Using my straw, I swirled my iced coffee to mix the liquid sugar with the coffee. My phone buzzed. A quick glance revealed it was Morty. I shuddered, wanting to shove my phone deep in my bag. It was too soon. I needed space. Instead, I opened it up to see what he had to say.

“Just checking in. We didn’t get to chat much yesterday, wanted to make sure you’re okay.”

Okay?! Of course I wasn’t okay. I twirled my straw around faster and noticed the cup was starting to blur. I blinked and realized tears were flooding my eyes, right there in public! I hadn’t seen this coming. I thought I’d drained myself dry the night before.

I rushed out of the restaurant, marvelled by my newfound ability to weep in public. Up until the night before, I’d actually prided myself in being calm in crisis. Just a few days prior, I’d found myself stranded in a town two hours from home after mysteriously losing my car keys. I hadn’t cried at all. I’d laughed. Kept it lighthearted. Today my heart was heavy.

On the sidewalk, I passed a mom with twin toddlers cooing in their double stroller. It wasn’t until her face twisted up in concern for me, that I realized I was still crying. Big fat droplets, streaming down my face. I sped up my aimless walk, shuffling away from her. I thought about answering Morty, but I didn’t know what to say. I was in mourning.

All of the plans we’d made. All of our ideas. Our hopes and fears and effort we’d put in to make this work were just ripped away. All of my visions for the future shattered. How can you go from seeing and talking to someone every single day to maybe never again? We’d inevitably become strangers now.

I walked straight to my favourite Little Free Library. I opened it up hoping to find a book inside that could make sense of it all, but it was empty. Of course. I’d have to start over again. I’d started over so many times, but those times had all been my own decision. This hurt the most because I had no say in the matter.

The truth was, I didn’t want to start over again! I had been happy. For the first time in my whole life, I was actually happy. Comfortable. Secure. Or so I fucking thought. I wouldn’t have asked for anything more, I could have been happy forever. But forever is just a myth. Change is constant. Life is flux.

I wandered into the park in search of some shade, though I could barely feel the suffocating sun shining during this intense heatwave. I spread out the picnic blanket that I had somehow had the wherewithal to bring with me when I’d exited the house this morning. I sipped violently on my drink, still trying to process.

Sure, there had been red flags from the beginning. Even from before the beginning, if I was being completely honest. But I’d ignored them because I’d decided the risk was worth the reward. And it hadn’t been easy. There had been ups and downs consistently. But now that I was so high up, this down felt disproportionately low.

I lay down on my back on the blanket. Normally, I would be too self-conscious to be so relaxed in a park. Now it was like I was numb to all other emotions but grief. Not that there was anyone else at the park mid morning on a Tuesday. Just me and my thoughts.

The first indication that something was awry had come right before end of day on Friday. Morty cancelled our weekly team meeting on Monday and replaced them with one-on-one meetings, with no explanation. This hadn’t sat well with me. Our tech company, Fedora, had been known to make big sweeping changes at the drop of, well, a fedora.

But I’d been optimistic. Until I attended a BBQ on the Sunday with one of my colleagues, Gordon. Gordon asked me if I’d heard about the big mysterious announcement that was scheduled for our company meeting midday on Monday. I’d actually forgotten about our one-on-ones until that moment. I mentioned it to Gordon, who asked, “do you think they’ll dissolve your whole department?”

“Now I do!!!” I’d joked, just laughing the comment off. In retrospect, maybe Gordon actually knew more than he let on. I’d shrugged, “well, it’s only 15 minutes, how much bad news can be delivered in 15 minutes?”

“Actually, off-boarding sessions typically take about 15 minutes.” Oh.

Beneath my tree, I took another sip of my drink, waiting for a breeze of relief that never came.

Somehow, I’d still been so blindly naive about the whole situation. I mean, on Monday morning I was definitely nervous. I knew something was up. My stomach was in knots as I clicked into my Zoom one-on-one, but I still didn’t really think anything bad would happen. When the screen loaded, I realized I was being ambushed. It was actually a two-on-one meeting. Morty introduced Tracey from HR and for a second, their smiling faces almost had my believing this meeting could be good.

It was not good. It was bad, oh so terribly bad. Morty gave a quick preamble about how successful I’d been as part of the team, and how much he appreciated all the hard work I’d put it in the past six months. Then he ripped off the bandaid and confirmed what I hadn’t let myself believe to be true. Our team was no more. Despite the perfect wifi connection, my memories of the meeting get fuzzy after that.

A small wave revealed that he was turning me over to Tracey, who held my fate in her hands. I wanted to scream at the screen, beg for Morty not to leave me here like this. But Morty was no longer my manager. I was all alone. So vulnerable, so exposed. In one single click, his window faded from my screen.

“So the good news is that you’re very valued among your fellow Fedorae,” Tracey said, unapologetically using our internal nickname for employees despite the gravity of the situation. “You have a proven track record, and we’re so happy to offer you a new position.”

I felt my shoulders relax. Maybe Morty wouldn’t be my manager anymore, but everything else could stay relatively unchanged. I could handle that. A little change never hurt anyone. Then I heard, “pay-cut.”

It took all my energy not to cry right then and there. To counter, I forced an understanding smile and nodded my head as Tracey’s words bounced off of it without penetration. Pay bands. Equity. Ottawa. Excited. Valued. Sure, I was valued. Just not valued enough to honour the salary I had worked for, interviewed thrice for and ultimately earned and worked hard to keep. I was planning a wedding. Final payments for all our vendors were due within a month.

