It’s Good To Be Alive

The longer this unemployment goes on, the more accepting of it I’m becoming. Not that I’m gaining comfort to be without work in my life, its more of a feeling of mild enlightenment and self discovery. Developing within me is a certain sense of “I’m making it through this”. Equally important, I’ve been forced to face some issues head on and work on solving them.

In the song ‘Darling Boy’, John Lennon sang “Life is what happens when your busy making other plans”. In a similar vein, while busy on the treadmill of life, quite a bit of unsolved issues accumulate. Working on Wall Street, that treadmill runs at a high speed. Five months after getting let go, I’ve found there is a lot of work I have to do — on myself.

The short-term assignment I’ve been working on came back online. This is a good thing. I had to get on a plane and go back to the client and prove my value. It felt good to grab it back but its still (and will remain) a slippery slope. Hopefully I have at least six more weeks of income rolling in from this assignment. The extra money will definitely help me get through 2019.

This project has reminded me about how hard it is to be “client facing”. You need to stay on top of the client at all times. The day I went back to work at their offices, I was pretty stressed out. I felt a little bit un-welcomed to a certain extent. It felt like I fucked something up really bad but could not quite put my finger on anything other than the holiday lull, which was largely out of my control. Looking back, I think it was just attributable to the general stress for everyone at the company with beginning of year planning and the higher up focus on expense cutting.

Sitting stressed, I suddenly noticed this placard laying near my cubical. It was about how to run a project effectively. Good communication throughout the process was the key insight. It felt like a suggestion from above. I immediately put it into effect and it did help me get things back on track. Now, a week and half later, I feel I’m in better shape on this thing. Things are not perfect and probably will never be due to the hairy nature of this and the personalities involved. I just need focus on maintaining the momentum. Or as a trader would say, “keep the momo”. The energy I’m getting from doing good work is helping me revive my shaky confidence a bit.

Looking back, this whole incident of almost getting cut from the project has led me to pay attention to communications. When everything is working fine and your confident and gainfully employed, its easy to begin easing up in communications with others. Responding a couple days late seems to be shrugged off a bit … “oh, he’s just busy”. Impulsive outbursts seem to be brushed aside. Therefore, when in this position, I didn’t put much thought into these things.

Fast forward however to post-job loss. The lazy communication habits I formed have come to haunt me. I realized from the project, this is definitely an area I could have performed better on. I’ve now realized that when you have a questionable background — when you are unproven or just not trusted for some reason — you walk on a tightrope with every communication. Its necessary to step very carefully with each word. Any slip up seems to lead to your quick dismissal, your slip off the tight rope. Its almost as if people around you are thinking “A ha! I don’t think this guy is credible.”

If the counterparty in the communication lacks trust in you and knows you are having career issues, its like walking that tightrope in the dark in high winds. There is a lot of pressure to be accurate, concise and trustworthy. I’m finding that any slip up leads to becoming the recipient of poor communications back. Over the last five months, I’ve been startled by how quick people are to dismiss me on my slightest “slip up”. From relatives not calling / emailing me back to years-long friends suddenly avoiding me — I’ve definitely noticed of late a damaging effect to my less than perfect communication skills.

I’ve done some reading and even some speaking to others about this. I’m finding its quite common and its just human nature. It helped to use empathy to put myself in others shoes. It made me recount similar occasions where I was very busy with life and a friend that seemed to be having a lot of issues seemed like too much of a burden for the investment of time. I even recall a couple occasions in the past where I merely heard about a person’s hardship and wondered to myself how much was self-inflicted and whether the friendship was one to maintain (I always did — I’m very accepting and do care about the betterment of others). Unfortunately, I definitely feel that I’ve been fired from a few friendships lately. Its ok though.

Life is similar to the financial markets. When there has not been a recession in awhile, it can often lead to build up of “excesses” in the system. Although recessions suck and make a lot of people temporarily miserable, in the end, they do clean up the system and allow for more caution going forward. Recessions shore up the lose ends and reallocate resources to a more reasonable use. When fired, you go through your own personal recession. At some point you need to focus on your faults, assess just how bad the issue is and start fixing it.

As this project is back online, I am once again doing the Tuesday – Thursday in Chicago and staying with my folks. I am enjoying spending a lot of time with them, however, this morning I woke up half way through the night filled with stress. I had anxiety about getting the financial models done for this client this week and general anxiety about what to do once the project ends. Breaking through the dark silence of my worrying mind, at 5am, my alarm clock popped on. I don’t remember ever setting it. Hmmmm…,

My old favorite rock station showed up on the digital dial. I found XRT as a grammer school student and it fueled the background to my days throughout the formative high school years, through college, the first leg of my career in Chicago and my grad school years. I had almost forgotten it existed.

Lynn Bramer came on the air. He opened his program with “It’s a dark, icy cold work day morning here in Chicago. Its these type of days that its hard to get out from under the warm covers and head to work. To help you out …. two weeks from now, first day of pitching camp … yes, baseball!” Good old Lynn. He immediately injected positivity into my mind.

Every day he is on the air, Lynn at some point will say “you know what … its good to be alive.” Each time I heard that growing up, it was a gentle reminder to get over the worries and enjoy life. I have not heard his coin phrase yet this morning as I sit listening to good tunes writing this, but perhaps this morning I don’t need to hear it. I know it already.


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