few years back, but between a full time job, wife, dogs, a band and blogs, it somehow landed on the back burner, left to simmer.
I reckon it’s time to heat things back up.
When I write, I find comfort.
Comfort in the control I have over something in an otherwise chaotic world.
Comfort in the fact that if I keep pushing that boulder, eventually I will make it to the top of the mountain.