Wednesday, May 23, 2012

From Whiz Kid to Was Kid?

Ex-computer expert Phil Bowe now meets another public need
Just back from a hiking vacation to France. Guess what? It’s the same the world over. People everywhere are struggling to navigate through their post-career lives.
Take Phil Bowe, who moved from England to a little village in southern France to be near his daughter and grandchildren. (She married a bloke who, like her, is a translator, and thanks to the magic of the internet, both can work remotely from the charming, medieval town of Castlenau-de-Montmiral.)
Phil was once a computer pioneer. Today, he drives a taxi. He’s thrilled actually: he’s found something worthwhile to do.

“One day you’re working hard and buckling to keep the forces of bastardy at bay  -- sorry I mean my management -- and suddenly you’ve got nothing to occupy yourself,” said Phil in his very British accent as he drove us from Castelnau to the larger town of Albi.
“I’d always thought of myself as a whiz kid and you wake up one morning and discover you’re a was kid. That’s quite a shock, I might say.”
After moving to this village with some 1,000 inhabitants, he discovered there was “no public transport for miles around.” Driving a cab “presented an opportunity to not vegetate on the telly, watching sports, and subsequently I found that actually I was doing a service.  I felt good about it.”
Right after giving us a lift, he was planning to drive a child, who had been in a coma for months after being slammed by a car’s side view mirror, to a therapy appointment.
“I found something that keeps my brain active, avoids me vegetating, and at the same time I meet lots of interesting and beautiful people -- like you!"
Ah, the French.. or newly French. So charmant.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A late lay-off hurts just as much

On a bike ride recently, we impulsively dropped in on old friends (isn’t that what we all used to do before email?).
Visiting was Sofia Escobar, who, after three years, had finally recovered from the shock and despair of losing her job.
No matter your age, getting laid off (as opposed to quitting or retiring)  is hurtful and can delay, derail, decimate any notion of an easy transition to the next great thing. And it hurts even more when those doing the laying off suddenly shun you.
One person I know had to stay on the job for two weeks after hearing the position was being eliminated.
"None of the bosses spoke with me. I felt as if I was radioactive," the employee said.
For Sofia, the news hurt just as much, even though she was 72 years old. She had long worked as an echo cardiology technologist with the developer of the South Beach Diet, she explained. And when the doctor  left her hospital in Miami, he asked her to follow.
Sofia, now 75,  told us her story with a twinkle of joy, brought on only by the passage of hard times and the newfound freedom to be with her sister in Philadelphia.
“For 10 years, he begged me to work with him,” she said. “He loved me as a person. I loved him as a doctor.” With so much seniority, she was loathe to leave the hospital she’d worked at for 27 years, but in a moment of pique, at age 70, she took the doctor up on his offer.
“Many times he would say, “That’s why you’re here, because you can diagnose this and that,’ and I was so proud." But in two years, things changed. "They hired another cardiologist. He brought in his son, an echo tech,” and she was let go, Sofia said.
 “I was a month in bed,” she continued. “My aunt cooked for me and force-fed me.  I felt so sorry that the world was missing such a passionate worker, so good with the patients. I loved them and they loved me... So I thought the world was missing something irreplaceable."
Besides herego, the layoff hurt financially and she declared bankruptcy.
 “At that time I supported my kids, which is not a good thing to do --I was paying for a house that I bought for my daughter with her kids. I was desperate,with so many obligations. So when they laid me off,  I called the bank, and said I cannot pay my mortgage anymore. I cannot pay anything.” “Today, after three years I say, Thank you, God. I don’t care." She no longer supports her "children" ages 40 and 41. "You know it’s about time they take care of themselves," she said.
"I reconnected with my sister whom I love to death.   I’m traveling. I L-O-V-E it.  So that’s my life now. I do the things I love. I read. I’m with my sister who I love. I lost a lot of weight, for which I’m so happy. Even though I’m 75, I still look good. And I feel good. And that’s the end of it.
“So everything happens for a reason.”