A Corporate Crisis
Updated: Dec 11, 2022
The bank came to me initially at the age of 20. It was my third real job after a tanning salon receptionist and retail store refugee. I liked my little bank branch set in the Laurelhurst neighborhood of Seattle where I called my customers by name and even knew the members of their families. It had charm and simplicity, and it was a perfect entrance to the community as I was fresh out of the forests of Poulsbo, Washington, which was my hometown of then about 6,000, and where I also knew everyone by name. It’s the kind of place where you have no privacy and you’re forever connected to your childhood friends by adventures of delinquency. It was a nice town to grow up in, but a lack of opportunity and fun to be had in a big city, put me on the first ferry to Seattle at the age of 18. I had plans to attend the University of Washington and start studying, but those plans went awry suddenly after I was rejected for having absent-mindedly sent back my acceptance letter late, then left to grieve my ridiculous mistake.
Following high school graduation and a failed attempt to start college, I started working in retail at a candle store in downtown Seattle, but I made my way through that experience fairly quickly as I hated standing on my feet and succumbing to the demanding needs of customers while shopping. I diligently searched online for something less tiring and more rewarding. When an ad for banking popped up, I didn’t give it much thought. I just clicked send and off went my application into cyberspace where it was received and considered, and I was called back with an interview and then an offer. I took it in instant not thinking of the future and the possibility that this job might make a road for me in a direction which I hadn’t planned on or wanted it to be. I also didn't know that I would follow it to the end of where it would bring me.
The bank did help me. In the beginning, I was content there and it gave me the flexibility to work part-time while studying; eventually earning my Associate’s Degree from community college paid for by the bank’s money, which was one of the perks of being an employee. Perhaps I should’ve worked as a teller even longer because I was happier there than where I was heading, but after more than four years of the quaint bank branch routine, the need to shake things up and continue striving is what made me apply for a position on the corporate side. It was a move up in banking. It was something with more excitement, responsibility, and creativity, or I thought it would be.
A different bank than the one where I had started originally, had its headquarters in downtown Seattle. They put me through rigorous interviewing, which made me believe I would be doing something interesting, not sitting in a boring box doing HR requests repetitiously, also known as death for me. I’m a Sagittarius who yearns for travel, adventure, change, and something challenging. Unfortunately, I hadn’t completely understood the position I was taking when it was offered to me, and I came to dread it continually, but how do you change after the fact and go back from where you’re going? How do you move ahead when you have what you thought you wanted? You don’t, as I found out. You sit and suffer it out. You pray that something will change and that some new idea will magically appear or something will go your way.
My best friend Riyana was my savior and continual confidant. I remember telling her after day three at my new job in corporate reality, “I think I hate it,” and that was only the start of many more similar conversations that came to be in the weeks, months, and years which followed that feeling. Riyana and I talk frequently, daily, always really. This is our favorite pastime and greatest priority. Sometimes I think all of our chatting brings clarity and other times I wonder if we’re just talking ourselves in circles. We like to go round and round about the same three subjects: life, love, and how to make a living. There was one conversation, however, which ended differently because a light bulb came on blindingly. There was understanding on a level not previously felt by me. I had a greater awareness of my life and how I was living. It was a realization that I wanted a lot more than what I was currently doing and to feel more than what I was currently feeling. I immediately walked down the hall from her apartment to mine, grabbed my journal, and began writing. I wrote with intention and certainty and it was this certainty, perhaps, which liberated me. It definitely changed my reality. This was my entry on that evening:
September 12, 2008
It has become so ridiculously clear to me what I want in this life. I have spent the last week running around crazy at work and coming home to boredom, chores, and loneliness, and I realized that everything I want cannot be bought. My job and career have nothing to do with it. America and everything it represents is a recipe for dissatisfaction. I want to sell everything I own and free myself from this consumer driven mess of a life. I want out of my cubicle to be free to see and experience the wonder that life holds. I want to live near water and spend my days connected to nature. I want to trust a man, to sleep, and wake up next to him. I want to love and give my heart and soul to someone who’ll give it back also. I want my best friend living her dreams right alongside mine, sharing wonderful surprises and spontaneity. I want to be consumed by a life full of beauty and find a job that fulfills me. I want a job which I do happily and not for the money. I want good food, friends, laughter, and fun, infinitely and everlasting. I want to learn, grow, and challenge myself to evolve to a smarter, deeper, more compassionate, caring, loving, and giving human being. Most of all, I want the courage, fire, and passion to pursue my purpose. I want to remain focused and never settle for less, and when it’s all said and done, I want to write my story so that I can share it with others in hopes of helping them to do the same.
