I’m a couple weeks into retirement, and have had enough time to both “decompress”, as well as reflect back upon how – at age 53 – Paula and I decided it was time for me to quit a lucrative job; a job that provided us with not only a good income, but also a great lifestyle for the past seven years. (I sold food to large accounts and distributors) To be honest, I’d not been happy at the job for the past few years – and like many other folks, had hoped a couple weeks away sippin’ cocktails and hanging out on the beach would numb me enough to tough it out for another year. So with that in mind, away we went in June; and all in all, we had a grand time.
Arriving back home I smiled and thought about the relaxing vacation we’d just returned from. Then, as any “good” employee returning home from a fortnight away would do, (and with the first of three loads of laundry in the washing machine) I logged onto Outlook and sat back as the two-week backlog of work-related emails appeared on the screen, arriving in clumps of ten or twelve at a time. By the time it was done, 233; no, make that 243 emails had downloaded; so I breathed a deep sigh and began to open them, beginning with the oldest ones first.
Many of the emails seemed repetitive, redundant and pointless, which wasn’t totally surprising since this is a common theme in many businesses. However, I’m not sure if it was because I was reading all of them all at once, but I wasn’t ready for what happened next; it seemed that the more emails I read, the more irritated I became – not just at them, but the whole system that supports this kind of gibberish going back and forth. My irritation soon turned to anger, and I felt my blood beginning to boil; and then – as it became obvious that much of what I was reading would require my follow up – my anger turned to physical anxiety, and I became extremely stressed out over the massive task load growing before me! Seriously? I was home less than a day, and already felt the need to “get away from it all” again… WTF was going on?!
Needing to express myself, I logged onto my (personal) Mac, where for the next hour I purged all my work-related anger into a blog post. Here’s a wee bit of what I wrote:
June 27th, 2014: “Full Disclosure – I’m feeling kind of depressed right now; and as much as I’d like to believe it’s due to the “Post-Mexican” blues, (Considering one short day ago I was in Bucerias on the beach sipping unlimited Dos Equis) if I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that it’s not because of this, but that I’ve become very unhappy in my job as of late. Coming home after two glorious weeks at at a sun-drenched all inclusive resort to the same problems I left behind makes the whole thing seem like it never happened, which sucks big time”.
I continued to write about how over the seven years I’d been doing it, the job had changed dramatically; but mostly, I highlighted both where and with whom I felt the problems lay, and my frustration with the whole deal. To be honest, I was pretty angry and needed to vent, so I wound up writing some unpleasant and negative stuff.
Then something interesting happened: I turned my attention away from the company itself, and asked myself a more important question: How could I continue to work in an industry that – from a social standpoint – goes against so much of what I believe in? And with this epiphany, one thing became crystal clear to me: It was time for a change.
For those not in the loop, here’s the deal: The food service industry in North America is so rife with waste it’s absolutely out of control. The amount of money spent on creating, producing, packaging and promoting “New and improved” versions of the same basic 30 items is staggering, which in turn leads enormous pressures being put on sales people to sell, sell, sell stuff that nobody needs or cares about. I mean seriously, how many types of chocolate cake, croutons, pasta shapes or chicken fingers does our society need? The number of different versions of these items is insane – and totally unnecessary – for sure. However, as I spilled my guts about the madness of the foodservice industry, something else came to light. As it turned out, maybe – just maybe – it wasn’t the industry that had changed so much, as it was ME who had changed. I was experiencing a bout of cognitive dissidence, and I wasn’t enjoying it one bit. Here’s what I wrote:
“To be fair, I’m not the same person I was seven years ago. Traveling the world, visiting poor countries and cultures, learning simplistic living skills to pay off debt, raising a disabled son, putting my energies into growing “Who I am” as a person, etc. – none of these line up with the greedy, wasteful, consumeristic life that is the foodservice industry.
For example, I’m shocked by the amount of food that gets thrown away at the end of a major food show – easily over $40,000 worth of product. When the bell tolls and the show is over, garbages overflow from 200+ vendors dumping various products into them, everything from cakes to cookies to burgers to chicken to produce to – you get the idea. It all happens under the watchful eye of a health inspector who declared that since the items have been open for eight hours, they are no longer fit for consumption – so in the trash it all goes.
