It was exactly one year ago today that I lost my previous job in the USA. I provided a lot of the details here, in one of my better known posts. The one year since then has proven… interesting, to say the least.
Time, distance, and a number of quite unpleasant hard knocks since that day, have all provided a certain amount of perspective, of course. Things changed both for me and for my previous employers in very big ways over the course of that one year.
In my case, well, I had to leave the USA, by law, since the Trump Administration’s (completely justified) war on H-1B visas made it nearly impossible for me to find a new job before my 60-day “grace period” ran out. So I flew to Moscow, of all places, on June 8th, and proceeded to stay there from the 9th to the 16th, which was right when the 2018 FIFA World Cup was cranking up.
Hey, I had a multiple-entry one-year business visa, so I figured, what the heck, why not use it? And actually, I used it quite a lot last year, to my considerable net benefit.
Suffice to say that it was downright weird to see so many Latinos and Africans in such a white country. But the Russians are a good-natured people, in their own rather dour and stolid way, and they accepted the, thankfully temporary, invasion of their lands with humour, grace, and hospitality.
(It certainly didn’t hurt to be able to spend time in Moscow and St. Petersburg during their summer. I’m telling you now, boys: if you’ve not walked along Nevsky Prospekt while hundreds or even thousands of young, beautiful, elegantly attired Russian women are walking along in summer dresses and high heels, you haven’t lived.)
From Russia, I returned to the old country… and straight into what felt, and still feels, like Purgatory.
The adjustments to my lifestyle and personal circumstances were wrenching and painful, to say the least. When you’ve lived on your own for over a decade, and you’re used to walking everywhere, or taking public transport, or having the ability to drive yourself around, and you come to a city where there are virtually no sidewalks that are safe to use, no particularly good public transportation, and where driving yourself is virtually out of the question because of the flagrant disregard for traffic rules… well, that’s a tough thing to deal with.
Pretty much everything changed for me overnight. The foods here are very different from what you can get in a Western country, where the emphasis is on fresh leafy green vegetables and tasty red meat; here, people consume chicken and goat-meat, if they eat meat at all, and mostly concentrate on eating river fish and vegetables. Unfortunately, they turn the vegetables into a kind of overly spiced mush, and they eat fish in either fried or curried forms, both of which I find quite unpalatable.
Internet connectivity here is abysmal even at the best of times. The nearest decent gym is at least a 30-minute drive away, and it is actually quite overpriced given what it offers. There are no decent martial arts schools nearby – well, there are MMA schools, but that isn’t saying all that much. And the very notion of simply going for a cup of coffee is a challenging proposition at the best of times; the moment you walk into the coffee shop, you are greeted by – and I’m not making this up – a massive cloud of mosquitoes that are absolutely convinced that God just sent them dinner on two legs.
And yet… life is actually quite good. I am calm, happy, contented, at peace in a way that I didn’t think was possible even three months ago.
Now, despite what some might think, based on my writing, I don’t actually like making a big deal about my spiritual beliefs, so I’ll just write a little bit more on the subject from a less personal perspective and then leave it at that, for now. Jesus commanded His followers to be “subtle as serpents and meek as doves” for a reason. When the time comes to explain what happened and how much my life has changed in the process, it will all be written out in one form or another.
One thing that does bear writing about is the way in which the forgiveness of past sins changes a man.
Surprisingly, to most non-Christians anyway, pretty much anything and everything can be forgiven. Murder, rape, genocide, incest, patricide, infanticide – ALL of it is forgivable by God. However, before anyone is stupid enough to claim that this means that Man can sin without fear of consequences – that is a thoroughly idiotic line of argument that is not merely anti-Christian, it is literally outright Satanic.
God never said that forgiveness comes at zero cost. Forgiveness has to be earned, and the greater the degree of the sin, the greater the cost of the repentance. There is absolutely no escape from this relationship, nor should there be.
Being a Christian is literally the most difficult and costly path that a man can walk. There is a reason why Jesus called His way the narrow path.
As far as forgiveness goes, Christian doctrine teaches a lot about it, but there is one thing that everyone has to remember – not just Christians, but everyone.
The only true sin, the only one that cannot be forgiven, is to hold the “wrong opinion” that the Holy Spirit does not exist, or is the work of the Evil One. That is true blasphemy, and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable if it is held until the final day of one’s mortal life.
With all of that in mind, things still aren’t easy for me. There are still a lot of difficulties and uncertainties to overcome, professionally, personally, and in lots of other areas too. But it is impossible for me to escape the conviction, now surely formed, that I was put through the trials that I was for a reason, and that the scars that I carry from them are the price that had to be paid.
It’s just the cost of doing business. All choices come with consequences. Those of us who choose to live by the Word, must pay a price to do so. It has to happen.
