Treading Water

January 11th, 2019

Our time in the USA has been full of novel experiences and surprises. I have started to write a little book, Treading Water, on my experience of the 2008 recession. Here is the Intro.

Pink Slips

3 November 2008. Tomorrow is Election Day. Obama versus McCain Day. Biden versus Palin Day. I come home from campus, expecting to be glued to the News channel and reports on election results and expectations in different States of America. My husband is upstairs in our home office, his face a brooding thunderstorm.

What’s wrong – you look as if someone just fired you!

Yes, they did. Indeed.

As Director of New Channel Partners at a start-up company in Mountain View, California, his position was made redundant – in fact, 30% of the company suddenly had ‘unneeded’ positions. This time, no golden handshake to the directors, no warning signals to employees. The CEO even took the trouble to invite all employees to a meeting the previous week to announce that the company had enough bank credit, so no one needed to worry about lay-offs. And after my husband signed the first million-dollar deal for that same company – well… that was meant as extra security.

Who would lay off people after so much reassurance? What duality would hand out pink slips on the evening when the entire country was thinking in red and blue… Republican or Democrat, Obama or McCain, Biden or Palin? Slowly realization sinks in. A pink slip on a red and blue evening is hard to digest.  I’ll have to plan ahead.

I am a PhD scientist with a part-time position at Stanford, expecting to move to full-time when the kids could manage without me in the afternoons. Stanford has made sounds of freezing positions and salaries in the sudden economic recession. I have been asked repeatedly when I would be willing to move to a full-time position. That time has now arrived. I grabbed the opportunity.

Over the next few weeks… which turned into months… and later more than a year… then three years… I had to redefine various aspects of my life. My comfort zone was shattered. There was no means of relief or escape. The world would narrow down to boundaries, procedures and regimens that I could define, and use as beacons to guide me mentally and emotionally. I had to follow instinct. I navigated a route for survival. My compass was my uncluttered upbringing, common sense, and often sheer guts. Some guidelines are described in the following pages. They paved the way to survival of the fittest.