It was a beautiful day and Tess’s spirit was soaring as the sun beat down on her shoulders. The skies were clear, the air was warm and everything was working exactly as planned. She had woken up early with the sole purpose of getting to the gym before work. She had spent 30 minutes on the treadmill. Then some time was spent hefting around big slugs of metal before devoting another half hour to her most favorite of activities, sparing.
Now, as she walked in the warm sunlight from the parking lot to her office, she looked at her hands and grimaced. The hours in her cubical and away from the gym had resulted in sloppy mitt work. Even though she had wrapped her hands with care before she started, her first two knuckles on her right hand where beginning to swell. She was cocking her hand in when she punched. If only her boss would put a punching bag in that empty office, like she suggested, she wouldn’t have gotten sloppy.
Tess grinned as she thought of her coworkers watching her dance with the bag on a break. She was sure that her coworkers would benefit from having a bag in the office. Boxing was one of the best stress relievers she had ever found. Better than therapy and meditation (those only made her more depressed) although not as good as a good man. Of course, maybe more time away from her cube and she could have one of those too.
Her coworkers assumed she liked boxing because she could get rid of aggression from her job while sparing. But fighting had actually very little to do with pent up aggression. There where few people she actually wanted to hit. Although, Miss “that’s SOOO last season” Barbie up on the fifth floor certainly made her think about it from time to time. To Tess sparing and even simple heavy bag work was like a dance. It felt good. The steps, the impact and the physical contact were therapeutic. Almost nothing felt as good as a perfect combination of kicks and punches, a clean block and the impact of one bodies energy transferring to another. Even when she was fortunate enough to spar with a real fighter and got schooled, it left her on a high that was hard to top. This morning, Rick had danced her around the ring, knocked some sense into her when so blocked to slow, and awakened the fighter in her.
Tess couldn’t help thinking how great her life was. She had a nice home, great friends and family and a boss that valued and respected her. She wasn’t rich, and wasn’t thin or beautiful by traditional Hollywood standards, but she was happy and could hold her own when it came to getting a double take.
Walking into the office, she felt on top of the world. Granola and yogurt awaited her at her desk. It wasn’t a doughnut but hey – it was the second step this morning towards that perfect body she was sure she would have some day. Tess logged into her PC and prepared for the onslaught of reports processed by her boss. Nada – nothing. No requests came in. That was not normal. She double checked her access rights and found that her access to the system had been terminated. Walking in to his office she asked if everything was okay. “Sure, everything is fine” he said. He appeared different. You can’t work with someone for 5 years and not see a sudden change in attitude. “Tom, why don’t I have anything from you? Did you lose connection over the weekend?”
Tom smiled and said, “There are a few things happening that have external impact, we had to freeze the work flow and your access for a short period of time.” Alarm must have flashed across Tess’s face because he added “it has nothing to do with you, I wouldn’t worry.” This didn’t feel right, something else was happening.
Tess had been through five FDA audits, the submission of two new drug applications and one clinical trial hold. Never had they removed her rights to her bosses’ work flow, not even for a reorg. This was about him. He was leaving the company.
Tess wasn’t sure how she knew that her boss was leaving. Perhaps it was a series of meetings on the executive calendars in months past, or the change in Tom’s demeanor or a dozen other things her unconscious brain had noticed and suddenly put together, but she knew. She was an intuitive person, often knowing things without knowing why. Being an assistant can be very personal, even in business. It is not just about skill sets, its about working styles and communication and fit. Just because she was good at her job did not guarantee that she would have a future with the company. Fear gripped her deep in the gut and a tightness spread across her chest. With the economy in the toilet, she would have to take a pay cut, perhaps move away from her family. It was all to much to deal with at once. the “what if” and the unknown had taken control of her thoughts. The yogurt and granola no longer seemed appetizing. Hell, the idea of a doughnut turned her stomach and that was saying something.
“What will happen to me”, was screaming in her head, followed quickly by disgust with herself. She liked to think she wasn’t the sort to think about herself first. And yet, when something like this happened, self centered thoughts where the first to surface. He seemed sad, yet at the same time happy and relieved, if that was possible. It was as if he was Atlas and he had finally put the world down. She smiled and said, “Okay boss, let me know what I can do to help. By the way how was your weekend?”
With a smile that reached his eyes he said, “I had a great session with my trainer on Saturday.” Walking out of the office, Tess replied with a knowing look “Seems like that was one hell of a work out.” It was nice to see a real smile on his face.
Sitting at her desk, she tried to keep a grip on her emotions, but as a raw ache ate away at her stomach, the earth began to slowly drop away from her. The more sure she was that he was leaving, the more scared she became. A huge wave of fear seemed to have swept in and was now pulling the sands of normalcy out from under her feet. Terror of the unknown was shifting and swirling around her.
Rising from her desk, a plastic smile fixed on her face, she strode quickly from the building. The desire to run away pushing her faster and faster. She barely noticed the few coworkers that she passed in the hall as her vision filled with tears.
Freeing herself from the building she wandered the streets around her office, not wanting to go back in. Suddenly, sobs she could no longer control broke forth from her core. She cried, against a building in a dingy alley. For a moment, she let it all consumer her, the fear, the anger, the confusion, all swept over her in a powerful wave of emotion.
Slowly the wave ebbed away and her vision cleared. As she tried to pull herself together, she wondered at the reaction. It seems the height of happiness that morning had made the shock of change that more severe. She wasn’t a wilting flower. She kicked boxed and kicked butt! She could handle this. What ever her future held, she would face it. It did little to ease the shock and fear, but at least she was back in control. She didn’t like it and she didn’t think it was fair, but that was corporate life. With resolve she squared her shoulders to return to work. It might take a while for things to go back to normal, but she knew they would. In the mean time – she thought she might have a doughnut.