I am making a vow tonight in the presence of God and my cat Veronica to stay committed to the life I dream of and a life that I deserve. This is my plea to you universe: Give it all to me. Give me love, fulfillment, and harmony. I’m ready. I’m ready. I’m ready. I’m ready to receive. Give me what I need to be affecting this life in the best way possible: with positive energy.
Something changed for me tonight and it was clarity of the concoction brewing inside of me. It was a realization that I have everything I asked for, but I should've been asking for something else. I should have been asking for
I want love in all the things around me - my job, family, friends, a man, my home, and my country. Take me to that place. It awaits me & dear God, I hope it's in Italy!
It may have been a coincidence then or perhaps my persistent pleading, but either way, in 2008 the bank started failing. I blame it on the media mostly, which injected fear into the citizens and who in turn, made a run on the bank. All of us employees contemplated the best time to buy stock for a steal as we watched it go from 40 something dollars a share, to 30, to 15, to 10 in a matter of months. Still, none of us would’ve guessed what was about to happen. Banks don’t go bankrupt. Not in the United States they don’t. In fact, when I took this job, my grandma said, “It’s good to have a nice safe job like the bank. They never have problems.” Problems it appears they did so have and they doubled, tripled, and quadrupled in the weeks to come as the bank’s stock plummeted from ten to zero and there I was in my cubicle about to have my wish come true. Riyana joked that it was my journal entry that pushed the bank over the edge because 13 days after writing it, I exited confinement amongst camera crews and the news media who were making headlines investigating and inquiring about the story. They wanted to know what exactly happened to bring 307 billion dollars in assets to its knees. It was the largest bank failure in United States history and there I was walking out of it stunned, scared, and set free. It was a freedom, which terrified me.
I have never not worked. I got my first real job at 16, but even before that, I was babysitting. I’m a worker and I like working. I just want to work doing something I like, and I would like to find the thing that I like while I still have job security, not sitting unemployed worriedly. There was time to think, however. The day the government seized and sold the bank was only the first step in a series of many. We were told not to talk to the press, but to keep reporting to work while awaiting the announcement of a plan laid out for us. Government officials and big wigs from the buying bank came to our office to look through files and question those in question. Clearly, there were no more people to recruit and the uncertainty in the air clammed up the customary chatter between us. It was an unusual aura for a group of people whose job it is to speak. I was somewhat saved by homework. Yes, homework. It is perhaps the only time in history it has come to someone’s aid rather than agony. It prevented me from worrying too much and helped pass the time while I diddled at my desk. My first day in the University of Washington Evening Degree Program was the day before the big bust at work. It was a decision I had made four years after completing my Associate’s Degree from community college with the hope of finding an interest and furthering my career capabilities. I had reached a point at the bank in which everyone had more or less the same experience as me, but many were much further along the education highway.
The final verdict finally came almost two months later. A verbal layoff notice was given in a meeting with my coworkers, my boss, her boss, and her boss. No one was exempt. We all came in and sat together around a massive oblong table to listen to our future from a voice inside of a telephone. A conference call informed us that we had three days to clear out our desks and close our files. I drove my car downtown because I had that much stuff to take home. I had, at that point, been working in banking for almost eight years, so I did in fact have to load up boxes, gather my plants, and weed through years of information on my computer making sure to have packed it all. I was scared about losing the only job I’d ever really known, but more than that, I was excited to be free. I was finally free from a life that I no longer wanted, yet was consuming me. It was a path that had inadvertently become me. I looked around that vacated, plastic, orderly atmosphere then walked out gracefully, pausing by the elevator before consciously pressing the down button one last time and waiting expectantly. I stepped in, rode down, then watched those strong steel doors slide open to release me. I drove off into the unknown unknowingly, knowing only that I would never again work in banking, nor anywhere without significance and meaning.