“The mere word “retrenchment” can make some shiver. But it never bothered our writer. Mistakenly thinking she was safe, she assumed she could handle anything. What unraveled proved otherwise. Today, she’s grateful for the entire experience. “

Inseparable From My Work

The news about our retrenchment started through the “grapevine”, but I shrugged it off as a joke whilst continuing to work hard. Back then, my head was fully occupied with work-related matters, from the moment I woke up until I fell asleep. There were always undone, potentially missed or improperly executed tasks either on my end or my colleagues’ end.

I never really had weekends. Simple pleasures like reading the papers seemed like a time-wasting activity to me. I barely had a social life and spent little time with family members. I had let work dominate my life and everything that defined me had something to do with my work.

“Retrenchment forced me to reflect on life and reconnect with my inner self.”

One Swift Blow

Unfortunately, the grapevine turned out to be true. Everyone got worried, but not me, because I was under the false assumption that my hard work protected me, that I would be the last one the company would retrench. I also thought that I was tough emotionally, that I wouldn’t be affected even if I was on the list. Besides, there were plenty of jobs at other companies.

Then, events unfolded in turbo mode. In a half dreamy state, my colleagues and I went through the official town hall style of announcing the retrenchments, received our letters in private sessions and attended sombre farewell lunches. Since I was among the first few to leave the company, I had insufficient time to successfully nail another job.

“Somehow, being a perfectionist-cum- workaholic had made me blind to other wonderful and crucial aspects of life. I had long forgotten how to love, smile and laugh from my heart.”

At Home And Alone

Reality only hit hard when I woke up from my bed, day after day, with nowhere to go. In between meals, washroom visits, frantic job hunting and reading, I just laid on my bed, staring at the rotating ceiling fan. My mind was empty while my emotions were running wild. My life seemed chaotic and out of control.

The retrenchment was shocking and traumatic, and I tried very hard to deny it. A part of me insisted that I was fine, even convincing myself that I was just taking an extended leave to indulge in my much neglected writing hobby.

The Plunge

However, as I sat down in front of the keyboard, the frustration, anger and resentment welled up in me. I questioned why I was chosen as one of the first few to leave and not others. I felt hurt and betrayed at not being kept longer on the payroll. I even bargained with the universe.

I wished and prayed for a miracle; perhaps management would change their mind and request that I return to work.

Eventually I entered into depression. I slept with knotted eyebrows and looked like a dead fish. My mind kept repeating two words in the retrenchment letter, “excess and redundant”, until I believed that I was really an excess and a redundant human being in this world! My self- esteem plummeted. I viewed myself as being useless, not good enough for anything and having no future. Day after day, these thoughts hit me whilst I stared at that rotating fan.

Moving On

But a part of me knew that I had to move on in life. I wanted to understand what was happening to me emotionally, and I did so after researching on the Internet. The decision finally came for me to make peace with my circumstances. I accepted the fact that I was retrenched. It was not something that could be undone nor should

I continue to be depressed for the rest of my life. I had to get over it if I was ever to live out the rest of my life meaningfully! And I did get over it.

Grateful For What I Became

Today, I no longer see retrenchment as a bad thing or a smudge in my resume. Instead, I am grateful. Retrenchment forced me to reflect on life and reconnect with my inner self. The realization that I was really not happy working the way I did finally hit me.

Somehow, being a perfectionist- cum-workaholic had made me blind to other wonderful and crucial aspects of life. I had long forgotten how to love, smile and laugh from my heart. I had been neglecting my friends and family members. At work, I often exerted anger to intimidate others, with harsh speech and words. No wonder some colleagues had shunned me!

Most importantly, retrenchment helped me to rediscover my love for writing. Sharing the vulnerable side of me with others in the written word is a humbling and therapeutic process. Without retrenchment, I would not be writing this article. I hope that my little story can help many of you out there who are facing the same inevitability as I did many years ago. Life always gives us a second chance, and the second chance may just be the one that you’re looking for.

Tung Wai Chee loves to write and meditate as both activities enable her to learn, relearn and unlearn things about herself. She is into creative writing and has been writing short stories in Bahasa Malaysia since the mid-90s. Articles are her new venture. Some of her other (spiritual themed) articles can be read on Buddhazine, an Indonesia based e-magazine. While putting her own thoughts and feelings into words, she also ghost-writes for others. Connect with her at tungwc@gmail.com.