2008 wrap-up

It’s time for the inescapable recap of what was for me, like for so many, a year of jolts and changes.

The year started relatively well; I was one of the only people at my company to get a bonus despite lean times, for having fully achieved my 2007 objectives. The first few months of the year included some very good, treasured moments in my personal life: family, friends, hobbies. They also included physical therapy for a torn meniscus, which happily seem to have taken care of the problem.

I felt we were doing great with Emerald City Gamefest, with ConQuest NW, with Dragonflight, with Go Play NW, and so many activities. I got into some of the best role-playing games in years, including an episode of Urchin and a Mythic Russia/HeroQuest/The Red Star mini-series; I tried a dozen new systems, made new friends, improved existing friendships. Then the bottom fell out.

May 2008 marks the end of another phase of my life. In short, I lost my father; and it was the end of nine years in the same job, city, and even house. What was really a mess was that the loss of my job and the death of my father happened within four days. It was fortunate that I had started my job search immediately and had registered for unemployment benefits; when the call came from my brother, I dropped everything and flew out to Canada. I’ve already talked about the funeral in other posts and I think I will leave it at that. Not a fun time.

In retrospect, being laid off should have been no surprise at all. Work had been awfully sparse since I had returned from my last vacation at the end of September 2007. In October 2007, I had been pursued very actively by a potential employer, so I had discussed the prospects with my CEO and been assured my place was secure. Looking back, the intelligent thing to do would have been to start an active search, but I didn’t.

On the plus side, I had copies of of my resume and my contact list, but they were a few months old at the time I was laid off. I had also, thankfully, been introduced to LinkedIn by early in 2008, and had started building an online network even though I was not looking for a new job.

My friend had decided to leave her current employer, which looked to be in unhealthy financial shape, so we shared information about job postings, good sources of information, job search tools, etc. Between LinkedIn, JibberJobber and my slightly aged but still useful files, I reconstructed my resume and contact database, better than before. It was kind of sweet to end up with a cleaned up, updated network despite the Great File Eff-Up. Don’t want to give me my files? never mind, I’ll do you one better.

During the job search process, I brushed up on several skills and reconsidered the whole picture: my expectations, competences, habits, assets, etc. Looking for work is a chore, and I was determined that going through that chore would get me more than a new desk to do the same thing from. I’ve been making efforts to incorporate into my work habits what I learned from the job search process.

On the personal front, it was very hard to move away from so many friends. Our schedule in Seattle was very full with activities and we were blessed with many friends. I’m grateful for the Internet; e-mail, Facebook, LiveJournal and Skype have helped us stay in touch but it’s not the same as being there. This is also the year where I split my personal and professional blogs and started using WordPress for the latter. I replaced a lot of my previous face-to-face activities with more online activities.

Yet moving back to Humboldt County was a treat. Leaving this place back in 1999 had been heart-breaking; it’s one of the most beautiful and interesting places I know. But I wonder how long it will take us to make friends again. People here are friendly and helpful, so I have hope. This also gave us a chance to reconnect with some of our friends in the Bay Area, friends we had not seen in three or four years.

In 2008 I’ve learned (from least personal to most) that:

  • Even after years of happy employment, I can’t fully trust an employer. I should always be ready to scramble for a new job.
  • Employment is a business relationship. It’s good to be pleasant, chummy, cheerful, etc., but it should not be confused with anything more. When you’re voted off the island, the niceness stops instantly.
  • My career is not my job. I should plan for things I want to do, learn, and accomplish for myself as part of my career — not just as needed for a specific job.
  • I have value as a professional and there are many opportunities open, but I have to pick a direction.
  • Even I can learn to “network”.
  • I’m not good at managing personal finances and I need to improve quickly if I don’t want to be destitute at then end of my career.
  • Sometimes, I don’t know best — I have to take advice and help from the pros.
  • My parents left me a treasure trove of good advice, inspiration and examples, but it’s really the mix of the two, mom and dad both, that makes me strong.
  • My family and friends are shelter and support in times of trouble.
  • My husband is my best friend and the greatest source of joy in my life.

Finally, 2008 also gave me hope on another scale. It’s been a very bad year around the world on most fronts: political, human, economic, environmental, social. But it’s also the year when American voters decided they needed change. As a non-citizen, I can only observe and cheer or deplore; I can’t vote (though I pay taxes and, if I wanted, could serve in the military…) The last eight years have been extremely bad for this country and for the world. I’m not sure whether the average American realizes just how badly their country has been hurt by its own administration. I can only hope that voters will not immediately go back to apathy but will continue to demand change.

Good luck to us all for the future, in 2009 and beyond.

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