That's it. A page has turned in the book of my life. I was (finally) made redundant from my job on Friday after 10 and a half years in the company. I feel now that I can talk about it a bit more, officially close that chapter and write the final 'The End'.
Things had been slowing down quite drastically since January. In 3 months, the company had recruited 10 times less people than they had in the same period the previous year. Being pregnant, I had decided to take it easy anyway (hence considerably slowing down on the parts of the job that I didn't really like). I was getting increasingly tired and my boss was very understanding and didn't put any pressure on me (which is quite surprising considering the fact that she didn't have any children herself and was well known for being extremely ambitious and ruthless.) Mr Foodie's dealings with her over the years were less than amicable and often conflictual (we worked for the same company but at different ends of the process). And he was quite surprised at how much support and leeway she was giving me and always wondering why? What was she to gain from it? Being a union representative always makes him wary of management anyway.
I eventually left for maternity leave at the end of May. I went back to do the obligatory 'showing off of the baby' a few weeks later, with Mr Foodie in tow. I was meant to go back to work at the beginning of December, however, this being the busiest time of the year in the business, we had decided that I would extend my maternity leave by a few unpaid weeks and some annual leave. Until we went on holidays in August...
This particular day, my mum had just been released from hospital after a very bad kidney infection. She was enjoying spending time with her grand daughters hence giving us a chance to enjoy the sun and relax for a bit. While we were sitting on the patio, soaking up the sun and having a nice chat, we were rudely interrupted by Mr Foodie's phone. It was his dad asking if we had been watching the news. Mr Foodie replied that we hadn't, since he can't understand the french news anyway. Was it another shooting? Another tiger kidnapping? More recession news? No, it wasn't. It had just been announced that the building I was working in was to close with the loss of 260 jobs. We rushed to the computer to check the news on the Internet and there was the reporter, in front of my building, announcing that it would close by the middle of 2010. I charged my phone (which had been dead for a couple of days), and checked for messages. Nothing. I then sent a text to my then manager and one of my friends. My manager called me back within minutes and confirmed the news to me. 60 jobs were to remain but not ours. She went quickly through the redundancy package the company was going to offer and asked me to come in for a meeting as soon as I was back from holidays. Panic set in. What were we going to do? My friend called me back. She couldn't shed any light on the matter since she was away herself and hadn't even heard anything about it. We discussed it with Mr Foodie and realized that, if the redundancy was good enough, it was actually a blessing in disguise, allowing me to stay at home for a bit. Then came the awful task of telling my parents. They were quite shocked and panicked at first, but I think that the fact that we were not extremely confused, crying and utterly panicked (although quite shocked ourselves) allowed them to absorb the news and take it in a quite positive light.
I went in for a few meetings afterwards where I was given some more details such as amounts etc. The only detail I could not be given was the biggest one of all: WHEN? I had to 'come back' from maternity leave before they could legally tell me. And then I was to be given 6 weeks notice. Did this mean I had to find childcare for 6 weeks and return to work? In October, I went in for another meeting and informed them that I didn't intend to come back to work until January. My boss confirmed that it would indeed be wiser (*wink wink*) to push my coming back date as much as I could. She subtly implied (about as subtle as a big pink elephant in a cupboard) that we could come to some kind of arrangement.
I eventually went 'back to work' in January, for the whole of 30 minutes. I was given my notice and my final date, February 26. I was also told that I was going to be paid for my notice but without having to set foot in the building . They literally paid me my full wages to stay at home and look after the girls for 6 weeks. My boss told me that she had known since the beginning of 2009 but could not discuss it despite me hinting at it a few times. So I went back on Friday, to collect my P45 and my final cheque. It was strange to walk back into the place I had spent so many hours in, for the last time. The outside, usually busy with people, on break or about to start, coming or going to the shop, sitting on the benches, greeting each other, waiting for each other, smoking, chatting was deadly quiet. Inside, the place was always filled with people coming and going. You had to wait to go out into the main corridor due to the number of people coming back into the main area. You always met somebody on the stairs. But on friday, it reminded me of saturday mornings when only a handful of people were there. It reminded how much I didn't like working on a saturday morning. The building was just 'not right'. It was too quiet. This eerie feeling was even stronger this time around. The half empty seats, the usual hustle and bustle muffled to the point of near silence, the empty corridors. The formalities didn't last long, I was served with my marching orders fairly quickly. I went up to see my boss one last time and say my goodbyes. We shed a few tears and I left. For the last time. I left through the back door though not wanting to bump into anyone (although unlikely to happen) and get emotional (and also because Marie was on a half day and I had to pick her up from school). I think it would have been more of a shock to my system though, had I been in there everyday and suddenly finding myself at home. But, I had had time to process it and get my head around it. I haven't been working since May so it won't really feel any different for me.
I made some good friends in there, met more people than I can count (you are bound to in a call centre environment, over a 10 year period). I was pushed to the limit, I cried, I laughed, I despaired, I shared good times and bad times. I got in trouble, I helped people out of trouble. I learned so many things in there about me and about others. I found support there, I walked into brick walls there. I got frustrated at the amount of time and work it takes to get something to change in a big american multinational. I rejoiced at little victories, when my opinion and hard work helped change things for the better.
And now, it's all officially the past. A page has turned. What had been a constant for the past 10 years in my life is now gone. But I am extremely grateful. Grateful for the fact that they are allowing me to spend time with my girls without having to worry too much financially for a while. Grateful for the friendships I formed there. Grateful for what it taught me about myself. Grateful for the skills it helped me acquire. And most of all, grateful for meeting Mr Foodie there. He is now, with my girls, the new constant in my life.