being bitter and professionally plastic

Today saw the completion of a professional event which was just over six months in gestation.  It was born of an idea which needed to be forced through after internal company meetings with nervous, careful colleagues unsure how much value organising an event would give our technical company.

It would give us exposure, I argued; exposure of our company, brand, our expertise and the services we offer – especially by having a chair of the event as well as a speaker who could present a session.  It wouldn’t take up too much of my time: I could arrange a couple of speakers, a secretary of the organisation would arrange logistics with the sponsors.   I assured them it was really no big deal.  They grudgingly, tentatively agreed. 

Or I accepted the outcome of the meetings as agreement, even if it was never given explicitly as such. It certainly wasn’t a no.

Then, about three months later they made me redundant. 

Thanks very much.

Because I retained my duties for the organisation, which weren’t dependent upon my employers, I saw the organisation of the event through.  Unfortunately I could hardly retract the offer of the Chair, or speaking slot at the event to my former colleagues.

The strangeness of professionally encountering the employers who made you redundant a couple of months before, yet still having reason to be amiable towards them, is one which could be compared to feeling obliged to hug an ex who cheated on you. 

Hello, you utter bastards, you feel lke greeting them. 

But you don’t, especially as there’s the faint, outside hope that they *might* provide you with some freelance work at some juncture. You smile, shake hands, ask how it’s all going, and continue the charade of being awfully professional. 

(You would do this anyway of course, even if there was no outside incentive.  Being starkly hostile is harder than being civilised.)  

Before my former line manager gave his presentation, I had taken pleasure in quietly cackling at his predictable clunkiness.  Similar in age and experience, we never shared the easiest professional relationship – possibly due to the level of testosterone between us, and he was likely instrumental in making me redundant. He was Old School within the company, having been there for almost as long as the company and practically his whole career.  I was comparatively new but had equal knowledge of the space, if not slightly more.  You could argue he felt threatened by this, which led to a tricky relationship.  So, looking forward to a clumsy, nervy talk from him wasn’t too hard.

During it though, I felt such a sense of empathy with the nature of his discomfort: uncertainty, constant errrrring, and the jagged nature of delivery – that it was actually sympathy I felt more.  I identified with his hesitance and self consciousness.  I would have been extremely similar.  What surprised me was my instinctive sympathy and encouragement to him afterwards, when he confessed that he thought he was rubbish.  Perhaps I’m not such a bitter twat after all. 

However, it does shame me to admit that I personally bottled addressing the 150-strong crowd. The opportunity was presented to me in an indirect fashion, left open.  I could have easily claimed just a few minutes to introduce the day and open the event.  It would have only been right as the day was my brainchild and much of its organisation and promotion was down to me.  It wouldn’t have needed much at all.

But I failed to grasp the nettle, grow bollocks, address my fear, and weakly allowed my colleague ahead.  I could try to justify it using a rationale that people who do what I do should never be the story, should always sit back and facilitate – but I know that essentially, I just bottled it.

You might not have been aware of this phobia and nervousness had you seen me on the periphery, orchestrating, arranging speakers, or in breaks, chatting and joking with the attendees.  I maintained a confident-seeming air one to one, or one to a handful, as well as in the potentially awkward face of my former colleagues.

Did I imagine slight embarrassed guilt behind their shiny smiley, unknowably plastic eyes?  Who can say?  But I like to think I carried off the whole performance a mite better than them as I flitted around during the breaks.  Shameless about my apparent uselessness to them.  Unbowed.  A delicately subtle waft of, And Fuck You Too.

Ah, no.  There’s that bitter twat.  Still there then..


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