A Fear of Choice

The fear gripped the nape of his neck again, icy groping fingers brushing his hair against the grain, forcing the pain of anxiety he felt down to the pit of his stomach. His newest boss, recently re-titled “Chief Renaissance Man Officer,” as he liked to joke — CFO/COO/CTO — had just darkened his doorway with more unwelcome news, “Well you don’t need to worry about delivering on that most recent contract renewal; the customer just placed a stop-order on the payment.”

He peered into the dark, vacant office across the hall, occupied until last week with a fresh plaque of “SVP, Sales” on the door and laughed to himself, bitterly. Nothing like burning bridges on your way out. He also sourly mused on the jealousy he’d felt about that same sales director’s promotion just two months prior, after abandoning his daily responsibilities of building a successful, prepared sales team to interject himself into the near-daily executive team meetings instead. “You’ll definitely be next on the list,” another, friendlier coworker had mentioned at the time. If that list meant being promoted to great fanfare only to be unceremoniously fired months later, he’d pass.

Still, sitting in lonely office among a sea of vacant cubicles, their contents transported down elevators in file boxes, he wasn’t sure this was better. Sure, he still had a steady paycheck, necessary to keep a roof over his head and groceries in the pantry, but he felt as empty and purposeless now as if he didn’t have the respectability of a job. At least then he couldn’t hide behind the cowardice of inertia. Maybe then he could actually start that consulting gig he dreamt about but never pursued, despite the encouragement of his friends and support of his wife. Or, he could find a new company with new people and a new boss, one who cared about the grunt workers and wanted to mold them into future leaders.

He recoiled at the thought. He knew his ego couldn’t take being unemployed. He hadn’t been without a job since graduating college a decade ago, when the economy was in the shitter and people were taking barista jobs to pay for Ivy League English degrees. He was an engineer, an IN DEMAND JOB, and he refused to admit to himself that choosing practicality over passion was incorrect this far removed from his teen-aged naivete. No, he’d sit here and wait it out and hope against reality that the money wouldn’t run out in January like the rumors said. He’d continue to stare at the pallid glow of his resume in fear, defeated by the unknown before beginning, as always. Besides, two months from now he’d have no choice; when had he ever?

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