This Kid Stays in the Game

There was something darn right inspirational about watching Celtics captain Paul Pierce recover from a knee injury in the 3rd quarter of the 1st game of the NBA playoffs last night. At the first half of the quarter, moments after his fall, his condition was so severe that he had to be carried to a wheelchair by his teammates because he couldn’t walk. After heroically returning to the game with a visibly painful knee sprain just a few minutes later, (and getting standing ovations from the crowd) Pierce went on to score consecutive field goals in a 20 second time span to give the Celtics the edge they needed to close out the 3rd quarter.

I couldn’t help but envy Piece and I know I’m not alone in this. It’s not because he’s a talented professional athlete who makes wads of cash and knows more fame that I could ever aspire to, but because in those defining moments after he fell, all he could think to do was get back in the game. He was able to go back and face what could have potentially been his, and his team’s, unraveling last night and turn it around. It’s no wonder athletes often have God complexes, especially basketball players. They get to reach such great heights (physically). When it comes down to it, how many of us get to feel the rush of such a feat in our day-to-days and have affirmed that what we do not only matters, but it counts?

Yesterday was a bizarre day in the world of Boston sports. The tension was brimming over the top all over the city-from Fenway Park to the old Boston Garden- and it nearly ignited. The Red Sox’s Coco Crisp went postal on some Tampa Bay pitcher and then Tampa Bay went nutz all over the Red Sox. “Havoc” and “mayhem” aren’t even apt words to describe what went down there. Some hours later, Paul Pierce was nearly down for the count. Drama was in the air. Would he return to the game? Would he play basketball again in this series? Or ever again?

By the time all this drama came my way, I had experienced my own fill for the day. Yesterday, I got laid off from a job I’d so grown to hate over the past 6 mos and yet even so, I devoted myself to so selflessly with very little in return. This sort of pattern of behavior was nothing new with this job. In fact, it was something my husband had called me on and I wondered about myself. Had I regressed into a pathetic, unempowered version of my former 20-something self?

About a year ago, I returned to a full-time professional gig. I’d returned to this “responsible” life after three years of a freelancing, somewhat swinging “career of one” existence only to find that all the qualities I’d obtained and the traits I valued most about myself were put to waste. I ended up as a gloried admin pushing calendars, schedules, deliverables, and learning I hated telling people how to live their professional lives and being a plain ol’ nudnick. In the end, I just wanted to be left to my own devices and work on my writing. As it so happens, it’s when I’d just started to embark on work more suited to my talents that my company decided to let me go.

I’ve learned through a lot of shitty “life experiences” that in our most powerless moments, when we feel stripped of whatever dignity we might have thought we possessed, that even in those moments of despair, we still have options. We can choose to behave honorably and/or tell people to go to hell and put it all out on the line. (I think you need to be the judge of which alternative makes the most sense for you. I’ve done both and found each to be mutually satisfying.)

As someone who graduated college and entered into the workforce during the dot-com era, I don’t usually hold to much faith in the companies, but I always put a premium on the quality people I meet along the way because I’ve found cultivating those relationships will help you in the short- and long-term. True to this, I made a point taking time yesterday to talk to each and every person whose relationship and kinship I valued. I didn’t say “bye” to these people. This isn’t because I’m delusional enough to think we’ll all start hanging out every Wednesday night or even that I’ll necessarily talk to them again, but right now I”m digging the open door policy.

I take away from this job and chapter in my life a few lessons learned and coincidentally in hindsight might have prevented me from making colossal job mistakes:

  1. When you go to interview, really absorb the office environment and ask yourself if this is a place you can see yourself coming to everyday. If it’s not, go out for a drink and congratulate yourself. You just saved yourself a ton of grief.
  2. Test out the dynamic with your potential manager to make sure the relationship is one that meets and supports your needs. You need to feel that you can connect with this person and have a direct relationship. If you can’t you need to move on for your sanity and for your family’s well-being.
  3. Work in a place where your work and your participation/contribution is appreciated (and not just monetarily). But yes, also monetarily.
  4. Make sure that management is your advocate. This way when they give you the boot, hopefully it’s designer couture, and not one of the Payless variety that’s acutely lodged into your asshole.
  5. Don’t work for a place that tells you that you need to pay your dues. It’s a BS line. You don’t. And if you feel that you do, don’t share this with people cause they will think you’re naive and take advantage of that.
  6. Use life as material. It is. So what if you’re not a writer and Project Greenlight scripts aren’t the sole subject of your wet dreams, there is so much to be learned about yourself from all your dislikes and likes related to job, career, people, etc – from your journey. Take a deep dive into that shit, smear it all over your face and tattoo it on your heart. Then scope out what you and want go after it, over and over again till you arrive at a place that feels right. Feelings are key.
  7. Trust that voice inside yourself. Sometimes you’ll feel like answering it and while you know it’s not a real person and others around you might give you dirty looks when you accidentally respond to its question, answer it. That voice knows you better than that scary, deranged bearded man that’s locked up in that cabin on the island on “Lost.”
  8. Know that even if you get laid off and you’re unemployed, you’re still employable. You’ve acquired a whole new set of skills, contacts, and resource pool to tap into. Ask those people you respect (former co-workers, friends, family, etc) what your strengths and weaknesses you possess and the best way to position yourself for your next chapter. Ask them for help with your resume too!
  9. Lastly, don’t lick your wounds for weeks. It’ll leave a pile of drool that will make you the subject of justified mockery. Move on.

3 Comments on “This Kid Stays in the Game”

  1. Megan says:

    excellent piece….well done….fabuloso. loved every sentence.

  2. […] been self-employed for a few months now working freelance. I’m actively looking to re-enter the workforce in the […]

  3. […] of what I worked on during the Summer months has now been published on MyPath, Manpower’s new online career destination. To read my stuff […]

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