Two weeks ago, I received a phone call from my employer. I heard something like, “Your services are no longer needed.” To which I casually replied, “Okay, I understand.”
It was my first forced exit. In the past, I’d strategically quit. Always as part of some well-orchestrated plan to do bigger and better things. This was different. I had no plan. I had no choice. Someone made the decision for me.
My reaction caught me off-guard. I was calm. No indignation. No befuddlement. Instead, I felt a warmth, slowly building inside me as I half-listened to the human resource representative’s explanation. I would later identify this warmth as joy.
Joy? Well, perhaps I need to unpack a few things for you.
Back in August of 2018, I was hired on as part of a team charged with implementing change. We were brought in to introduce new tech, new strategies, a new architecture, and a new paradigm of software development.
Overall, the job seemed great. The work was challenging, I had all the tools I could want, I enjoyed my co-workers, and I was shielded from the management battles that tend to make me grumpy. Despite a few minor issues with HR and IT, I began to wonder if it was the best software engineering job I’d ever had! But behind the sunshine and lollipops, dark clouds were building.
At first, most of the company seemed receptive to change, and at times, euphoric about the possibilities. However, a couple of key employees remained skeptical, and a few months ago, those people made it clear that our support was not unanimous.
After a change in management, we were given an opportunity to demo the product we’d been building. My team was pretty happy with our progress and delighted in the chance to show off the great things we’d accomplished. As we confidently strolled through the highlights, we were blind-sided by a gritty reception. The comments were something along the lines of…
I expected this to look better…What have you been doing this whole time?…I don’t want hear anymore about infrastrucutre, I want to see progress!
That meeting was brutal and had a bigger impact on me than I realized at the time. Over the next few months, my enthusiasm began to wane as side projects captured more of my attention. I still enjoyed the work, but I didn’t have the passion I had when I first started there. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was ready to leave.
Last year I left a company to step out on my own as a consultant. Even though that foyer into self-employment only lasted a couple of months, I felt joy. I had escaped from corporate prison, free to make my own schedule and do things exactly how I wanted. I had given myself the gift of freedom. This time around, freedom was gifted to me. A freedom I didn’t even know I wanted.
So now I feel joy. A different joy. The joy of unexpected freedom.