Two years ago today…

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Look at the picture above… it’s all smiles and fun! It was taken at work two years ago today. I’m the lady on the far right, and whilst I’m outwardly smiling and apparently having a great time, the truth is, scratch the surface and I was actually crying inside, desperately sad, and very fearful of my future.

You see, 28 years, 4 months and 16 days earlier, I had started my first (and only) full time job as a clerk in a bank. I had made many life long friends over the years, several of whom you’ll see in these photos, and I’d enjoyed countless social events, dated several male colleagues (almost married one!), been the subject of scandal and rumour (oh, what fun!), cried tears of laughter so many times, and most important of all absolutely LOVED my work! There were only 6 weeks of my working life at the bank where I was unhappy and I think that’s quite remarkable. I used to listen to colleagues moaning and griping about work processes, bosses, her over there, him in that corner… but I rarely felt obliged to agree with them.

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So, on 3 November 2009 when we were summoned to a mass meeting to receive the announcement that our jobs were to be relocated to Birmingham and those staff who did not want to leave Essex for the West Midlands would be made redundant, quite simply, I was devastated.

My job, and everything that came with it, was my world. How would I cope? How would I start again? How would I manage without these amazing friends? Some of these people were my family – I spent more time with them than my family or my boyfriend, and had done so for almost 30 years.

There were so many unsettling thoughts and concerns. It seemed that those of us who had been there decades (as opposed to years) had the toughest time dealing with the news. People cried when the announcement was made. Even grown men cried. It was gut wrenching. Many people had families to support. I kept telling myself I was in a far better position financially than many of my colleagues. Single, no kids, no mortgage – just me to support – but still, it hurt, it scared me to the core. I had always felt safe and secure at the bank. My Dad used to say to me “It’s a good job – people will always need banks – you’ve got a job for life there!” Not so. How times change.

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Rather cruelly, we weren’t told our leaving dates until just a few months prior. Therefore, the unsettlement of not having a date to aim or plan for was torture at times. The pain and fear just seemed to drag on and on, but the way I dealt with it was to turn it in to hope. “It’s not over ’til it’s over…” I’d say to myself, hoping the ‘big wigs’ would realise in the nick of time what a huge mistake they were making by letting their most experienced staff go – “maybe they’ll reverse their plans, and keep their dynamite employees after all.”

As my leaving date grew closer I found myself wanting to spend every opportunity at work. If there was overtime being offered, I wanted to do it. Not for the money (although that was naturally a bonus) but because it gave me more time in the place I loved, doing the work I loved, with the people I loved. For several months I started work at 7am (instead of 9am) and left at 5pm. Rather than leave the building in my lunch hours, I often chose to sit at my desk and read. It felt like someone I dearly loved was dying and I wanted to be by their side until their last breath was drawn.

During my last month I remember thinking, “4 weeks to go…”, “3 weeks to go…”, “2 weeks to go…”, “1 week to go…”, then “5 days to go…,” and so on until I was counting down the hours. On my very last day, I wanted to stay as long as possible and couldn’t understand why others just wanted to get out as quickly as they could. I had anticipated leaving at 3pm, but in reality, very prematurely it was midday.

Leaving the building for the final time was harsh. I realised I’d never step through those revolving doors again, never see the inside of the lifts again, walk those stairs or use those toilets again, never call out “Morning Team!” with a big smile as I arrived for work… things I used to take for granted but would have given anything to do again (still would).

Stepping outside the office block was like stepping in to the world of the unknown. Many people felt as free as birds. Not me. I felt trapped in my ‘uncomfortable’ zone.

Waking up on my first morning of unemployment was incredibly unsettling. I had allowed myself six months of freedom to do anything I wanted until the end of summer and then I intended to look for a job. But from day 1 I felt consumed with guilt for not working. I couldn’t just relax and enjoy six months off – my brain and conscience weren’t having it! I chose not to ‘sign on’ at the Job Centre. I was entitled to benefits for 6 months but knew that if I signed on, I’d be accountable to them until I signed off. I needed complete freedom in order to get my head around the trauma which had just shaken my world off its axis.

