How you leave is how you will enter

Nov 01, 2008 by Tony Chung in Personality, Philosophy

Leaving a job is hard, regardless of the one making the decision. Whether the choice was mine or the company’s didn’t stop me from the feelings of loss, and the ensuing depression that paralyzed me for a couple of days before I could move forward.

When I started working on contract, I knew I was signed for only a six-month term. I was fortunate to have been extended twice, but had my second extension cut short, because, as the expression goes, “When the economy goes south, the contractors contract.” This experience made me realize that even though most Technical Communications departments worked as a team, writers are still considered a commodity.

When my manager took me aside to tell me the bad news, I kept myself together. I understood how the economy affected the organization. Let’s face it, people who can’t afford to eat don’t buy stock. Then we discussed my next steps, and what I needed to hand off before I left. The bonus was that I had three weeks to finish my final project, a web-grid using ExtJS. After I sterilize the data, I will be able to show the world!

The next three weeks went by like a blur. People I hadn’t spoken with in months started calling and sending me instant messages out of the blue, and asked if I was available to take on some contract work. My favourite graphic designer sent the initial files for four sites she wants me to code. Other contacts asked to book my time. I became available for lunch. By the end of the three weeks I had all but landed a new job.

Suddenly, I became the busiest unemployed person on the planet, and it felt good to be so high in demand. But even with all these accolades, I still suffered the grief of a lost job. My brave face was a front intended to protect me from the ensuing depression, but I still couldn’t escape. It paralyzed me for a couple of days. Then I remembered that even when I left a job of my own accord, I felt similar feelings that I brought with me into my new job.

When I decided to end my (long) career in health care purchasing, I sat down with my director and explained that he was the most supportive of all the management I had served. He believed in me, mentored me, challenged me, and provided me with opportunities to excel. Even so, I was entertaining an offer for a new job and submitted my notice.

On my last day of work, as I walked up the steps from the Skytrain station to my office, the opening chords of downhere’s song, Surrender played on my MP3 player. (I link to a search results page instead of a direct file, because there is no telling how long any media files would last on the Internet due to draconian copyright policies).

At that point I recalled a favourite saying of David Koop, the pastor of Coastal Church in Vancouver: “How you leave is how you will enter.” Leaving in a strong frame of mind helps you to enter the next opportunity in a strong frame of mind. Alternatively, leaving feeling bitter and resentful leads you to… you know. The baggage you carry out the door with you follows you into your next opportunity.

While leaving my job to move to a new job brought feelings of uncertainty, leaving a job in my newly-chosen field of Technical Communication for a second time was especially hard. The managers and staff I worked with at both companies assured me that my job loss was never about my performance, and offered to give me glowing recommendations in my hunt for new work. Still, the situation was unfair. Nobody prepared me to be released from a job when I was doing well, and this was the case both times.

It would be easy to feel bitter at the apparent injustice of the situation, except that my faith in God, who provides every good and perfect gift, has already prepared me for my next assignment. And my next assignment for me. I know that I need to rely on His strength in my times of weakness. And there have been many times. Several times. Per day.

In How To Win Friends And Influence People, Dale Carnegie told a story of a young man who moved from city to city in search of a better life. Every place he went he encountered the same difficulties with people and situations as the place before, which forced him to move on. He eventually received a letter from his father that told him, no matter how far he traveled, he could never escape from the cause of his discontent—himself.

So I’m back to putting on that brave face I had two weeks ago, when I completed my work, packed my things, and walked out the door. Only this time, I know that it’s not just for show. I  have a deep trust that God is carrying me through to the next opportunity. As downhere sings in their song, Surrender, “I’m in a constant free fall, when I’m following You….”