Monday, August 6, 2012

The Three Biggest Stresses In Life

I once heard from someone wise, my mother, that the three biggest stresses in life were changing jobs, changing locations and having a child. I thought earlier this summer that we had all three in the bag. My wife graduated from residency and was starting a new job, hence the buying of a house and moving. Somewhere along the way we decided to get pregnant before we got too old and we succeeded in that endeavor too. I thought we were done but life has a way of surprising you.

I had a job that I loved mostly because I was in an employee owned company and we didn't have many employees when we started. Since I have started, the original group of employees, less than three dozen, have purchased several more companies and expanded the business dramatically to the tune of about 25% a year. All the shares I have collected over the years have secured my nest egg and for that I am fortunate. But over the last year or two, things began to change. We were getting big enough and the right mix of people were given power and things started going downhill. There was a lack of communication and I felt like I was at times spinning my wheels in the mud when working on projects that used to get full support from everyone. I wasn't liking my job anymore though I still loved the company.

So when my boss retired, I thought long and hard about how to fix the company and my suggestion was to hire someone over all the different areas who didn't have a vested interest who could force the communication. I mentioned it in the right ears and soon, we hired just such a person. Unfortunately, he was someone whom I have worked with in the past and whom I knew was hired to do one other thing besides force communication and that was to chop a few heads.

Although I only met with him a handful of times over a couple weeks, I began to regain my enthusiasm for my job because everyone of the things that I had felt needed to be done were started. Communication was improving and my wheels were starting to move on solid ground again. We were finally on the right track. Then the new guy, after being there for two weeks, called me into a meeting which when I walked into it saw that it was just with him and the Human Resources guy. I knew right then my goose was cooked and it was.

It wasn't the first time we had laid off people but it was the first time we laid off people during a banner year of profitability so I was a little shocked at first. They were gentlemen about it and so I was allowed to go back to my desk and pack up my stuff and carry it out with dignity. I said goodbye to my colleges, arranged a goodbye lunch the next day and headed to my new home. My new commute of 20 miles to work would last only four days.

I wasn't the only one laid off so I have company. Of my peers, I am definitely the most able to handle the financial blow of losing the bread winning job of a marriage since by the time my severance runs out, I wouldn't have been the bread winner anymore anyway. I have been laid off before so I have had previous experience which really helps with going through all the emotional steps of being laid off. I went through all of them pretty much before I even got home to tell my wife.  I had a lot in savings despite just writing a huge check for a house and still waiting on the check from the sale of my house in a couple weeks. In short, other than not getting up and going to work 5 days a week, things are pretty much the same in our household right now. I am very fortunate and I have been giving my thanks to God a little extra these days for leading my down this path.

My wife also took the news well, especially it is the second time in our life that I have had to break that kind of news to her. She was more concerned about my sanity but I don't think she needs to be. I think I'm taking it quite well and have enjoyed my first week and a half of being unemployed (though still being paid thanks to a generous severance package). In fact, I am already on tasks that I thought I might not get to until later this fall and I've lost nearly ten pounds already. I attribute the latter from a relatively sedentary job behind a desk and in a lab where there were always chairs handy to one in which I have literally been sweating my butt off for six hours a day. Granted I have been enjoying my after lunch nap but even with it, I have been working my muscles a bit harder. That muscle in my head might start atrophying but I'll worry about it later.

I'm not sure what the future will bring for me but right now, I am looking forward to finding out. For now, I am hanging up my engineering skills and don't plan on using them in the foreseeable future, at least in the manufacturing industry which has been sour on engineers pretty much since I graduated college. I am going to work on fixing up our new house full time, instead of the planned nights and weekends, probably into this winter. By then, our new daughter will arrive and I will be a stay at home dad while the wife goes out and earns our bread doing what she loves. Since she didn't take her first choice for a job so that I could stay close to the job that I loved and now no longer have, if she doesn't like it here, we certainly can move a bit more easily than before.

Long term, I am contemplating remaking myself into something other than an engineer. I have several ideas for starting up hobbies/businesses that I love to do but couldn't justify it when I had a salaried and golden shares in a fast expanding company. But that is out there a ways and I first have to get used to all our other changes first. If there is an Olympic record for changes in a year, I would like to see someone who can beat two career changes, a new baby and buying and selling a house through a mortgage broker from hell. I have a feeling that I now have the gold medal in that category.


kymber said...

congrats on winning the gold, buddy! i am so glad to see that you are taking it so well...and i couldn't applaud you more for being willing to be the stay-at-home for at least the next while. let us hear some of your ideas for at-home hobby/business...i am sure that some of your readers can give you tips and whatnot.

it has been a lot of changes in such a short time, if you and your wife are handling it this well, i think the guy in the sky might be leading you to the next phase of your life. i wish you all of the best! your friend,

Murf said...

So I take it that you still have the shares in the company?

With this economy, you will need all the luck you can get.

Vince said...

Ahhh sugar.

You'd think they would have given you a heads up a few weeks before you moved. For that really was quite nasty the way they went about it. How did they know you were very sound money-wise. You could have been entering a bigger mortgage on teh strength of a sound income. And don't tell me that HR didn't know about your move. For if they didn't then they not you should be out on their ear since it is their sole biznach to know things that the DDR Stazi would blanch.
Business today IS only human resource. All the rest is but tinsel.
Frankly you are well out of it for if that sort of shortness in thought has writ then the company isn't long for this world.

