The day I was laid off from my job at a tech company, I woke up in the middle of the night to the thud of a scythe hitting my bedroom floor.
“Oops, sorry about that,” said Death, his bony fingers gesturing an apology. “I didn’t mean to wake you up.”
My first instinct was to grab an N95 mask. “No need for that,” he said. “You’re not getting COVID from a non-biological entity. Besides, you’ll be dead soon anyway.”
Have you noticed that some companies are still trying to recruit talent by using made-up roles such as "rockstar developer"? That overused name doesn't consider rock music's decline in popularity. If they really want to catch the attention of young talent and at the same time reference a vibrant billion-dollar industry, why don't they go with "pornstar developer"? Might be a bit risky, but hey, what if it works?
Through the thin wall that separated our bedrooms, I could hear my dad choking on his saliva multiple times, coughing his lungs out. It sounded like he was in a constant loop of dying and resurrecting. I wondered if it was a stress-related symptom caused by my recent job termination. A COVID reinfection was still a possibility, even though we hadn't had physical contact with anyone for a while.
“I’d do whatever is needed to pay for your physical therapy,” I said. “You’ll be able to walk again soon. I promise.” Little did I know, my time would be up before the day was through.
In today's work environment, you gotta take risks. My manager--she got tired of listening to her team's unending complaints during 1:1s so she decided to change careers. Talk about a risky move. She picked one that allowed her to have 1:1s in complete silence. You might be familiar with her memoir: "From Manager to Masseuse.”
The reaper’s entire head was hidden in the shadows of his hood, so I couldn’t see his mouth moving, if he ever had one. His voice was a low, quivery whisper that felt more like thoughts penetrating the inside of my brain.
“Typically, I’d silently ferry your soul across the river of death while you sleep. But I’ve been clumsy lately. All the pandemic deaths have been taking a toll on me. I’m not supposed to be speaking with you."
“That’s OK,” I said. “Am I gonna die?”
“The universe is lacking enough processing power to sustain eight billion lives,” the reaper said, “so we’re going through an organizational restructuring. I’ve been informed you’ve been let go of your role in the grand scheme of things. Effective immediately, you're no longer a human being on planet Earth.“
“Am I also fired from reality? Is that what you’re saying?”
“Yes, but please don’t frame it like that”
People are getting disengaged from work. The other day I was having a beer with my Scrum Master friend at a bar and he said: "Getting married was the worst, man! You get home every day and it's always the same routine: "Honey, how was your day? What are you doing tonight? Are there any blockers?
“Wait, I’m not ready to die,” I said, already feeling the effects of not-gravity--My soul floating upwards looking down at my dead body. “How about my dad?”
“I’m afraid your dad is going to be visited tonight as well. And your neighbor too. We’re doing more with less, you know?”
Another friend, a video editor, tired of working extra hours on low payment, imported his company to the video project and edited himself out.
“That’s bullshit,” I said. “God’s just tired of his little human experiment and now he just wants to downsize his team. How naive of me to think that life had a deeper meaning. We’re just a piece of software taking up space and resources and now God is sending reapers to fire us.”
“Talking about God’s purpose is above my pay grade,” the reaper said.
And there's my UX Writer friend. He was working for a company that didn't appreciate his work. One day, he couldn't take it anymore, and he spontaneously quit. "Can you please send a resignation letter?" his manager said. He carefully worked on one and sent it in an email to HR, but they returned it with comments. "This is not clear, concise, or useful... aren't you a UX Writer?" He worked on a new version and sent the document again, but it was returned with even more comments. Months have passed. He continues working on that resignation letter. He rewrites it over and over again hoping that one day the company will approve.
“Well, I just thought I was meant to be a comedian. I felt it in my bones. I never wanted to work in tech, but that was what paid the bills. I was actually saving up money to be able to quit my corporate job and tour with my material.”
Here's a way of testing if you're suffering from burnout: apply to a "remote from anywhere" job and see if during the interview you have an uncontrollable urge to ask the recruiter if that "anywhere" also includes the space of dreams so you'd be able to dream meetings instead of attending them.
“Are you sure that was something you were going to follow through? It seems that was only a story you told yourself. You see, you were spending your time working for a corporation and taking care of your dad, and that story of becoming someone else kept you going. It served a purpose. But it was just a story. You were not meant to be a stand-up comedian.”
“But I am!” I said.
“I know you think you were. To be honest, I’ve been going through your life history and enjoying your takes about corporate life. Can’t wait to share some of them with other reapers at the pub. But that doesn’t mean your life is not complete.”
Companies have Jr. Designers but not Jr. VPs. Companies have Jr. Developers but not Jr. CEOs. The corporate ladder is lacking stairs.
“I can’t believe I was not able to perform my routine about jobs.”
“How about this?” the reaper said. “Your dad is going to be visited tonight by another reaper, so that makes three of us. There’s an audience right there. We can give you some time to go through your routine if that’s how you want to die.”
Being a freelancer sucks. Not necessarily for having to measure your time, the month-per-month contract, and the uncertainty of it all, but because you’re cut out of office gossip. Nobody shares gossip with the freelancer. It’s all about work. I’m always tempted to say to possible clients: “Would you commit to sharing gossip for a 50% discount?”
My dad was able to move in his spirit form so he positioned himself in the middle of the two reapers. As he regained control of his hands, he started clapping. The two reapers joined him, and when they clapped, it sounded like an entire audience was cheering.
“Oh wow! Is this a great audience or what?” I said.
And then I started off my routine.