Saturday, October 13, 2012

Un anniversaire

This week, we celebrate six months of living in Paris, France.  In two weeks, we will celebrate the first year of my being laid off from work in the USA.

I was hoping to be able to retire gracefully out of my job as a software engineering program manager.  I had contributed in several important areas to the company's ability to generate $3BILLION over ten years.  I had helped build the foundation that enabled another $500MILLION over ten years.  I was good at what I did.

Alas, locking horns with the president of the company (quite inadvertently on my part, I can assure you) put paid to any hope of a graceful retirement.  Instead, I was invited to endure the worst week of my professional career in an all too public manner.  The president's complete mis-use of the Toyota Way made his real intentions clear.

To receive any severance (which itself was severely reduced from a layoff just a few months prior) I was to sign a document that said I would not criticize the company, nor would I ever apply for a job with that company in the future.  The president of the company had a huge axe to grind and used it to reduce head-count that sent a message that no one was to disagree with him ever again.  Such is the nature of working for asset stripping roll-up companies or private equity firms.

A colleague had talked for years about stockpiling "go to hell" money.  We preferred to think of it as prudent savings against the day I would no longer work.  Either way, Jude and I did our best to save what we could.

To make the move to France we needed to sell the house.  So coming up with enough "go to hell" money was not an easy task.  Or so it seemed.  It was then that our home sold in a week.   In the middle of a severely "down" market.  In the middle of winter.  To close in 30 days.  We needed to rent-back our former home to ensure our French visas arrived in time for our departure.

So many pieces of our move fell effortlessly into place that we began to think our leaving was somehow pre-ordained.

When we look back at our last years in the US, we can see how our lifestyle had evolved.  We lived "close to the earth" and voted continually to express what was valuable to us in the way we spent our money, in the topics we researched and shared with others, and in the way we "walked our talk".

We drove a Prius.  Jude volunteered at the local organic food coop.  I rode public transportation to-from work.  During spring/summer/fall, I would ride my bike downtown to catch the train out to work, and then reverse this coming home.  We frequented local restaurants (not fast food, nor any food-chain type of places).  We put our money in a credit union.  We lived simply (by US standards).

Coming to Paris, I see our values have changed only slightly.

We no longer own an automobile.  We walk all over town and use public transportation to get around when we don't want to alk.  We use the rail system to visit the countryside and the high-speed TGV to visit other countries.  We buy our food from local markets.  We research which bistros, brasseries, and restaurants still run a real kitchen (as opposed to places that nuke prepackaged meals from Rungis).  We enjoy visiting with merchants in our open-air marche.   We enjoy taking language lessons at a local small privately run school.  We drink organic wines and beer.  We buy our art from local artists (and not that stuff that is cranked out in China, but sold in Paris as if it were painted here).  We live in a very small (by US standards) apartment.  Our alarm clock is sometimes a loud singing black bird instead of an alarm clock.  We watch as doves raise their young just outside our back window.

We don't take up much space.  We continue to live simply.  We are incredibly happy.

It's time for a bit of champagne.

1 comment:

  1. Now, what was I saying about roll-up companies and private equity firms? Read 'um and weep. Bain Capital is far from being the only US-based "company" to do exactly these things -