There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
I’ve been trying to decide how to put this, and I think the simplest way is best: I am very pleased to announce that Charles River Laboratories eliminated my position today and that effective immediately my job there has been terminated. “Why,” you may be thinking, “is Katie happy about this employment disaster?!”
I am happy because for the last month I planned to give my 2 weeks’ notice on Tuesday, October 13. Why? Because I found an internship with the Bicycle Alliance of Washington (BAW) — they offered me the position starting January 11, 2010 — and after that Ian and I decided that my father-in-law and I would drive back with to Seattle with a U-Haul of our stuff starting October 30. We chose the timing to avoid snow on the roads and because Charles River was moving me into a position I did not want. All my coworkers, scientists and writers, were miserable at the change and we all agreed that it would spell disaster for the quality and timeliness of our reports; at least one other writer expressed envy that I was being laid off. Not long after Ian and I decided on this plan, I informed my boss of the bare bones: the date I would give notice, my last day at CRL, and why I was quitting (excluding the date).
So when I went into my boss’ office yesterday morning, all primed to give my notice, I was somewhat surprised when she told me to come in and shut the door. My surprise then, however, was almost immediately far surpassed by my surprise when she told me that Charles River Laboratories Preclinical Services, Massachusetts was having layoffs the next day and that she had put my name on the To Be Axed list. She explained that management had told her to pick four people from our group, and that since I was already leaving, she decided to add me to the list. I really appreciate this action from my boss, because now I get 5 weeks of severance pay (yes, CRL is really generous — didn’t you notice?) and can apply for unemployment until my AmeriCorps internship with the BAW starts in January.
In fact, this is such perfect timing, I can only attribute it to God. What are the odds that CRL would decide to have layoffs not just in the same week I plan on giving my notice, but within a day? That’s absurdly unlikely. Plus, I almost didn’t tell my boss ahead of time, but because I did, I now get the positive benefits of being laid off instead of just quitting. And, finally, this week has been overwhelmingly stressful and hectic: Packing the apartment up for our move back to Seattle, preparing for my LCI seminar (I am getting heartily sick of everything bike-related, which I would previously have thought impossible), and working full-time this week was about to put me over the edge. Now I have all day today, all day Thursday, and most of Friday to prepare for my LCI seminar and pack. Excellent.
Here are some details of the layoff, for those who are interested. Details here. Yesterday after my boss told me I would be laid off, I looked around my cube. When I moved my cube back in August, I took most of my personal stuff home, leaving a sheen of things to make it clear I was invested in the job. This meant that, once I collected everything from my cube, I had about 1 Xtracycl-sized load of remaining personal items to take home. I brought nearly all of it down to my bike room yesterday evening when I left for the day, and this morning I packed everything in the bike room onto my Xtracycle. That left a lamp, three hangers, a pair of shoes, a hair brush, and deodorant for me to collect from my cube when the watchdog came to take me to HR. On the way to my cube, I returned two fans I had borrowed to dry my wet bike clothes off and I said goodbye to everybody I cared about. I collected a number of email addresses, and got lots of hugs and goodbyes, which was really nice. Leaving isn’t so bad; I just didn’t want to leave without saying goodbye.
It took me an hour to ride to work this morning. Aside from the whole normal sub-freezing slowdown and the anti-zippiness of riding the Xtracycle, I think I just dragged my feet (metaphorically). It was so difficult to force myself to go to work, knowing I would be laid off, even though this is really good for me. Intellectually I understood that it was a net positive outcome, but emotionally I felt torn, upset, afraid, a huge mix of unhappy feelings. I had expected two weeks to ease into leaving, and now — although I can really use the time this week — it happened all of a sudden, with no farewell get-together with my friends at work, no officially sanctioned closure. That’s why I said goodbye to my coworkers and spilled the beans about layoffs a little early: I didn’t want to just vanish and then have everyone gossiping about me. Instead I told them myself and made sure they knew this was good for me. Breaking my promise not to tell was well worth it, in my estimation.
The dude who came to my cube to lay me off is somebody I never once talked to in my entire tenure at CRL. He is a Study Director (I think), and I never worked with him. The manager who “broke the news” is not somebody I report to. I had never talked to her before, either. She told me that “due to the bad economy and the company centralizing some functions,” I was being terminated. Don’t they usually say the position is terminated? Thankfully, I didn’t get shot. Instead, some lady from our corporate HR (not my personal HR representative, of course) went through my severance package: Five weeks of pay, and miscellaneous medical/dental/etc. benefits I don’t plan on paying for or using since I’m under Ian’s health plan. I will carefully read the documents I received, but I wish I knew more about how this stuff works. I don’t want to let CRL screw me over one last time on the severance package.
After that, I got shunted across the hall to a career counselor gal, who was very kind and sympathetic. She asked what I did, and started speculating about what skills that position had taught me. Finally, not wanting to prolong this any more than necessary, I told her I had another job lined up, but even so, she seemed loath to let me leave — she loaded me down with another packet and apparently they’re going to mail me even more stuff. I should’ve given them a wrong address, but I was feeling fairly emotionally wrung out by then.
At long last I got through all that uncomfortable awkwardness and back into the clutches of the watchdog, who escorted me back to my cube to collect my stuff. I handed over my badge and bike room key, gathered my junk, and we w
alked all the way back down to my bike room. A few people surreptitiously waved goodbye to me as we walked along. It seemed to take a long, long time. The watchdog’s shoes squeaked and he said nothing the whole way. Then he watched as I loaded up my bike — this took a while, much longer than it takes to sling a box of junk into a car — and saw me to the door. For some reason, I said “Thank you” as I left. Better polite than not, I guess. I started riding again at 8:59 am, barely an hour and a half after I arrived.
Somehow the commute, so familiar and boring most days, felt new and beautiful as I rode knowing this was my last Charles River commute. Fall in New England can be lovely, and the changing trees, the bright sun — everything combined to make me really appreciate how blessed I have been to ride that commute. Goodbye, 13-mile commute. I will miss you, but I am glad to move on to new routes.
Now I am home and have spent a long time just killing time on the computer, which feels quite luxurious: I can IM! I can blog! I can update Facebook, which I have avoided in the past because of its insidious addictiveness! I an email to my heart’s content! I can read a book, take a bath, eat lunch that requires preparing. I have lots of packing, etc., to do, and I plan on starting after lunch.
After all, I have all day.