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November 22, 2011
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I Was Laid Off One Year Ago: Part 1

Journal Entry: Tue Nov 22, 2011, 8:28 PM

Foreword




This story is true.

While I exaggerate some of the events in this story, and will not name certain specifics out of the interest of continued employment, everything in this story is true.

It is also a very long story.  The story of 2011.  The story of the year I spent going through unemployment, internships, freelancing, temp work, and reconstructing my own life from the ground up.  It's about coming to the realization of my pride being my downfall, how much I thought I deceived myself into thinking I was any good at anything, how little I truly knew about myself, and of course, the ways in which I rectified it all...a little bit.

It's a story that continues as I still live on into the next day, and the day afterward, as the transition isn't anywhere near a heroic conclusion.  But such is a matter of life; I am on this hero's journey of mine until the day I kick it.  Perpetual change.

This is also a story I've been meaning to tell since last March.  That was when I found myself able to express proper "pride," pride that is well-placed in something you did yourself, not something you did amid an army of thousands of laborers.  It's a story of finding a greater sense of pride in doing work on my own accord, doing work predominately my own, and that massive earth-shattering sales records are nothing to be proud of if your own personal contribution of thousands of hours was just a drop in the bucket.  However, I put it off as more events starting occurring, and I found that I would've jumped the gun if I penned it then.  Hell, I'm probably jumping the gun now, who knows what tomorrow holds?  But it has been a year since this story of mine began, and one year feels like an appropriate end point.

It's long.  I'll break it up into three parts.  Then when all three are written, I will take your comments to mind, expand upon certain parts, try to give everything some more cohesion, grammar check, and submit all three as a single literature deviation.  Because it's a story I want you, artists and video gamers alike, to experience for yourselves at some point in your lives.  To be broken down, to have those rose-tinted glasses shattered, and to be able to pick up the pieces of a broken life to find that a greater sense of success can come from the smallest things.

Above all, I hope you enjoy it.  I gave my bedsheets a speaking part.  Told you I exaggerate.






The Release




Top of my game.

I was on the biggest project of the year.  Biggest budget, biggest development team, biggest everything.  Only the best were even humored a potential position on this team, and there I was, pouring my heart and soul into it.  I was the best.  Hands down.  The moment I arrived, I made it a point to make every moment a veritable supernova of unbridled greatness.

I was welling with pride.  Not just because the video game I had labored on was looking phenomenal, unlike any other project I'd been on previously...but because I was finally going to see how the public would react to it.

On November 9th, 2010, we released the game.

After putting several months into this project, in addition to several years to the company hiring me, I was etching another notch into my battle axe for a job well done.  The weeks leading up to it, I had labored several hours of overtime, becoming rather familiar with a gradually shifting schedule pushing further into the nights, some shifts allowing me to see the rare "day with two sunrises."  It was something that needed to be done, a major deadline necessitating great demands of the staff, but like true soldiers with passion towards our craft, we persevered and triumphed.  And lo, on the morning of November 9th, not a single work PC was free of having Metacritic open somewhere in the background, our pride unable to hold us back from refreshing that page every few minutes to see what other major video game publications were saying about our game.

There was no denying, we loved what we made.  The skeptics feared it would just be another iteration of the same old stuff from the game's long franchise, but here they were, proclaiming we had taken it to a new unexpected level of narrative that was, as one stated, a surprising breath of fresh air.  And Lordy, it was selling like gangbusters.  Or hotcakes.

Have hotcakes ever been a major ticket seller since the 50's?  I digress.

I took particular pride in my own contribution, porting the game over to a less powerful gaming console but managing to push that little white box's chips to the extreme limit for some of the most spectacular visuals that I hardly knew that humble piece of hardware could produce.  This was a project I took absolutely seriously.  I made it a point to dress particularly nice every day, I lasted the entire project without missing a day, was only late once, and only had to leave early once.  My productivity numbers were also well above average, my software reports and findings far outnumbering those of all but one other employee on the whole floor...and he and I competed to outpace the other in a friendly, albeit vicious, back-and-forth of dignified battle.  We had become so good at our job, it became a competitive sport.  I had found my calling, fell into my niche, realized that this job was something that I could keep doing, and do extremely well.

