I Heard the Owl Call my Name is a wonderful book. It is a book about an Anglican vicar who is sent to a parish of indigenous people in Canada. Unbeknownst to him, he has a terminal illness. The title comes from a belief that when one hears the owl call one's name, death is imminent. I don't see it quite that way. I have found that, in my life, when I encounter an owl, life change is imminent.
I have had a long relationship with owls. Throughout at least my adult life, they have been heralds of major life changes. When I was taking classes while we were living in San Jose, as I would walk over a footbridge to the school from the parking lot, a burrowing owl would sit at the end of the of the footbridge and watch me walk across. When I got across and on my way to the building, the owl would go into his burrow. The classes I took there changed the direction of my whole career. While we were still living in San Jose, I went on a two month TDY to my home town of Denver. As I would go into work, a burrowing owl would sit at the entrance and watch until I got inside. When I got home, a barn owl came and sat on our back fence and looked across our back yard into our family room at us. A couple weeks later, I got a job offer in Denver and we moved back. There are many other examples of owls paying visits, all tied to major life changes.
So very early in the morning one day last September, I was sitting outside with my husband while the dog did what she does. It was very dark. I heard an owl hooting. Since I have this history, I started to listen to the owl to see if I could divine what the message was. However, this was the most intense episode I have ever had. The owl got closer and closer, and pretty soon perched on the roof of our next door neighbor. I went up onto our deck to look at it. It poked its head forward, flapped its wings a few times, screeched a few times, then took off.
As it turned out, later that day, the managers on the program I was working on were given new staffing numbers because their budget had been greatly reduced and their next article had been postponed. My manager had to identify several people to let go. I was one of them. That was the owl's message.
Somehow, since I had heard the owl, I was not really surprised or upset. I was supposed to leave at the end of October. However, the company found things for me to do while we waited to see what would happen with sequester. If the sequestration got solved, the positions would loosen up and they would need me.Each time sequestration got delayed, my termination date moved out. Then in March, sequestration was allowed to happen. My last day was yesterday.
This had been a while coming. When the budget act of 2011 was passed, the defense department took the requirement to trim costs very seriously. At that time, I was chief engineer on a CRAD (research and development under contract from the government). Shortly after the budget act was passed, our funding got cut drastically. In the spring of 2012, it was cancelled. I went to a program. But as the rancor in Congress grew, the program customer cut funding from the existing contract and delayed the follow on. Hence the reduced staffing numbers.
I am not alone. My company alone has had to let go a whole raft of fine engineers and other professionals. These were people with a great deal of experience and talent. These were high paying jobs held by people who would go out to dinner, join gyms, shop, take vacations. In other words, these were the people who by virtue of their salaries paid the salaries of many others. In our community, as with communities all over the country, there are many empty boxes in strip malls because businesses have had to close their doors. There are so many fewer customers.
I am not terribly upset for myself. In fact, I suspect many of my associates are more upset that I was let go than I am. I am a believer that the soul knows what needs to happen for it to thrive. I had felt that I was not really growing in a way that feeds my soul. Somehow, I think the time had come. I needed to go somewhere where my time would be spent growing and contributing.
For now, i will spend the rest of Spring and Summer finishing my PhD. Then, my dream would be to create an enterprise architecture for one of these health insurance exchanges that come from Obamacare. A proper architecture would integrate the many systems that need to communicate with each other efficiently.
I will miss my friends. I will miss my work - I loved my work. I will be at loose ends, in that I have been working since I was 9. I don't know how we will pay our bills, I don't know how we will afford medical care, and all those I don't knows. But somehow we will be ok. However, I am very upset that it had to come to this, not only for me, but for so many like me. This company alone has lost many thousands of employees.
I worked at a very conservative site in a very conservative industry. But lately, I have heard much grumbling about the obstinance in Congress and the Republican Party, the refusal to do the things that would help this country. I have heard many who are angry at the wars and angry at the threats to our safety net. Sequestration has hit the company hard, it has hit the industry hard, it will hit the country hard. I am afraid the worst is yet to come.
Once again, the owl was right. He came and informed me of a major life change. I wish and hope that the only one getting this change is just me, but I am afraid I am not.