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The wonders of Facebook allowed me windows in to the lives of my ex-colleagues. I watched as one after another found work. The initial jubilation and relief was noted in their statuses but after most of them started their new jobs, I either read or sensed their sadness. Very few were happy. It was, and still is, very sad to watch the disappointment and frustration evolve in their lives. I just want everyone to be happy.

I’ve applied for close to 150 jobs in 2 years and had about 8 interviews. I put it down to being in the older age bracket that most companies don’t want me. They see how long I worked at the bank and do the arithmetic. “She must be in her late 40s”, I’m sure more than a few have thought or said this. In their eyes I surely can’t be ambitious “at that age”? Only the youngsters have great ambition after all. I’ve not wanted anything particularly challenging – just something productive that keeps my mind active, and a nice bunch of people in a friendly office. They’re my only requirements. The job market is virtually dry.

I’ve kept focussed by writing, editing, publishing, and now marketing my novel THE MAN IN A HAYSTACK. It’s a huge achievement and one I promised my colleagues I’d see through to the end when I left the bank. I’m very proud. It’s not paying the bills though. I’d like to write for a living and a sequel is in progress however in reality it won’t bring in the money unless it turns in to a best seller or is picked up for a movie… dreaming is good, it’s positive and transfers in to hope, no matter how remote the possibility is.

I’m in the process of making enquiries and considering renting out my house in order to create an income. I never dreamt when the redundancy announcement was made 3.5 years ago that I’d be thinking of giving up my beloved home. Life has its twists and turns, ups and downs… part of me is excited for the future and wonders where it’s all leading. Another big part of me is fearful and wonders how much longer I will feel unsettled and have to keep drawing on my savings each month to survive.

Everything happens for a reason though! It does… truly! That is my moto in life. There are lessons to be learnt in everything that happens even if we can’t see the point at the time. All will become clear eventually and bad times do not last forever. Hope sees us through the toughest times and I have an abundance of it if anyone wants a hand out!

Until next time…

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14 thoughts on “Two years ago today…

  1. Hello Alice that was a very moving blog. I’ve never had a job I loved as you did yours, and it;s sad to realise how awful it is when it comes to an end. Let’s hope good things start happening soon. You’re charming and very attractive and a great writer so those positives will win you through in the end. BTW the way you wrote that seemed to me like the beginning of a really good book, so maybe you could use the experience to create more fiction?

    • Aaah thanks Geoff for ‘feeling’ that blog with me, and for your compliments. Some of my experience is already detailed in THE MAN IN A HAYSTACK, although only loosely, so yes it is material which could be used in future work. I’ve just followed your blog by the way! Looking forward to having a read when time allows. X

  2. You got me all emotional hun! Although I rarely think about those days, your blog took me right back there. We all hid behind laughter and jokes that fateful day. Can’t believe it’s been 2 years already xx

    • I’m missing everyone – can’t believe how quickly those 2 years have passed, just seems like yesterday for me. Everything is still so fresh in my mind. X

  3. Hang in there Alice. Like you said: everything happens for a reason and something good will come out of it. Keep on writing, because this blog post shows you have talent ! Never ever give up… keep your dream alive… something good just has to show up !

  4. G’day Alice. You should have left when I did. I invited you to travel Oz with me didn’t I? Hey I still have good memories of my seven years in the bank over twenty five years ago. It really shook me up and made me realise time had not stood still when you told me about Helen Martin. I had a lot of respect and time for Helen. She was a great character. I always intended to come back and say hello when I returned from Oz. Wish I had now. It was a massive out of character move for me resigning from my first job and leaving all the friends and aquaintances. I’m so glad I did as it opened up so many new opportunities and a very varied career. Guess what I opted for the redundancy package seven years ago now and just duck and dive doing what I like when I want. The last five in Oz. Your welcome to come and visit but be quick as I am considering returning to blighty for a while or travel in Asia.
    Hey writing a book is impressive. Whats it about?