At 5:00 pm, I was called into a conference room with the floor director.  When I got the Email, I was a bit surprised.  Was this the promotion I had been hoping for?  A transfer to yet another high ranking project while this one wrapped up loose ends?  Was I going to be put on salary and extended benefits for the years of work I'd put in?

I then read the names of the people cc'd in the Email.  The guy who smelled like steamed vegetables and wore wife beaters every day.  The guy who had checked out months ago, spending most of the afternoon with his feet up and hat over his face.  The guy who would show up two hours late half the days, and fake sick the other half.  The guy who put more time into Facebook than he did the game itself.

There had to be a mistake.  These were the people we knew were getting laid off first!  Maybe...maybe, maybe, maybe...maybe, yes!  That's gotta be it!  They're bringing me in to show these guys what a real employee is supposed to do, yes!  Highly unorthodox, but dammit, if I'm going to be their go-to example for how a perfect employee should be and tell them to follow in my footsteps lest they get their due comeuppance, I will shine!  Shine!  Shiiiine!  I walked into that conference room, beaming, eagerly awaiting the shower of praises and compliments to bombard my glorious frame.

On November 9th, 2010, they released me.

"What the hell!?" The guy sitting next to me exclaims twenty minutes later.  "YOU!?"

"Eh..." I sigh.  "I don't know."

I scooped up the last of my personal things, my business cards, my personal notebooks, my survival case of poptarts and skittles.  Hardly in the mood for lengthy goodbyes, I turned on a heel making a blurred getaway to the building's front facade.  I counted my footsteps to my car.  Ten.  Twenty.  Thirty.  Forty.

When I was fifty strides away from the building, I called up Poopgoblyn.

"So.  You were saying last week you need an intern."

"Yes, we do."

I hadn't even pulled my car out of the parking lot, my box of belongings not even settled naturally against the passenger seat, when I had set myself up for what would become the most productive year of my life.


The Recovery




It was only Thursday of that week.  Only two days since I had been laid off.

In those short 48 hours, I suffered a major identity crisis.  Was I just dreaming it all?  Was I one of those crazy sociopaths who perceives himself as awesome, but in reality is just a cacophonous fool too stupid to realize it?  I was desperate for answers, looking deep into my own soul, trying to see if I had just imagined my strong performance records, steady attendance, and previous compliments from my superiors.

One day, you'll be a floor lead, I just know it.  Memories of previous bosses taunted me.  The things they said, the sincerity of it...were those memories even real?  You're the best I've ever seen.  More goading.  What happened?  Did I let these get to my head, and assume this superiority complex?

I will shine!  Shine!  Shiiiine!

Bugger.

As terrible reality started crashing down on me, the realization that I might have unknowingly dropped the ball somewhere down the line and adopted a haughty image of myself, a grim realization descended upon me that attire, attendance, and job performance doesn't mean a damn if your countenance is too proud to be in the realm of tolerable.

Geez, David, only forty reports today, that's it?  Heh, heh, I'm joking, I know, awesome job.

No, stop it.

Production's taken notice of you, Dave.

I can't let this get to my head.

Ha!  You?  Worried!?

But, what if it already has gotten to my head?

They're keeping you through December, that's obvious.

Was it too late!?

Besides, YOU don't have to worry about anything, I'M the one who is going to get laid off next week when the game's released.

These can't be real.  I distinctly remember them so, but...in those days afterward, I couldn't bring myself to apply such tight-knit memories to a threadbare grasp on reality.  I could feel myself losing it.  Slipping.  It had only been two days!

Not even a weekend!  Why so soon!?

...

"I can start immediately!" I squeal through a tight grin to Poopgoblyn the next day.  We were interviewing for the internship position over lunch at Fab's Hot Dogs, and it couldn't have been any more obvious that the weight of the week was eating away at me more furiously than I was eating away at my garlic tater tots.

"Well, we don't quite have the spot...ready yet."

"Ah, yes, of course," I utter, trying to keep my smile from extending to the kingdom of Insania, twiddling one of the tots between my fingers.  "Yes, well, if I have to wait until tomorrow that's-"

"Actually, Monday."

"Monday?"  I drop the tot.

"Of the week after next."

God help me, no.

