Making a living in the industrialized world often takes the form of providing labor for an organization writing you checks in regular intervals that roughly reflect the value they believe your work brings to the organization. Unfortunately, as valuable as your work might be sometimes the money well runs dry, which means positions must be cut and heads must be lost. In a nutshell this is what the CEO of a health and wellness agency broke to his emotionally paralyzed group of employees as they gazed back at him with dejected stares during the company meeting yesterday. I was among that group, having worked full-time for this agency as a junior level interaction designer for the past eleven months.
When the CEO warned that thirteen positions “will be eliminated immediately,” I was certain that included my position due to the lack of work I had been resourced for in each of the previous two weeks. Despite words of optimism from coworkers during those two weeks whenever I half jokingly hinted I could soon be laid off, my pessimism prevailed and I spent those two weeks preparing both my résumé and emotions for life after this company. As early as two weeks before “Layoff Day” I even imagined my manager walking me into one of the conference rooms to deliver the news. This exact walk became a reality on Layoff Day the moment I took a seat at my desk following the company meeting. There my manager and I joined the SVP of human resources who confirmed my suspicion that I was among the layoffs.
What next? Where do I go from here? On one hand I have a renewed sense of freedom. On the other hand there is uncertainty and I even told a coworker during a lunch walk two weeks before my release that my future is uncertain.
The renewed sense of freedom comes from no longer being strongly tied down to anyone or anything. I no longer need to report to work, I can get out of my lease at the drop of a hat, I have enough money saved to cover living expenses for a reasonably comfortable period of time, I now have time to take a vacation of basically any kind, and I’m not bogged down by any strong emotional attachments such as a girlfriend or immediate family. And I am still in my 20s.
But then there is that uncertainty. Both physically and emotionally, where will I be a week from now? A month from now? In a year? What do I want out of life? What kind of job do I want? I know I want something with a creative outlet, but that can be anything from digital design to environmental design such as architecture and urban planning. What will ultimately be my greatest contribution to the world? What kind of living situation do I want? Living in an urban shoebox or traveling the world with a backpack appeal to the part of me that craves culture, but living in a beach house or a house in the woods appeal to the part of me that seeks serenity. And where do I want this permanent residence? Do I want a permanent residence? San Francisco is my favorite city in the world but many other cities throughout the world also interest me, especially now that I’m not strongly tied to one.
I’m at a pivotal point in my life where I could potentially end up anywhere in the world doing anything. In my late 20s, I’m old enough to be respected in the professional world and mature enough to avoid most teenager mistakes while being young enough to take advantage of whatever adventures life has to offer no matter the physical demand. Emotionally, my life is a perpetual battle between loneliness and independence, and for my sanity I will hopefully reconcile that in the next chapter of my life.
I’m proud of what I learned and accomplished during the past year at this agency. Thanks to a family of very experienced and knowledgeable coworkers I learned what “design” really means. I played a role in over twenty different app and website projects, many of which have been launched and are available to the public. On a broader level, I am glad to have accomplished many bucket list items throughout the past year: getting my foot into the design industry, becoming financially independent, relocating to my favorite city in the world, reconnecting with friends from college, getting back into competitive organized sports, traveling to Europe, and meeting many wonderful people along the way.
Some of those wonderful people include coworkers who came by my desk yesterday to say their somber goodbyes. They wondered why in the midst of a slew of layoffs and why as a casualty I was still buried deep within a photoshop file converting a desktop web design into a mobile web design. I was free to leave hours earlier the moment I was delivered the news of my layoff, so why stay to help further a project I will never personally see to fruition?
I’m a designer.