The main reception area was packed with all of Customer Service, IT, Client Services, and Marketing departments. When Diane had been hired as chief financial officer they had thirty employees and counting. Only a hard and fast eighteen months later they had reached almost three hundred workers with full medical benefits and with stock options available. All the remaining departments had been assembled in the main reception of the adjacent building as well. People stood around in their department cliques waiting for this “spontaneous” meeting to start. It hadn’t been much of a surprise to Diane or the other officers. There had been some titter on the news about the end of a golden era for tech companies like theirs but she found that when you worked for a young upstart company like theirs you felt invincible. Those other guys, the competition, didn’t have the talent, ideas and innovation, and synergy they did. Unstoppable, unsinkable.
She looked out over the group. So much amazing talent. Brilliant and funny. The company had always prided itself on getting the best out of each of them and giving them what they deserved. The last employee fun day included horseback riding, paint ball, and mini golf. Those days would not happen again anytime soon. As it would turn out, ever again.
The Vice President got everyone’s attention. She stood beside him, back straight, shoulders back. A slight smile on her lips, not the happy kind of smile, more like determined, armed with optimism. It’s what they all would need to ride this storm out. As the VP announced the down turn in their sector and its effects industry wide, you could feel the tension ratcheting up. People shifted back and forth on their feet, crossed their arms, and murmured to themselves or the person nearest to them. Eyes shifted from confidantes to supervisors. As he transitioned with “as a result” all extraneous noise ceased. Restructuring is needed in times like these. It’s well known now that “to restructure” in corporate speak means, “to lay off.”
Each department will meet with a corporate officer to discuss the changes specific to that division. As people filed out to the elevators she could hear raised voices while others were unusually quiet. With the exception of the department heads no one know who would be staying and who would be going. Each department would have two meetings, one for those the company would be asking to stay, increased pay for the undeserved stress that would inevitably come starting tomorrow morning. The other meeting was for those that would be given generous severance packages, two months pay, extended insurance for that time, and recommendations of course. Extra security guards had been hired for each floor in case there were any incidents.
That day was one of the darkest in her personal history. She had been the chief financial officer. The CFO is the first line of defense. As soon as saw the numbers start slipping and the corporate antics that were need to keep up momentum she should have sent up the red flag. But instead, she had taken part in maintaining the delusion, believing it would turn around, this was temporary, every industry hits a lull, that’s how she talked herself through each breach of proper financial protocol. There was so much anger mixed with sadness. She was angry with herself as much as with the other officers. These people were good people. These employees had families, car payments, and rent to pay. They did their jobs well and they were being punished for the corporation’s gluttonous ambitions. They had over extended themselves on the euphoria of this hot new market and as a result the wave crashed down on them all. The drowning, suffocating aftermath would stay with her.
The whole ordeal had made her examine every decision she had made. The mistakes made and how they could be avoided next time, should next time come around. She had practically dedicated every waking breath to see the company thrive and to what end? To shatter the lives of good men and women to save themselves. It wasn’t long after that for her to realize she needed a change. She voluntarily left with a healthy severance package for all her “good woks.” She sold her modern upscale apartment and relocated her life, her center. Her friends and family thought she had gone off the deep end. In a way she had, but in the midst of her search she was reminded, to gain your life you must first lose it.
She took a deep breath, the cool mountain air grounded her in the present. Sometimes the mediation brought up memories or emotions she was not prepared to contemplate. She would write it down in her journal and see if it returned again later. Another breath. She opened her eyes. Beyond the sprawling gulf of tress for twenty miles a jagged white mound rose above the landscape, cutting into the sky, shoving it’s way through the clouds and towering over every living thing.
Her life as a CFO felt like a lifetime ago, another life. One that she had only watched and not actually lived. The time wasted was regretful. No matter. What was important was to value the time she had left and more importantly to learn from her mistakes. The here and now was something she could change. There was no point in ruminating over the past. She had learned from it and that was what counted. She unfolded her legs and stretched. It wasn’t long now until the festival and she still needed to frame her pieces for Artist Alley. She did landscapes like most people in the area. When surrounded by such astonishing beauty you couldn’t help but try to capture some small part of it for yourself.
The mountain was a favorite subject among her fellow artists in the community. It sold well to the tourists, but Diane liked to try other angles whenever possible. There were lavender farms nearby. She preferred to drive a little ways to get a view of the fields and foothills. It was hard to escape the mountain, and it was awe inspiring, but there were so many beautiful things in the world and so little time to paint them all.
Standing to her feet she pulled her arms overhead for a long stretch and let her arms down with a big sigh. She loved this porch with its picture perfect view. Going over to the rail she spun a Tibetan prayer wheel that had been bolted to the railing and smiled to herself, it was going to be a great day.