"Yes!  I can do that!"  I swiftly grab another tot, hoping its stinging bite of garlic slays the scream bubbling up my trachea.

"Great, see you then, ten o'clock!"

...

You remember that time when you were a child, and you realized that when you grew up you could have ice cream for breakfast?  Every day if you wanted to!  You could watch Saturday morning cartoons all damn day!  Every day!  And then remember around high school, you're taking that economics class, and you're taught about social security, unemployment insurance, and all those other random checks that come in the mail rewarding you for not working?

Remember that lesson?

Remember how awesome you thought it would be, just to have that year all to yourself, sleep in as late as you want?  Not even have to shower or get dressed?  Just unwind and do all those things you've been wanting to do!  Read that book series.  Catch up on Breaking Bad.  And Justified.  Take up painting, maybe try writing a novel or two, you have all day to do whatever you want, and with no stupid job to keep you hunkered down, you get to find your true potential!

Wake up.

On Wednesday, eight days since getting laid off, I woke up to the same feeling of dread and hopelessness.  "Guh.  This again."  Dammit, it was already 10:30am.  Internship begins in another grueling five eternities, when the hell is Monday.  I get in the shower.  For nothing.  I comb my hair.  For nobody.  I get dressed.  For no occasion.  I'm fresh and ready to take on another day.  Another day of lounging around, waiting for Kotaku to update.  Still obsessed with news on last week's release, I found myself constantly re-reading every article on Metacritic about that project I had been on.  Oh sure, I bet the whole remaining crew was already deeply engrossed in piecing together some downloadable content, how behind the times I already was, because I was locked in time attempting to re-live the moments of last week.  It was only one week ago, and already, taking in the praises and commendations from top tier reviewers and national publications were losing their thrill.

There was no going back.  This was my new reality.

I opened up commissions on deviantArt the day before.  Still no bites.  I decide to cast the line again, updating the journal hoping it pings just the right person seeking a colorist.  I needed something to do, anything.  I needed busy work.  Real work.  Something new to be proud of for just a little while longer.

Pride.

There it is again.  I'm never going to shake this damn thing.

People laugh knowing that pride is one of the seven deadly sins.  Maybe because the overwhelming majority have control over their's.  Sure, it's easy to fall victim to greed, to lust, to vanity, but pride?  Give me a break, what kind of weak-hearted ponce gets suckered into making pride look like something evil, right?

On Thursday, nine days since getting laid off, I woke up to the same feeling of dread and hopelessness.  "Guh.  This again."  It was already 10:40am.

On Friday, ten days since getting laid off.  "Guh.  This again."  11:00am.

Saturday.  "Guh.  This again."  11:15am.

Sunday. "This again." 11:30am.

Unshowered, unshaved, uncombed, barely dressed, I flip open my laptop.  Open the Email inbox, yet again.  Nothing.  Check my RSS feed.  Nothing.  Log on to deviantArt, just a few new messages and...a note?  Commission Inquiry.

My eyes light up!  In a sporadic blur of flailing limbs, I shake off my morning stench with reinvigorated strength!  Gods be praised!  I finally have something to do!  In my excitement, it takes me three attempts to click on the message!

Hi, I was wondering, can you draw my OC?  I can't pay with money, but you would be credited on my Facebook!

I shut the laptop.  It's 2pm.  I flip twice through the assortment of channels, knowing there's nothing on, and after three cycles through the listings and thoroughly verifying my "nothing's on" hypothesis, switch the TV off and decide to finally jump in the shower.  Keep holy the Sabbath day my ass.  I decide, if God can rest on the seventh day, He won't mind if I leave for my morning coffee at 3.  After pressing F5 a few times on Gizmodo, I went to get my coffee at 4pm.  When I got home with it, I took two sips, parked it on the desk, and forgot about it.

I open up my deviantArt page again, and go back to the morning's commission request.  Like pretty much everything else, the continents, the speed of Congress, my to-do list that's been untouched since last Tuesday, it hasn't moved.  Might as well be courteous about it.

Thanks for the offer!  However, I

The words are in my head.  I can't believe I'm about to type this out.

However, I can only afford time for paying commissions.

Yeah, because I'm so busy lounging around waiting for Joystiq to post some two-paragraph balderdash about video games or something every hour.

