Two years later, and still blogging away

On September 1, 2008, an eager, bright-eyed 54-year-old sat down at the old laptop he had just inherited from his teenage son. What am I supposed to do with this?, he thought.

He could play solitaire. He could watch DVDs. He could play some more solitaire. He could hang out at the local coffee shop and look cool.

Or, he could build a blogging empire.

Yesterday marked the two-year anniversary of this blog. Originally begun on Blogspot as “FiftySomethingMan,” the work migrated to WordPress later that fall and the rest, as they say, is history. Extremely obscure history, to be sure. But history all the same, as the term is literally defined (“something that’s written down, though not necessarily read by anybody”).

To honor the occasion, I’m reposting that original entry. Let’s move beyond the italic type, and read on…

So let’s see what this blogging stuff is all about.

I’m calling this blog “FiftySomethingMan” because I hope it’s mainly going to be about the challenges (many) and the triumphs (hopefully there’ll be some) of being a middle-aged, middle-class sorta-corporate-type in 2008. I’m facing much of the same stuff in my work life that a lot of people are dealing with right now – downsizing, outsourcing, cutbacks, restructurings – and I thought it might help get me through to keep some kind of chronicle as I seem to spiral toward unemployment or forced early retirement.

Sounds like fun reading, right?

I’ll also reserve the right to go off-topic periodically and write about something completely unrelated to work but that still might resonate with my Fellow Fitty’s. (“Fitty”, as I understand it, is a hep modern term referring primarily to the hip-hop performer “Fifty Cent”. Like most baby boomers, I try desperately to stay up with these things, but know in my heart I’m failing pathetically.) Not sure yet what those topics might be, but we all know there’s plenty of annoyances out there to keep us aging boomers complaining.

I guess I should start with a little about myself. A key fact – my true name – will go undisclosed at this point, as I’m hoping the anonymity will give me more freedom to write frankly. I’m a 54-year-old man, living in the suburbs of a major southern U.S. city with my wife and teenage son and our three cats. I’ve lived in the South for almost 30 years now and, even though I spent my life before that in Florida, I don’t consider myself a typical white Southerner. Thanks to parents who lived in the Northeast until just before I was born and several years of college education, I consider myself an enlightened progressive who is generally uncomfortable around all the NASCAR dads I come in contact with these days. I have a few hobbies, but probably not enough, and until just recently defined myself primarily by the kind of work I do.

I work in the financial services industry, helping process documents the Securities and Exchange Commission requires corporations to produce. I’ve done this for the last three decades. I consider myself very good at my job, and have been recognized as such by my company with a nice salary and extras that have included training opportunities around the world. In the last few years, however, this training “perk” has been diminished by the fact that it’s mostly Asian workers making a tenth of my pay that I’m training, and I’m basically showing them how to take my job away from me and my coworkers. I could’ve declined the opportunity but the movement of our work offshore would’ve just as easily gone on without me. I was convinced at one point that I was positioning myself as an intermediary who’d be able to maintain his position with the company even after all the work had transitioned overseas, but now I’m not so sure.

My office is located in a drab warehouse office park in a part of town more accustomed to the transportation industry and its giant trucks than to people working on disclosure documentation. They hollowed out a small corner of the warehouse to install our staff, our air-conditioning and our computers, but kept us close enough to our blue-collar “pick-and-packers” to remind us of the muggy fate that could eventually await us. There are probably about 40 of us left in the air-conditioning, down from the 80-90 we had only a few years ago. Most of those who have now moved on to another worklife left of their own choice, sensing how they’d eventually be shown the door anyway. Plus, there’s been a parade of countless temporaries who come and go like summer fireflies, many staying long enough to be trained by me and put in a few months before finding full-time work elsewhere.

Where we stand in the current economic downturn is not a good place: our clients are the suffering megabanks and investment houses you hear about in the business news, and the work they are able to give our company mostly goes to those able Asians I trained so well. Only six months ago, I was making almost half my take-home pay in overtime. Then it started getting slower and slower and we all knew something bad was about to happen. We actually breathed a sigh of relief six weeks ago when our department manager called a rare meeting to announce we were going on a four-day workweek and virtually no overtime. When we were summoned to gather ‘round and saw his trembling hands and nervous manner, we were actually relieved to hear we were only receiving drastic paycuts and nothing worse. Yay!

That seemed to relieve the pressure for him to do something for a little while, but as we continued to plod through the summer doing crossword puzzles and cross-stitch, the fears rose again. And then last week, news of layoffs elsewhere in the company started spreading (no formal announcements, of course; just farewell emails and unreturned phone messages) and again we’re wondering how much longer before the axe falls on our sorry necks.