“But you don’t have to decide right now,” Tracey assured me. I would have taken the offer right then and there on the spot if she hadn’t said that. I smiled and nodded. “Your job no longer exists, so after the big company meeting today, you’re off for the rest of the day. And tomorrow. Take until the end of Wednesday to decide whether this offer is something you’d be interested in. If not, we can talk about an exit package, but we really hope it doesn’t get to that point.”

I smiled and shook my head numbly. We clicked out of our meeting and immediately the big company-wide announcement was made. Overall, three positions had been eliminated. Some Fedorae had been moved into new roles, but 7 Fedorae, unfortunately, had left Fedora. Everyone affected by the changes had already been notified. Or so they claimed.

That’s when the tears had begun. My laptop had started pinging incessantly by concerned coworkers.

“What do you think of the news?”

“I can’t believe your team is no more!

“What does this mean for you?!”

“Are you okay?! Are you staying at Fedora?!”

I muted my notifications ready to bolt away from my laptop when I saw one from my colleague Norman, who had been on my now defunct team. He’d asked, “did we get laid off? I just got the strangest text from a coworker.”

So not everyone affected had been notified after all. Poor Norman. He had taken the day off and missed all of the Monday madness. It hurt that he had to find out this way. I tried to tell him as much as I could. Our team was no more, and I was offered a different position with a pay-cut. I was certain that he’d end up with a similar fate. He called in and scheduled a meeting with Morty at 3:00pm.

Normally when my anxiety spirals out of control, I have too much energy. I’m able to quell it with long walks, or reading, or writing. But this time I wasn’t anxious. Quite the opposite. I had no energy to do anything. I tried to get dressed to go for a walk and ended up on the couch. I tried to read my latest novel, but I couldn’t make sense of the words on the pages. For the next three hours, I just sat and stared.

At 3:30, I decided to check in on Norman, to see if they’d also cut his pay. Norman and I had been promoted at the same time, and we’d worked together a lot trying to get our team up to speed. His sales were a little ahead of mine, through sheer luck, I liked to remind myself.

I opened my laptop back up ignoring the series of unread messages from friendly Fedorae that had now doubled. I couldn’t face them. I searched for Noman, but he was gone from my DM list. I searched his name and found his icon greyed out, the telltale “deactivated” label next to his former account. I couldn’t believe it! Not Norman! He hadn’t done anything wrong! He’d been promoted 6 months ago just like me! How could they let him go. My bottom lip resumed its quiver.

I searched to see which other ones of my colleagues accounts had been deactivated, terrified of what I might find. I felt like we were bubbles, floating in the air together, one by one exploding, dissolving and disappearing into thin air. Nobody was safe. For whatever reason, I’d been spared, but the aftermath of the ruin was too much to bare. The rest of the night was spent staring at the ceiling in my bed, trying to make sense of it all.

Nearly 24 hours later, on that picnic blanket, underneath that tree, I was still staring up at the pure blue sky. So much had changed. Morty wasn’t my manager anymore. Half my colleagues had been let go, with no warning. My job as I knew it no longer existed. I had a day and a half to accept this new offer, or it would be nullified and I would be terminated too, my new contract stated.

I knew I was going to take the new position. Of course I was. I still loved Fedora. It felt good to know that people there liked me too, liked me enough to keep me. But my ego was bruised and my equilibrium shaky. It felt like something fundamental had been broken. My sense of security removed. But that’s the nature of tech companies, I reminded myself. That’s the nature of life, nothing is ever really so secure.

I sat up trying to imagine myself replying to all those messages from my coworkers. I really appreciated the concern. I thought about how I would tell them that I was staying on the team, and we could all be happy. I was lucky to still be employed. It was a harsh blow and a bit of a set-back, but nothing was stopping me from taking this new position and excelling at it too. Just like I always had. Maybe this bump in the road would lead to bigger and better things. That’s what I had said to Norman.

I sat up and felt my cheeks. My fingertips were dry, the sun had taken away all my tears. I reached for my iced coffee on the edge of the blanket. The ice was now completely melted. I took a sip and realized, though lukewarm, it was still delicious.

2022

12 thoughts on “The Dissolution

  1. Sometimes, it’s, a, buildup of, everything we’d, experienced, up to a particular point in time, that finally, made us, have a, total, meltdown, and, we are, often, misled into, believing, that what caused us to, have a, initial, meltdown was, what had, just, happened, when, that last thing that’s, made us cried, was only, that, final, straw…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great post. I always read these like they are happening to YOU! Unfortunately, presently this planet and work life is based on nothing more than economic slavery with workers just worker bees with no longer any TRUE valuing going on….other than the bottom line for the owners. Time for all of that to change.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow… I’d be really torn, I really wouldn’t feel right accepting an offer like that when they obviously don’t value me, but I also wouldn’t want the stress of looking for a new job. If this really happened to you like that, recently, good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The feeling of your job no longer existing (let alone getting laid off), especially all of a sudden, is an incredible blow to one’s self-esteem and worth as a worker. I’ve had similar experiences in which I got laid off quickly suddenly, and it’s all too easy to cry and scream in anger at how unfair the world is. However, it’s through this painful experience that we build resilience, to find other (and better) opportunities to move forward, and in the end, things do turn out well.

    Liked by 1 person

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