In this era of mass poverty and Food Banks with bare shelves, it’s a bizarre sight to see so much food unnecessarily go to waste whilst vendors rush off to redeem two free drink tickets from the host bar. But this behaviour is the status quo, and will never stop as long as there are more “New and Improved” chicken nuggets or purple ketchups on the horizon. The poverty I’ve personally witnessed – both at home and abroad – makes this whole industry (and it’s practices) seem totally insane and out of touch with reality”
However, despite how dysfunctional things appeared at my job, I knew that airing my personal feelings about them on the blog would have been totally inappropriate; because whether true or not, some things should never be put out for public consumption, especially when they are unflattering to others. To be honest, I now realize that if I HAD published it, it wouldn’t have painted the author in a very positive light either. So other than the snippets above, the bulk of the post remains (and always will remain) unpublished.
When I wrote these things back in June, I already had an “Exit Strategy” in place, but at the time it included me working at least another year to bank some cash; however with this new revelation, the seed of discontent for my job was firmly planted, and had already germinated. In other words, I began to lose steam for my job, and fast. My tolerance for routine work-related tasks quickly wore thin, and took my patience along for the ride. Then, a sign from the universe appeared (okay, more like a couple of unpleasant emails from my bosses) and the message became crystal clear: The time for change was now; as in like, RIGHT NOW, TODAY. I glanced at the calendar and realized that less than three months earlier, we were enjoying our Mexican vacation.
I consulted with Paula, and we both agreed that (mostly due to some good planning and a tiny bit of financial wrangling) I could easily quit work without too much worry about money. Oh sure, we’d probably eat less steak and more hamburger for a while, but we both felt the trade off would be worth it. And with that agreed upon, I put in my notice, and then quietly worked one final month of work; a month spend unconcerned with the daily annoyances that had been a part of my life for seven years. That was fourteen days ago, and I haven’t looked back since.
It turned out that knowing my time “on the job” was coming to an end was very good for my emotional well being. Not stressing about things that were out of my control (i.e. work issues or difficult customers) gave me a sense of calm – a calm that, funnily enough, has allowed me to recently look back, and take time to be grateful for the many good things the job gave me. Because the truth is this: As bad as it got towards the end, there was a lot of good that preceded that final, difficult period; good that made life for both me and my family, a lot easier. And for all of these things, I’ll forever be grateful.
Reflecting Back On All The Good Stuff
In the end, I believe I left the company on a good note; and even though the time came to part ways, I truly believe both parties are better off for having been intertwined these past seven years. So out of respect for that, I thought I’d make a list to remind myself that – while the job wasn’t always perfect, it was far from awful – and recognize all the good things it brought to my life. Here’s the list:
- The complete freedom of schedule to do what I needed to, when I needed to do it
- A “free” week of holidays every Christmas – always very nice!
- It paid for all the gas in my van – at $100 per week sometimes, this was an awesome perk
- We got lots of free samples which kept my food budget in line
- Dental coverage – never having to pay for cleanings and root canals is good!
- I met lots of cool people, and made some good friends
- Helped me afford to travel the world
- Got to eat in some nice restaurants, and drink a wee bit too much at times!
- Got to go to Vegas on the job one time – Woo Hoo!
- Was able to expense a lot of things (phone, internet) which saved me $$
- Overall, it provided us with a pretty exceptional lifestyle
But above all, there are TWO THINGS I’m SUPER-GRATEFUL FOR that my job of the past seven years provided:
- Three weeks before I started, Paula and I bought our condo for $240,000.00, and last month – partially because of this job – we paid it off in full. The job helped turn us from “mortgage owners” into “home owners”
- Most of all, the job gave me flexibility when Tristan needed me for a myriad of reasons; be it to stay home with him on Pro-D days, travelling to Vancouver during surgeries and doctors appointments, or simply picking him up after school every day; Inform was always very good and accommodating about this, and for this I’m most grateful of all
So as one chapter of my life ends, another begins. As I’ve tried to illustrate here, overall it’s been a good run, but with a change in both my lifestyle and my values, it’s time for me to move on. The good news is that reflecting on the big picture has allowed me to look back and remember all the “good stuff” it brought to our lives; and with that said, there’s only one thing left for me to say to my ex-employer…
Oh, and that “Fish” has left the building.