Murf said...

It's not HR or any businesses place to care what their soon-to-be ex-employee is embarking on. If you want that, you're going to to have to time travel back to Little House On The Prairie days.

Ron said...

A job, or lack of, sure can create a lot of stress.

geri said...

hi Ed, you and Mrs Abbey will be okay. The timing seem to fit everything that's going to happen in the next few months I can't help but I think that it's a part of HIS plan especially with the baby coming and Little Abbey probably going to be doing the biggest adjustment. For sure it will be a lot easier for Mrs. Abbey for you to be there to help her 24/7 with the baby and greatly ease everyone else's mind to have you take care of the infant in the early months while she goes back to work. Daycares are a blessing to working parents but a hands-on parents will always be better.

Whether you are prepared for it financially or not, it is always a huge blow to be laid off - being made to feel dispensible especialy in the matter it was done to you (my former office did worse stuff on some cases). There may always be a nagging worry at the back of our heads of ever getting a job again or finding other ways to make money, but I am sure that you will be alright.

Speaking from experience I can't imagine missing out on the few years at home with my son and I feel I am a much better-skilled person now than I was 3 years ago. When one is busy with a 8-5 job it's very easy to be complacent and not be updated to the things that is out there in our field. I am sure it will be the same for you. Good luck and whatever next career/business you will be in, it will be doing what you love the most.

Ed said...

Kymber - Thanks! I've always wanted to start up a business/hobby of my own. When I get to that part, I'm sure I'll blog about it. But right now painting calls me.

Murf - I still have my shares though they will be cashed out gradually over the next five years. The economy in general and manufacturing in specific aren't the best which is one of the reasons I would like to take a break and perhaps reinvent myself in another sector of the economy that is doing better.

Vince - Though they don't know my financial situation, it wasn't a secret that I was moving. I'm just fortunate that they waited until after I closed upon this house. Had I got laid off first, well I just don't think I can even imagine the pain and stress that would have causes.

Ron - That may be so but these last couple weeks I have slept pretty darn well. It is a relief to be out of the rat race for the time being.

Geri - Thanks for the kind words. I'm sure you will be a big inspiration for me in the next couple years because I'm going to be in a very similar situation, just not planned. The downside to my wife is that we may just have two daddy's girls instead of the one we already have!

edifice rex said...

Wow!! that is a lot of changes! I know a bit about the job loss/ reinventing your career thing myself and it can be kinda nerve wracking but fun and exciting too. I think ya'll will be fine!! Good luck on whatever you decide to pursue.

Woody said...

You certainly swallowed that pill with ease. I don't believe I would have taken it so well, but that's just the way I'm wired.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Hmmm, your mom was right, no doubt. I feel your pain, or lack of it, since I too sort of went through a forced retirement from the Air Force due to my declining mental health, which turned out to be mostly chemical due to a thyroid imbalance. In no time at all I found myself doing volunteer work learning how to advise and represent veterans with their VA disability claims. Have you thought about volunteerism at all? I never really got over "being in." Every night, when I sleep, I am back in the service, back to being Sgt Spear, in uniform, performing some unnamed mission. It will be interesting to see how this affects you in that way; although, for me, I was "in" for almost 30 years, so it felt like I was ripped away from something that was important to me. I, like you, didn't have to worry about finances, so THAT always serves to reduce the stress of it, so good on you for your lifelong anal "fiscalness!" (fiscaltude? fiscalality?)

Ed said...

Edifice Rex - Perhaps I get to live more like you now. A larger garden is certainly on my radar but with the deer so thick here, I have a lot of work building a fence first.

Woody - My first time being laid off was certainly a different story compared to this time. Perhaps experience plays a part.

Phil - I still have dreams of work and some of them play out the stages of being laid off such as anger, denial, wondering when I will get called back, etc. But overall, they are vivid enough to cause me to lose sleep and when I wake up in the morning, I don't think much about work. I do miss my colleagues though but since we are still in close proximity to them, I hope to see them from time to time.

Murf said...

As you are reinventing yourself, you do realize that you will be getting older and with each passing year, most likely less appealing to the majority of gurus that do the hiring, don't you? If you don't realize this now, it will be a sad day for you when you do. Just get a job at the local Ace Hardware. You'll do fine. :-)

Bone said...

Sorry to hear about this, Ed. Sounds like you are about as prepared as one could be, but it still stinks.

I hope this leads you down a path which eventually brings you even more happiness and success.

You seem to have a great attitude, which I think is a good bit of the battle.

TC said...

I'm so sorry to read this news :-/ It does sound like you're set up to handle this blow as best as possible, but it's still never easy.

Take care of yourself. And enjoy this extra time with Little Abbey... and maybe even Littler Abbey :) (And their Mommy.) Let that be your silver lining.

Ed said...

Murf - I realize that but since my plan is to be self employed, I am not too worried.

Bone - I've been thinking about making a trip down to 'Bama to catch a Seinfeld episode or two but I think you are more of a night owl than I.

TC - I think there is a huge silver lining to all this.