The damn island

The good news is: I survived the plane crash. The bad news is: I am all alone on this island. Of course I am thinking of Tom Hanks in “Cast Away.” But, why? Every year about this time, as everyone I know is getting excited about Christmas, I take the time to review the calendar year that is coming to a close and think about the year that lies just over the horizon.

It has been a good run. I found employment as a field representative, which was absolutely perfect for me, for a time. I loved the globetrotting. I loved actually being helpful to customers. And, there was ample pay to grease the wheels of the constant relocations (about every 30 months, on average). On the one hand, it was a sad day when I was assigned to the company’s central call center because that was the end of a life that I dearly loved. On the other hand, I was overseas when my father died, and I felt I needed to be near my mother. So, for the past five years, I have been spending a lot of time with her – this, a very good thing.

But, for purely political reasons, and not the financial reasons which might be easier to accept, the call center is moving, and I am not moving with it. I do hate this call center job. With a passion. Mostly for all the politics that I am subject to (after nearly 17 years in the field, I was blissfully distant from the petty machinations of the people who were more concerned about their own careers than doing the right thing). It has, however, been a paycheck, which has allowed a life-style that I have grown accustomed to.

Consequently, 29 years with the company are coming to an ignominious end at the first of the year. The good news is that I have not lost my paycheck just before the Holidays.

Back to the movie. At one point, Tom tried to hang himself; I’m certainly not there (I would never give the company the satisfaction of knowing it had destroyed me). At the end of the movie, Tom has lost the girl that kept him alive for the four years he was on the island. But, he’s standing at a crossroads, somewhere in the middle of Texas, with possibilities that extend beyond the horizon. On the island, his future converged and it looked like a hopeless dead end. Having survived his ordeal, he is looking at a future that diverges – unlimited possibilities.

The bad news is: I can’t see beyond the damn island.

True, no one in my work group has yet gotten a lay-off notice; and management keeps up a constant litany of “we will do everything we can to make sure everyone has a job.” If I had any respect at all for management, that would be reassuring. Unfortunately, if I have learned anything in my very long tenure, I have learned not to trust management. They think they walk on water, and don’t realize they’re not wearing any clothes.

I do have enough time with the company to retire; but wasn’t planning on taking that step this soon, so financially I can’t swing it. How much is enough? With a daughter who has returned (can we say “boomerang”?) and is expecting in January, and a wife who is expecting in July; whatever it was I had planned will be about four mouths short.

So, at this festive time of year, I am immediately confronted with the choice between pulling out the stops for Christmas, or hunkering down. My wife and I have tickets to the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s long-standing tradition of “The Nutcracker.” I made this a holiday tradition when I moved to Seattle back in 1985. Why this will be the last performance, I don’t know; but it is another ending. That will be our Christmas present to each other. Our daughter gets baby clothes.

There are some who look at a personal tragedy and say it’s the best thing that ever happened to them. Hard to imagine Tom’s character saying the island experience fell into that category. And, being forced out of a job I hate is not exactly a tragedy; but, what am I to do now? Dunno. I have absolutely no clue in the world.

After the debacle of trying to hang himself, Tom’s character made a life for himself on the island, and he was open to new ideas. He monitored the seasons, and specifically the winds. He was able to envision a sail in part of porta-potty. (Quite a stretch; something to keep in mind.) It has been said that “good luck” is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. For non-believers, “good luck” is all there is.

Christmas is, more than anything, a beginning. A new, radical, unheard of beginning. For some, completely unexpected. Maybe this Christmas for me will not be more eggnog and fruitcake, but something worth getting out of bed for? Gotta keep that possibility in mind.

But first, I’ve got to get off this damn island.

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