Also, I'm just a colorist, not a line artist.

And here I am, all the time in the world, I can eat ice cream for breakfast, watch cartoons all day, catch up on all my TV, and write that novel.  But I'll be damned if I branch out and attempt my hand at doing something out of my comfort zone as a favor for somebody else.

But I do know somebody whom I work with who does line art.

Who also never works for free, but actually has a day job and a tremendous backlog of commissions...you know, an excuse.

So, if he's okay with that, we'll get something going!

So if instead of working for you for free you'd be perfectly fine with paying a few weeks' allowance to not one but TWO artists, we'll get you started.

Thanks!

I'm such an ass.

For about the third time that evening, like most other evenings, I thumb through the video game collection.  Still confirmed.  No desire to play video games ever anymore.  The feeling of that controller, the whole sensation of being in a simulated world...just feeding the Blu-Ray Disc into the Playstation triggers the memories.

Besides, YOU don't have to worry about anything, I'M the one who is going to get laid off next week when the game's released.

Eject.

I flip open the phone.  No new texts.  No missed calls.  Nobody has called me in the last four days.  Just one voicemail, one that's been there since the morning...of November 9th.  Mom.  I listen to it for probably the fiftieth time.

Hi honey!  Dad's been reading up on your little game thing, four million pre-orders is it?  Anywho, just sending along our congratulations for finally getting that thing done, we know you've been putting so much into it.

Her words make me smile.  The world flashes in roses and fuschias for a blink.

Anyway, dad and I will be in Sacramento this weekend, so no Mexican Food this Saturday, maybe next-

I close the phone shut.  I close my eyes and bang my head against the wall behind me.  All this talk I've been saying about working hard and doing so much better than everyone else?  About being guaranteed a position there, finding my calling, finding my niche?  Had I been lying to them as badly as I was lying to myself?  Had I dragged them into my own self-deception?

I bang my head against the wall again.  I haven't even told them I got laid off.

Retreating to the bedroom, the piled up sheets beckoned me to sweet forgetful slumber.  They always do.  After a few rounds of switching channels on the TV, thumbing through music, begging the denizens of deviantArt to give me a little something to hold me over, I always glance at those alluring covers, their graceful folds and ruffles promising warm embraces to shelter me away from the torturous reality of infinite time conspiring against me with mounting chores and zero motivation.  Go on, they call to me.  Just one more day of doing nothing, you have all year, right?

It had only been just a smidgen more than a week.  And I was being seduced by bedsheets.

Very good, they coo as I lumber to the bed, stripping down before slipping to that great fabric maw.  Just another day, you have all year, don't worry about a...a...what are you doing?

I reach over to the bedside clock, and flip the alarm switch.

What is that for?  I thought we could push sleeping past noon tomorrow!

Tomorrow.

You don't have to wake up, you're getting checks from the government now, remember?

Tomorrow the nightmare ends.

Imagine, just being all comfy-womfy and so well rested and relaxed, and hey!

Tomorrow.

Hey, hey!  Just think, the more you sleep, the less you have to go through these sooooo boring days.

Tomorrow, I'm interning at a start-up video game company.






Add a Comment:
 
:iconvest:
vest Featured By Owner Dec 13, 2011
Just want to welcome everyone to the story.

I wanted to start this one out with me coming off as a very boastful, proud individual getting slapped in the face and facing a major identity crisis. I also wanted to start out with a deceptive bang, making people thing this is going to be some tell-all memoirs about how corrupt the video game industry and unemployment system is.

It's not.

However, I intend to get people hooked with a rather zany off-the-wall writing style showing me comically receding into insanity, but gradually pull back the talking-bedsheet shenanigans to get into some really deep (and pretty sensitive) topics. This isn't a story about any one thing in particular, but each chapter should hopefully touch upon something that you can relate to. It's a glimpse into my life, my mind, my body, a window towards my day-in and day-out. It's all based upon recollected memories, and is knitted together as best as my mind can weave it. Which means...there's probably a lot of time discrepancies, missing/made up details, and dialog that probably didn't go at all the way I penned it.

This story is true.

