One year ago today pretty much sucked. It was the day "The White Folder Club" was formed. The members of this club did not choose to join it. But when I think about it now, I think most members of the club are much happier for being a part of it.
You see, a year ago, 100 or so people walked into a building (that some of them had been walking into for a decade or more) and then walked out 2-3 hours later with a white folder full of information about employment severance from the entertainment conglomerate they'd dedicated thousands of hours of their lives to.
At the time, there was shock and tears and fear. But there was also an unexpected and thoroughly incredible new sense of camaraderie. While sadly watching co-worker after co-worker be escorted through the lobby carrying that tell-tale white folder, something happened: a major shift in perspective. Suddenly those with the white folders realized they were free.
Now I realize not everyone who was forced into the club that day may agree with me (as not everyone's white folder was as thick as those that had been walking into the building for more than a decade). But I -- and many of those that I am close to -- believe getting that white folder was an amazing blessing.
I'd given way too much of myself to that place. But being (figuratively) smacked upside the head with a white folder was the wake up call I'd been needing for at least five years to move on to something that puts a smile on my face versus knots in my neck. And that white folder was my golden ticket.
My current conundrum is I'm not 100% sure where I want that ticket to take me. But that's okay... for now.
I've landed in a new place with a great new title and really nice co-workers and I walk out of the office most days at 6pm on the dot. Am I doing what I want to do "when I grow up"? Nope. But I think getting to that ideal place where creativity meshes with my monthly mortgage payment might take some time. So for now, my goal is work/life balance.
To me, that means focusing on things I neglected for years. So, a little less than a year ago (after the white folder shock wore off), I made a list of all the things I'd wanted to do for years but put off because I was too busy working all the time. And I started checking things off the list.
The list included practical things like painting my guest room, changing the 60+ year-old-doorknobs on the closet doors of my house, and tending to my gardens that I love.
After much contemplation, research and threats from people who were sick of hearing me talk about "someday..." for years, I added a two-week trip to Italy to the list. My mom joined me, and I will treasure those memories forever.
It also included things I had to do for my own sense of well-being. I started signing up for workout classes and got into a schedule to keep myself sane. And I made myself start writing more. I missed writing.
And the list also included fun activities -- museum visits, hiking, trying popular restaurants when they weren't totally packed -- that I and many of my fellow members of "The White Folder Club" started doing together on weekdays ... because we could :)
I'd always said the reason I stayed at that place so long was because of the people I worked with. And that (plus being too tired to update 13 years of my resume) is the honest-to-god truth.
So a year ago, when all but eight or so people I cared about all got the boot at the same time, cutting the cord was surprisingly easy for me. I went back to pack up my office and never looked back.
Early this morning, a fellow member of "The White Folder Club" published a blog post about our anniversary today. His blog mentioned someone comparing that day one year ago to "The Red Wedding" from Game of Thrones. And as bloodbaths go, it's hard to argue.
But his post also pointed out all the things he's learned since then.
My comment: "Well said my friend/fellow member of The White Folder Club."
His response: "If only John Hughes was still alive to write a film called 'The White Folder Club.'"
It's kind of crazy how dead-on that implied comparison is. I don't think any of us who declared ourselves "The White Folder Club" one year ago today while sitting in the The Federal Bar in Noho consuming a lot of alcohol at noon were thinking about that quintessential coming-of-age flick from our teens. (At least I know I wasn't.)
But I do know that -- like The Breakfast Club -- we've all learned a lot about ourselves and are better because of it. And we're all bonded in a way only we will ever understand.
So, my fellow members of "The White Folder Club," congratulations on entering what seemed like a scary void a year ago and coming out on the other side.
And here's to friendship, remembering what's really important, and new adventures in this thing called life.