Friday, August 13, 2010
A crack appears in my heart of stone
A strange thing happened last night.
I attended an event at my old employer (it feels funny to say that), an alumni get-together for Jawun, the program through which I did my recent indigenous secondment in Kunnunurra. There were dignitaries - Noel Pearson and Rupert Myer - as well as people from my organisation and outside it. Kind of a big deal.
I had a funny feeling walking into the building, given I no longer work there. Sort of fluttery. Like I belonged, but didn't. And on entering the room and coming face to face with a group of dear former colleagues and friends I will no longer see or work with but who feel like family - well, that hit me like a blow to the solar plexus. It took me a minute to get my breath back.
It was a perfectly lovely event, right up until the end. I was talking with our Deputy CEO, a man whom I respect enormously and have worked closely with over the years. He said "I haven't seen you around for a while" and I said "Yes, I left last Thursday because my position was made redundant".
And that's when it happened. Tears welled up in my eyes.
No one was more surprised than me, let me assure you.
And my voice trembled slightly when I said "It's the end of an era for me" - which is true, because I remember how excited I was to work there at the beginning, with my most marvellous boss in the world ever, and how suddenly things changed after two years and there began the gentle decline towards this inevitable end.
Then, to my utter astonishment, the Deputy CEO put his arm around me - me, a lowly former employee - and hugged me to him briefly and gently. I think that, more than anything else so far, really brought it home.
When you work in corporate life, in a full-time job, the people you spend your time with become your family - not a substitute for the real thing, but a different kind of tribe. Over my working life I have certainly spent more time with my work families than with my blood one. And you share things the way a blood family does - highs and lows, triumphs and disappointments, fights and reconciliations. You achieve things together, you despair together ... there's a connection that binds you. It's not always comfortable or easy, but then, no family is ever that way except for the ones in the margarine commercials.
When the Deputy CEO extended that gesture deep with understanding and compassion, I truly realised that I am no longer part of the family. And for all its faults, I will miss it. Being cut off, cast out - is it like being disowned, in a way?
Right now, it feels like a small and terrible death inside me.