Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Six Years

November 4th, 2011 is a date that will always stick with me. It marks the day I was told that my services would no longer be needed by WB Games, Inc. at Monolith/WB Games.

The day had started like any other Friday, with me dragging into work after the quick drive from my condo near Lake Washington, anticipating another long day as pre-production on Monolith’s next bit title slowly came together. An odd email from HR telling me that I hadn’t yet filled out my annual health insurance enrollment (I had) was dismissed as a paperwork error, one of those things endemic to large soulless multinational corporations. The surprise urgent, all-hands mandatory meeting could not so easily be ignored.
Three weeks prior to the end. Fat, dumb, and happy,
enjoying the team's victory lap celebration as
Lord of the Rings: War in the North finally shipped.

I knew what was coming. But I’d dodged so many of these layoffs over the years, that I thought I was bulletproof. It was always a miserable day to say goodbye to friends and comrades, start sending out LinkedIn requests and updating email contacts, but at the end of the day I always came out unscathed. We filed back to our desks to await the emails announcing who was staying and who was going. But this bullet wasn’t one I could dodge. After seven and a half years at a company that I had convinced myself I could somehow stay with for decades, my employment was at an end. It was one of the worst days of my life as my cozy, well ordered career plan tumbled down around my ears in an instant.

Except, that whole plan was a lie, built on a shifting foundation of quicksand. My world had been slowly falling apart for years. We were deep in debt. I was practically wedded to the harsh mistress of overtime, which was the only thing keeping us financially afloat. Our cozy two-bedroom condo was unsellable after the housing crash, but also unlivable in the long term for a family of six. My mental health was slipping from too many nights of minimal sleep, and my fitness, well, let’s just say I wasn’t headed in a good direction there either.

But just like that, with a corporate decision made that I was expendable, we could no longer sustain even the illusion that everything was okay. It turned out to be one of the best days of my life.
Of course, recovery wasn’t an instant process. In the span of almost four years (November 2011 – October 2015) we moved four times. I changed jobs four times too (six counting contractor agency changes). Twice more I’d get surprise layoff notices as studios reduced headcount. The condo got foreclosed on. We defaulted on a few credit cards. I’m an incredibly stubborn, hard-headed person sometimes, but I finally gave up on game development after fourteen years.
I had a lot of fun at Monolith, and sometimes I miss it. But
having the time to spend regular evenings with this crew
is well worth all the trouble.

We moved to South Dakota. I took a job in the Financial Technology sector, doing work similar to what I’d done for most of my career, but with better pay, and sane hours. I bought a motorcycle and started getting in shape. After two years of stability, we decided to commit to this state and buy a house.

Which brings me to now. Six years after a layoff shattered my world and forced me out of my illusory comfort zone, both my family and I are happier, healthier, and better off financially than we were. Two years into my stint at my current employer, maybe this will be the place I make thirty years at. If not though, if I’ve learned one thing from the last six years, it’s that through perseverance, with the help of family and friends who stand by your side, and by the grace of God, all things are possible. Life is never a straight line, but as a motorcycle rider, we learn to flow with the curves and enjoy the road’s journey, not fight for a single direction path where none exists. Not all worst days can become best days, but turning points aren’t things to be feared. In via praemium sum est – The journey is its own reward

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