    • Kev! Hehe Did you invite me to travel Oz? I don’t recall… Wow, ducking and diving Down Under, sounds FAB! You lucky duck. 🙂

      My book? Click on the book cover at the top of the left hand column and you’ll find out. It’s chick lit, you’ve been warned – FREE on Kindle this weekend if you want to download it? Haha! I’ll leave that thought with you. X

  5. Not something I can imagine as the longest I was ever in a job was 4 years – must be like losing a limb. I used to work with people in Cromer Jobcentre who’d been there all their working lives – it was a huge part of their lives. And yes, it’s so hard to find work once you’re over 45. Having said that, I started my last job when I was 45 – they chose me over the other possible candidate because I was not likely to want maternity leave! I know it’s a different thing altogether, though, when you’re nearly 50. Ah well, you never know how life will pan out … and perhaps life will move in a better direction!

    • Thanks for your comment Terry 🙂 I did actually find a job just before I left the bank and could have gone straight to it, but by then I was exhausted from the stress of the build up to redundancy that I just needed a complete break. They also wanted me to work much longer hours. I knew I’d crumble at the first hurdle so backed out and took a break. It was definitely the right thing to do at the time. Like you say, life could move in a whole different direction entirely. X

  6. Wow, this blog really touched me and it was so interesting reading your experiences. Good luck with your book writing. I must add it to my list of books to purchase. The trouble is, I’ve got so many now I can’t get through them all.
    I worked in Credit Management for 14 years and hated it. Then I took a career break and after having children I decided to do something completely different so I took a writing course.
    Since then I’ve learnt a lot about writing for businesses by attending seminars, scanning the Internet etc. I’ve also built up a lot of knowledge along the way by working for clients specialising in marketing and SEO. It means that I can now earn an income from copywriting, editing and proofreading, and I’m gradually building up a base of repeat clients. It’s an option you could always consider so let me know if you want me to recommend a couple of job bidding sites, which is where I started.
    It’s still not a full-time income although I really enjoy it. That’s one of the reasons that I write books in between, to supplement my income, but I also write books for enjoyment. I hope things will start picking up for you soon and wish you the best of luck.

    • Diane, thank you so much for taking the time to read my ramblings and reply too. That’s all very interesting and it was only yesterday I was wondering what options there are for freelance writing, etc. Yes, I’d love to know more about the bidding sites. Any info is greatly appreciated. Thank you! 🙂

      Also, I know what you mean about the Kindle queueing with books. Same here 🙂 I want to read them all and quickly, but time doesn’t allow it! Grrr… I’m reading two at the moment. Should stick to one at a time really. Might feel like I’m making some progress then. Thanks for stopping by! Visit again soon.

  7. Interested to read this post. I too was made redundant (about 3 years ago) and spent quite a bit of time afterwards concentrating on developing my writing – I started a Creative Writing MA amongst other things.

    There weren’t many who left at the same time as I did so I didn’t get that feeling of everything finishing, although I did go through similar experiences of it being the last time I’d walk through the doors, be in the office, etc. I’d only been in the office about 4 years and with the company for 9, though (btw I was amazed that you’d been working at your bank for 28 years).

    I’m currently finishing a novel which starts when a character is made redundant from a bank – and he goes on to sink his money into refurbishing his local pub into a gastropub – although, of course, there are plenty of trials and tribulations along the way. (If you’re interested in the background to the story then please have a read of my blog.)

    Good luck with getting things sorted in the future. As you say, novel writing isn’t the most lucrative career but it’s a great achievement to finish a book and it really gives you something to focus on.

    • Mike, I’m so sorry that you’ve been through something similar. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. It causes great trauma. It’s great though that we’ve both found a positive focus in our writing. I’m not sure what sort of state I’d be in if I didn’t have it to keep my brain active and alert. All the very best with your book. I will definitely check out your blog. Thanks for dropping in to mine and reading and commenting!

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