Just...Not in the eyes of God.
Reply
:iconsemc:
SEMC Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Fascinating story. I'm going to hazard a guess that this is in reference to CoD:Blops or Two Worlds 2? I can't be honest and still say that I really want to read the rest of this series as I've been fighting depression since being laid off at the start of 2008 and losing everything including my dignity and self respect. Reading your tale just feels like a 'been there, done that, get in line, welcome to hell." I feel you on your duress and hardships and I did skip ahead to part 7 so the failing health is also relatable.

I've been unemployed since then and even with my AS in networking, I couldn't find work outside of walmart and they kept 'letting me go' a few days before any sort of pay raise or benefits like their crappy health insurance. Only to call me up and rehire me a few weeks later (rinse lather repeat). I did go back to college eventually and now I'm almost done with my BS in networking and praying the job market even exists.

My father who had worked for 34 years at Honeywell just got fired the day before Christmas Eve in what amounts to a cruel parody of the stereotype of the "fired on Christmas eve joke" from sitcoms and movies.

I honestly don't know where I'm going with this other than to say that I really don't want to read the rest of your story as it's depressing nature just isn't what I need right now.
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:iconpoopgoblyn:
Poopgoblyn Featured By Owner Nov 24, 2011
woah.
Reply
:iconsketchandthecity:
sketchandthecity Featured By Owner Nov 23, 2011  Hobbyist Filmographer
Oh god. I lost my job last week and although it was a retail job and I am in school for a second degree, I miss the luxury of having to work. I am also trying to get into the comic book industry via coloring and I am hearing about recent shakeups with the companies. I hope something pulls through, but for now, I have unemployment for the winter.
Reply
:iconmatiassoto:
MatiasSoto Featured By Owner Nov 23, 2011  Professional Traditional Artist
Aww, man! You can't leave us hanging like this, all halfway of the adventure, amidst our hero's darkest moments, I feel like in the end of the first two Lord of the Rings movies...
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:iconclewer:
CleWeR Featured By Owner Nov 23, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
WOW.
So awesome you share this, can't wait to read more!
Reply
:iconjohnercek:
johnercek Featured By Owner Nov 23, 2011
/cheer for epicness

although I would have loved it if the hero trawled deeper and submitted himself to the torture of being a flatter. Complete with self-absorbed hyper-critiques and challenges from the bedsheets who, wouldn't you know it, can flat a page faster than you can.

looking forward to next sequence.

PS-= you didn't get drunk the night you got fired? holy hell.
Reply
:iconvest:
vest Featured By Owner Nov 23, 2011
Yep, didn't get drunk that night.

Back in 2009, I spent a rollicking good evening with my roommates. One of his friends from out of town swung by, a real heavy party type of person, and he suggested we make Irish Car Bombs. Not sure of the exact recipe, but it's a shot of half Jamison, half Bourbon, dumped into a half-pint of Guiness and the whole think downed in ten seconds before the Jamison/Bourbon congeals into rubber cheese.

It's quite a hilarious drink mix. Quite popular among the weekend alcoholics and Arizona fraternities.

Anywho, we did the dumbest thing we've ever done in our lives. During a single episode of The Boondocks, we downed six Irish Car Bombs. Each. That's one every five minutes. Two should be enough to get you drunk for the whole evening, one if you're a light-weight, and me? Total lightweight. Wasn't much of a drinker in the first place, so I was lucky I didn't come to in the emergency room from alcohol poisoning.

Honestly, when I woke up with this tremendous weight lying on my side, I thought I actually went to bed with my roommate's friend, and that something went horribly Brokeback mountain somewhere in that blacked out span of existence. To my relief, I realized the weight wasn't another dude in my bed, it was just the hangover making half my body numb. Or diabetes.

After a fantastic three-day hangover, I've not been the same sense, and apparently blew a fuse. My alcohol tolerance is now at absolute zero. Just the thought of having a Newcastle after a long day sounds as appealing as belly flopping into an empty pool.
Reply
:iconjohnercek:
johnercek Featured By Owner Nov 24, 2011
carbombs are my favorite shooters- awesome story, bummer on the ending. at least you have a cool story to tell when people ask why you don't drink anymore.
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:iconmatiassoto:
MatiasSoto Featured By Owner Nov 23, 2011  Professional Traditional Artist
Ouch, bet that was(were) some scary moments :P
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