After the first piece and the emotional release it gave me, I wrote another one after my first Christmas party with Maverick, then another one four years later after the wake of our beloved copywriter, Almanz Manzano.
Here's the first of them**********
It was no ordinary Christmas party. It stood among the happiest and warmest parties I’ve ever been. It showed that this 6-year old advertising agency, where I have toiled since its inception was definitely going somewhere. It didn’t matter that we never won any awards, that we were always a few inches away from the deadlines and all, or that it sometimes seemed that the office was overrun by immature retards… or maybe that was the really good part. But it was definitely going somewhere.
It was December 22, 2001, 9:30 pm at a Japanese buffet restaurant 15 minutes from the office. We were in the middle of the office Christmas party. Everyone was laughing, eating and drinking their hearts out, and everyone was happy. I was happy.
And I was sad.
I was looking at all these people who are part of a young organization (by ad agency standards) that has withstood storm after storm, and the frequent horn locking of the bosses. I am one of the bosses. But only until the next seven weeks.
I am looking at them with my silent goodbyes and they didn’t even know it.
I’m a relatively young chap. Going 29. Recent survivor of the new millennium psychosocial phenomenon they call the “quarter life crisis”. But being in this agency, which I helped build for the past 6 years has made me see how easy it is to accelerate your age at one moment, and relive you childhood the next, as long as your heart was always at the right place. Of course, it didn’t hurt that I am doing one of my childhood hobbies for a living. But more than that, it was the spirit the organization cultivated and nurtured, a spirit of trust and belonging.
"...I walked across to my oldest partner... the one who was with me right from the very start of everything, and I toast him... for being the strong one for the past 6 years..."
For a 28 year-old hotshot, I looked at and loved all the staff as though they were children under my care. Never mind that, with the exception of the driver, who was 30, I was the eldest by only one or two years before the next guy. And it wasn’t enough that their salaries were paid and all. What was really important to me was that they become better people, not just better professionals (that’s easy, you can buy training anywhere nowadays), but better PEOPLE. And I promised myself way back that I will help them do that, whoever they are, and wherever they came from.
I will never know of course, if I succeeded, or even cracked their ice. But I honestly did give it my best shot.
I am watching the staff (I no longer feel comfortable calling them MY staff) play parlor games. Some of them are creative variations on old games, while a couple or so were good-natured rip-offs of TV game shows. And everyone was laughing, eating and drinking his or her hearts out, and everyone was happy.
And I am still looking across the room bidding my silent goodbyes. I can almost hear their laughter echoing in my head long after the merriment has ended.
The staff count has grown to thirty-two heads, including the three partners. Not bad for a 6 year-old agency. We had already surpassed what we aimed for when we first started, and were aiming higher. I am watching the smiles and the laughter on their faces, and I could feel their faith that this agency was aiming higher, and that it would get there. I know it will.
I walked across to my oldest partner (there are two), the one who was with me right from the very start of everything, and I toast him. I toast him for being the strong one for the past 6 years, for being the one who stuck through all the doubt, and for being the one who has helped make me a better person. We shook hands very firmly, like brothers who have survived through many battles together. Each knowing we will now fight our battles alone. But destiny does have a sense of humor, as well as irony after all, and we shall see. We shall see.
I looked at those happy, smiling faces over and over, asking myself how I could leave all this behind. Then I remind myself that I had to. The reasons are probably more personal than they are practical. And during the occasional spells of paranoia, I have deemed move mildly suicidal, professionally speaking.
But I’ve made up my mind.
I stand outside at the balcony here at my home; a short ten-minute drive from what will soon be my former office. I chose to live in this neighborhood mostly due to its close proximity to the agency. I am looking at the treetops scattered across the immediate landscape. I see the different shades of green of the different tress as they ruffle in the breeze, and I think that perhaps that was it. I had to get the right shade of green for me. The tree we planted and nurtured has grown so much, but perhaps I wanted to taste a different fruit now, and stand under another shade of green. Or maybe that’s all just an attempt to poetize my growing greed.
But I am not greedy.
However, at this point, I will surrender myself to the judgement of what I pray will be a long and healthy history of the organization I will leave behind.
And I pray history will repeat itself. But the next time around, I will no longer say goodbyes, silent or otherwise.
December 23, 2001