As I write this now – ironically, on Labor Day weekend – I am perversely comforted by the new job losses. For at least a few of the departed, I’ve been asked to pick up some of their duties. Others’ absence may require a little more overtime from those who are left. These tea leaves give me another temporary jolt of job security.

I feel guilty for such a heartless attitude. It reminds me of how two of our cats will attack the third one whenever she cries out with a stepped-on tail. In a sense, we’ve become no more than animals looking out only for ourselves and our own families (if they’re lucky). The global economy is ruled by the law of the jungle, I guess, even though like my cats we’ve been semi-domesticated.

What will follow in future postings (I think that’s what they’re called) are stories of how and if I survive this downturn, and what happens if a pudgy grey-haired guy is thrown out into the job market only a few years short of what would have been his retirement. Maybe the attitude I’ve cultivated while working with hundreds of twenty-something trainees halfway around the world will somehow serve me when I end up interviewing with one of their American cohorts, trying to get myself another job.

We’ll see.

Footnote from 2010: Somehow, two years later, I’m fortunate enough to still have the job. The world is a miraculous place.

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16 Responses to “Two years later, and still blogging away”

  1. SandySays1 Says:

    Didn’t a human once write, “These are the times that try man’s souls,” at such a time. Things a rough and I fear will become even rougher as the proximity of world war goes unnoticed and the world economy flounders on unsustainability. However, like you, the human spirit is indomitable. Didn’t some other human say, “What does not kill us makes us stonger.”
    Sandy
    http://www.sandysays1.wordpress.com

  2. Kym Kemp Says:

    Having gotten so many chuckles from you these months, I ought to at least log on and say thank you.

    Thanks for the laughter!

  3. Stentorphone Says:

    Some other non-human once said, “Now that you are Borg, resistance is futile”.

    Congratulations, Davis on your 2nd anniversary. We await the dawning of the new year.

  4. Stentorphone Says:

    Here’s the comma I left out of my last comment:

    ,

    (It goes in between ‘Davis’ and ‘on’.) I wish WordPress would let us edit.

  5. tom1950 Says:

    Editing would definitely be a plus. Other social networking sites allow editing comments, but not WP.

    T.O.M.

  6. fakename2 Says:

    It was great to get this history. Blogspot’s loss has for sure been our gain. I am “Fakename” because my first blog was on the online version of our local newspaper, so it was a good idea (a really, really good idea) to remain anonymous. I and a few others decided to leave the paper because we had issues with its format and limitations, plus we needed to escape the whacked out crazies who commented. They were gunning for me every time I so much as posted, “The sky is blue”. You know, Tallahassee is a very liberal place; 80 % ot the voters are registered Democrats, but the professional commenters were the 1% of the 20%. I remained “Fakename” because I did have a few followers and thought they might look me up. News flash: didn’t happen! Oh well….I’ve made new friends!
    The secret to remaining employed is to do something that can’t be outsourced, which I do. After that, it’s: Don’t piss off any of the powers that be. I’m not doing so well with that one. But what can you do?
    Cheers,
    Phyllis

  7. fakename2 Says:

    That would be 80% OF the registered voters. If I left out any commas, please help me out, Stentorphone 🙂

  8. Stentorphone Says:

    @fakename2: This being Labor Day, I just happen to have a few spare commas I can send your way. Here they are:

    ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    But don’t use them all at once! Keep a couple in your pocket just in case…

  9. tom1950 Says:

    Which begs the comment: “Is that a comma in your pocket or…” ahhhhh, you know the rest.

    T.O.M.

  10. Stentorphone Says:

    Ha! Good one, T.O.M.

    Methinks Davis’ slice of the blogosphere is turning into a social networking site.

    There ya go, Davis. That’s how to make those twenties spit out the side port of your new laptop-screw the daily blog and become the next Facebook. How are you at weaving amazing algorithms into your computer code?

  11. fakename2 Says:

    Stentorphone, thanks so much for the generous comma-sharing. At my age, I can always use a few extra commas in my pocket, or perhaps in your pocket 🙂

  12. Stentorphone Says:

    @fakename2-It’s like Vegas. What goes in your pocket STAYS in your pocket. 🙂

  13. tom1950 Says:

    Oh, you said COMMA. I thought you said COMA. Well, in either case, I’m up for it!

    T.O.M.

  14. LetUsAllUsPlayDominoes Says:

    Well, for those of us with a COMA in our pocket, how do you spell relief?

    (PFIZER…)

  15. tom1950 Says:

    Be more acCOMAdating?

    T.O.M.

  16. Stentorphone Says:

    I’ll bet we’ve all been on at least one “coma date” in our lives.

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