The difference now is that there is peace, calmness, and acceptance, that did not exist before. The accumulated scars will never fade away completely – no man goes through such experiences without being profoundly and terribly shaken by them – but, let’s face facts, things could have been much, much worse.
They are much worse for quite a lot of people. I realise that this is a trite and quite irritating throwaway line used by every parent, ever, on every stroppy teenage child that ever threw a tantrum about not getting nice things, but it is true nonetheless: no matter how bad you think your life is, someone else’s is far, far worse.
I am aware, by the way, that one or two of my readers are going through some very tough times right now. You are in my prayers, for one thing that I learned recently is that prayer absolutely does have power, far beyond human comprehension. I cannot imagine anything more sad and depressing than the thought that literally no one cares enough about you to pray for you to the Most High.
And speaking of choices and consequences and rolling around in the scheiße – I have watched with, I must admit, a rather un-Christian amount of rather grim satisfaction as my previous employer has lurched from disaster to catastrophe with almost monotonous regularity.
Out of respect for my former colleagues and friends who are still trapped in that nuthouse, I won’t say much about where I worked or what I did for them, but let’s just say that it’s not that hard to figure out. All you have to do is find out which big European bank is the most heavily fined, the most hated by the regulators, the most miserly in paying out performance bonuses, and losing over a BILLION dollars from a bond trade from like 10 years ago, and you’ll know instantly.
You will also see almost immediately why they continue to founder. The place is literally a lunatic asylum at this point – because only insane people would want to work there anymore. It was with very good reason that I used to congratulate people who left it to go to other jobs with the phrase, “Congratulations on escaping the loony bin!”, or something similar.
I have kept in touch with some of my former colleagues, and the picture that they paint is grim indeed. The place has become utterly dysfunctional, with management teams more interested in arse-covering and risk-mitigation than in getting anything done. My former boss, for whom I retain a healthy dislike and disrespect, is slated by those that I used to work with for being a kiss-up/kick-down type of guy who forces his colleagues to justify every single request for help.
That is not the sign of a healthy organisation, and I have to say, I’m glad that I got the hell out, one way or another. The fact is that I had gotten too comfortable doing what I was doing, and I had stopped growing or changing in my profession. I had been plateauing for years, in many areas, and needed a swift kick in the shorts to sort myself out.
I rather wish that said kick had not landed quite where it had, or when, and I certainly wish that the blows hadn’t been quite so ferocious, but that isn’t up to me. There are forces at work that I do not fully comprehend, and which are clearly pushing me toward something and somewhere better.
I have no idea where that path will lead. I know that there is still a lot of cleaning up that has to be done in my life – there are quite a few past sins to atone for, and plenty in the present too, especially when it comes to personal relationships.
But I do know that wherever I end up, it will be better than where I was. That was part of the compact that I made, and nothing I have seen so far indicates that it will be unfulfilled.
Let’s be clear about one thing, though: I screwed up, A LOT, throughout my previous job. Honesty demands brutal, uncompromising, and unflinching analysis of one’s own failures, and in my case, those failures were severe and repeated.
I failed on a number of occasions to take opportunities that came my way and move to a different part of the bank. I failed to adequately prepare an exit strategy and look for other jobs. I failed to properly anticipate just what an utter tool my then-new manager was. I failed to correctly conceal my intentions to get the hell out when trying to move internally. And I failed to fully understand just how hard it would become to get a new job as a foreigner in the USA after the God-Emperor’s Administratum decided to make H-1B visas much harder to get.
I own those mistakes. I made them. I would like to think that I learned from them – only time will tell there, but certainly some of those lessons have stuck.
Looking back over the past year, since I lost my job, there are some things that I would have done differently, certainly – mostly related to money and how I spent it – but those are relatively minor things, relative to the one really big thing that I would change, had I the power to do it:
I would have tried much harder to be understanding and tolerant of my family. I screwed that up royally when I got back to the old country. And I damaged my relationships with my parents and especially my sister very badly in the process.
But, again, accepting Christ’s offer of redemption and salvation fixed that, and in a VERY big hurry. Six months of pain and anger was wiped clean in less than one – and that is not because I am a good person, for I most certainly am not.
The scars of all of the cuts that I took are still there. They never really go away. They are not supposed to. The key is to understand, as hard as it might be to do so in the moment, that they were put there for a reason. The true test of a man is whether he will accept this, shoulder his burdens, and simply carry on, or will fail to do anything productive and simply curl up into a ball and let life kick the crap out of him.
These days, far too many men adopt the latter pose. This is not how we were meant to go through life. When you are beaten down to your knees, there will be a hand extended to lift you back up to your feet.
When – not if – that moment comes, the very worst thing you can possibly do is to swat that hand away, because this will guarantee that you stay on your knees for the rest of your miserable and likely rather short life.