February 13, 2000
A Totem Pole *Anniversary*


A year ago this week, I stepped off the elevator to begin my new job  ... and accidentally stepped into a career.

I've been trying to scrape it off the bottom of my shoe, ever since.

I don't know which is worse: having tons and tons of talent and absolutely zero ambition ... or having no talent whatsoever and all of the ambition in the universe. I suspect the latter, if only because it seems dangerously less self-aware. Also because most of the talent-free-yet-relentlessly-ambitious people I've known have also been incredibly annoying. 

In my case, I know I have the talent it takes to be the world's greatest Executive Ass. The past year has convinced me of that. If I can survive Franz,  I can survive anything.

It's just that I don't especially have the ambition to be an Executive Ass anymore.

At least ... not at The Totem Pole Company.

Which is why I sat at my desk on Friday afternoon  --  the one year anniversary of my first full day at the TPC  --  and composed my letter of resignation.

"Dear Franz,"
 I wrote ... *borrowing* liberally from a sample letter I got off the Internet:

"Please accept this as my formal notice of resignation from The Totem Pole Company, effective Friday, February 25.

This decision comes after careful re-evaluation of my career and personal goals.

I hope that two weeks' notice will provide sufficient time to hire my replacement. I would be glad to assist in training, and in any other ways necessary to make the transition a smooth one for all concerned.

I am most appreciative of the opportunities and courtesy that have been extended to me during my year with you, and I will be proud to include my experience at The Totem Pole Company in my job-search efforts.


Secra Terri."

After I composed the resignation letter, I printed it, signed it ...

... and promptly chickened out.

I stashed the letter away in my Tickler File, under "Action Items/Week of Feb. 14" (right next to the invoice for Franz' new mattress and box springs), and then spent the rest of the day Friday blearily attending to business as usual.

  • Transcribing sixteen "priority" voicemail messages that will never be referred to again.
  • Opening and meticulously logging eleven metric tons of incoming mail that will never be read.
  • Filing another pile of Bible-length faxes that will never again see the light of day.
  • Arranging conference calls that will never take place.
  • Scheduling complex meetings that will be blown off at the last minute.
  • Printing out Draft #43,897,621 of The Totem Pole Tattler, changing all of the semi-colons back to colons.
  • Rescheduling Franz' appointments with the Sewer Guy ... the Leach Field Guy ... the Mattress Delivery Guy ... the shoulder specialist ... the family counselor ... his son ("write him an e-mail and tell him I said to show up up tonight or else").
  • Engaging in furtive, despairing hallway conversations during coffee breaks with the other four women who are ready to jump from a sinking Totem Pole.
And then, because I couldn't leave for the weekend in my distraught frame of mind without doing something just the teensiest bit pro-active, I wrote another letter. Another one of my diplomatic, carefully-worded masterpieces of bullshidt ...  this time to the Human Resources Person, who has been my friend and ally since the very first day I stepped off that elevator for my interview.

From: Secra Terri
Sent: Friday, February 11, 2000 4:04 PM
To: Human Resources Director Person
Subject: FYI
Importance: High
Sensitivity: Confidential

Hi M.:

I don't know if anyone else from the office has contacted you today, but this has been a pretty bumpy day around The Totem Pole Company. I know that there were core meltdowns in two or three different departments, including ours. I can't speak for anyone else, but I can at least fill you in on what's going on here.

The long and short of it is that I am considering submitting my resignation, effective end of the month. I plan to think about it over the weekend, discuss it with David and with my family, and come to a decision by Monday morning.

I felt that it was only fair to give you some advance warning, as I know this will affect you directly, at least temporarily.

If I do decide to leave, it will be less a matter of my dissatisfaction with The TPC than my need to find a position more in line with my vision of how an employer/employee relationship should function. In recent weeks I've found it increasingly difficult to be a party to the seemingly arbitrary disregard of people/procedures/commitments. I'm also hugely dissatisfied with the amount of time and energy I'm expending on daily organizational/communication issues with nothing in the way of results.

As I said, I plan to think about it carefully over the weekend. I would welcome your comments or suggestions, as well as some time to discuss this with you personally on Monday or whenever you have some time at the beginning of the week. Until then, your confidentiality would be appreciated.

Thanks, M.


Since the Human Resources Director Person was out of town, I composed the letter to her as an e-mail. After it was written, I sat there at my desk for an hour or so, reading it and re-reading it and re-re-reading it.

Should I send it?

Should I rewrite it? Maybe make it sound a little less ... I dunno ... unhappy and honest?

Should I hold it until Monday? Stash it in the Tickler File, along with the resignation letter and the mattress invoice  ...  knowing full well that come Monday morning, I would probably put the resignation letter AND the e-mail -- if not the invoice -- into the shredder ... and then continue doing those stoopid push-ups in the mud every day for the next bazillion years?

But eventually I surprised myself and did the only thing I could do, under the circumstances. The bravest thing. The scariest thing. The most dangerous and unsettling thing.

The thing that smells a little bit like "ambition." 

I closed my eyes ... and hit *Send.*

And then I headed for the bus stop and home, so I could spend the weekend making my decision.

self-important blurb #1 will go HERE:  so.

have i decided what i'm going to do?

hell no.

but then again it's only 2:24 p.m. on sunday afternoon ... i have another 15 hours, 36 minutes and three-quarters of a pound of Peanut M&M's left to think about it.

[in the meantime ... i'm fine-tuning the résumé. how do you spell "neuroanatomy?"]

stay tuned.

self-important blurb #2 -- probably having something to do with the WEATHER: rainrainrainrainrainrainrainrain rainrainrainrainrainrainrainrain rainrainrainrainrainrainrainrain

inside and out.

a year ago

here's where i'll ask a *relevant* question:
nope. i'm not even gonna ask.
i'm the only one who can make the decision, anyway

amazingly profound thought of the day: "Get ready for a new phase of your life's work. You can enjoy the fruits of your past efforts when new business opportunities come your way next week. Don't jump the gun, however, and mess up a good thing just because you're restless. Make sure all agreements are sound and secure. Your financial life could be in jeopardy if you indulge a whim or allow wishful thinking to take hold. Ask questions and get everything in writing. Then you can make a change." ~ my horoscope on friday ~