Friday, 10 September 2010

The end of redundancy

Sometimes it may seem worrying that one feels ambivalent about so many things. However, when you think that nothing is usually either wholly good or wholly bad, ambivalence seems only natural.

I’ve now completed two days in a new job. Since it’s in London and it’s going to be a while before we can move, I’m having to do an hour and twenty minutes each way by train, plus travelling at each end. As I want to walk the dog before I go, I have to be up at 5:00 to be sure to catch the 6:53 train. After two years of living a five-minute car ride or eight-minute cycle ride from work, this represents something of a shock to the system.

That’s the downside of finding work again.

The upside is no longer being unemployed. It’s strange how bad I felt about being out of work. Funnily enough, it was when walking the dog that I found it most painful. Frequently, I’d meet people out with their own dogs. If it was early, I’d realise they were getting the walking done before going to work, which gave me an unpleasant sense of exclusion from the world of gainful employment. If it was late, and I got a pleasant greeting from the pensioners, housewives or househusbands, I felt bad about being among them with no legitimate reason.

Either way, I felt bad about it. The luxury of time off was spoiled by the feelings that go with redundancy. After all, ‘redundant’ seems such an awful expression: it suggests that you were surplus to requirements, which doesn’t do a lot for your self-esteem.

Now of course I meet dog walkers at half past five in the morning, and get the warm glow of shared solidarity between people who are not just working but having to get out there on a limb in order to do their work. You know, the kind of insufferable types whose very behaviour seems to be saying ‘I really have to earn my salary. What about you?’

At core, my problem was all to do with the difference between heart and mind. In my mind, I was sure I wouldn’t be out of work long. Unfortunately, I had no idea where a new job was going to come from, so my heart was frequently subject to attacks of anxiety – even, occasionally, at 2:00 in the morning, of panic.

In my heart, I felt terrible about having been regarded as dispensable. In my mind, of course, I’ve always known that no-one in a company is indispensable, that I was no more essential than anyone else. I knew too that being made redundant wasn’t my fault, but simply the response to a financial problem. In fact, the wrong response, as it happens, in my not particularly humble view.

But in my heart I knew that perhaps I was at least in part to blame. ‘Telling the truth to power’ is always presented as a virtue – I remember an episode of The West Wing when one character asks another, ‘do you have what it takes to tell the truth to power?’ Well, I’ve always gone out of my way to tell the truth to power. The trouble arises when power doesn’t agree that what you’re saying is the truth, or recognises the truth but just feels uncomfortable about it. In which case insisting on your point of view, as I do, doesn’t make you courageous or principled, just a pain in the backside. The kind of irritation that power would far rather be shot of.

Teach me to believe anything I hear in a soap.

Anyway, feeling that perhaps I’d brought my own misfortune on my own head didn’t make me feel any better about it.

You can be absolutely sure that getting up at five and travelling four hours a day is a small price to be free of all that.

1 comment:

Pino Urbani said...

Caro amico eccellente David,

Some years ago I had to do an hour and thirty minutes each way by train plus a walk of twenty minutes at one end. At the beginning I was thinking < This is a "disaster": three hours and forty minutes to go at work ! >.
But only few days later I started to appreciate this travelling time. It was "my time". I mean a time only for me, reading books and newspapers, writing down my thoughts, meeting new people, nice people, interesting people. And the most important thing: when I was back at home, I was "completely disconnected" from the work, I was "totally available" for my family.
You will see. David, you will discover a special constructive time.
Ciao, Pino.