January 2018. Unable to walk and having recently left my previous job on a multinational company, i wrote on a piece of paper “Take Cork Crafts off the ground”. This project, the Cork Crafts project, had started in May 2017 and now it would be my permanent professional activity.
The year was starting and everything was in a haze. The departure from my “main” job happened after almost two years of constant… struggles with certain parts of management. It was the culmination of a decision made to leave the company and the creation of a path that slowly emerged. It emerged out of the frustrations with the corporate world, out of the constrains, apathy and sometimes sadistic ideology that sprout in people that achieve power over others. These frustrations, lead me to think clearly with only one idea in mind.
“I will leave this place.”
Let’s go back to October 2016.. Rising rents in Cork City meant I too was affected by it. I finally got the letter from the Assets Management Company that managed the complex where my apartment was located that my rent was going to increase. From 850€ to 1200€. I knew perfectly well this was going to happen since this Company (bear in mind this is not a landlord but a company managing apartments purely for profit) had evicted dozens of people a year before in a similar apartment complex and I knew there and then it would happen too in the place I am Living. And so the letter came in and rest assured I wasn’t the only one affected by it, the whole complex had their rents increased in the same way. Whole families suddenly could not afford the place where they where living. All done through a cold, one page letter.
I immediately rang the Assets Management Company to try to renegotiate a lesser rent increase but to no avail. I started to think that, it would be in the interest of the place I’m working at to actually intervene since so many of the employees that worked at this company lived in those apartments and so I thought that would be a better course of action.
My next working day was a Sunday and just by chance the company director, the big boss of the whole office was there, to this day I have no idea why he was in on a Sunday since working weekends was just for the “lower classes” of the company and everyone else would enjoy normal Saturday/Sunday weekends and 9 to 5 jobs.
As soon I saw him I asked to have a word, and we went into a meeting room where I explained the whole situation. Unsurprisingly I was met with total apathy. “well some of the people working here will probably reconsider staying here. And if you think it’s bad now it will definitely continue to be worse.” This was said with such an apathy taking two sips from his coffee and basically really saying “I could not care less about it” or “the company does not give a shit about you. We pay you to work and that’s it, so sort yourself out or get the fuck out”
Welcome to the Family
These where the first words on the Employer’s guide book I got when I got hired. It followed pages and pages saying how I was basically saved from mundane jobs by working in that company and how they would take good care of me The Poor Hopeless Employee that would go to new heights now that I was part of that professional family.
By this time you might be thinking, how I was so naive to think they would care about it. I should know, that’s how corporations work right? You are a mindless drone and that’s it. But for me at the time this was the final nail in the coffin. The final push I needed to fully understand my place was far away from that office space, from that company. But let me explain why…
For someone that moved from another country for this job everything seemed almost magical, to a naive mind not used to international corporate world this seemed like a paradise job. But that reality kept crumbling bit by bit.
Early on me and the other employees hired with me where definitely treated differently to what I now know would stand easily in a court of law as discrimination. Other episodes would definitely be considered workplace harassment even interfering heavily with my health.
But there’s just enough anyone can take and slowly the naive mind wises up and a revolution becomes inevitable…
And for many years I kept quiet, because i was part of “the family” and as such I should be grateful to be a part of it.
On that meeting with the “big boss” was when I said to myself enough is enough! I remember this clear as water, by the end of next year I would not be working here.
From that day on I stopped interacting with every single work colleague and only had human contact at my workplace with friends I could trust. I would arrive at my time to work, do my work and go back home. Not one word to any single manager or work colleague. Meetings where one sided, I was a complete wall. This wall became unbreakable and only grew stronger anytime they tried to pry it open. And believe me, they tried!
They started with extreme micro management so The Wall, me, started to have every single interaction in writing, as such there is always a “witness” through written words. But that was just the beginning. They forcefully changed my shift as a way to break me. And even came to the point of Micromanaging my bathroom breaks.
The intention was very clear, harass me enough so I end up leaving while they would wash their hands in innocence! But leaving was already my plan except I would put it into practice in my own words and my own time. I needed to figure out an “escape plan” first. That escape plan would end up being Cork Crafts. And as it took shape I slowly became aware that there was nothing they could do that would intimidate me and that it was actually them that should start to fear what I had to say. But now, in their naivety they still thought they had the upper hand…
“I will always be here if you need anything”
These where the last words from the manager that harassed me for years, before I left to the shift she forced me into. You can imagine the tone and body language this empty promise was made. Like a real life Cersei from Game of Thrones.
But I did not reply.
The “Escape Plan” was already taking shape….
In March 2017, on a long walk in the countryside with my beloved partner, we stopped to rest by a tree and noticed the bark of the tree was different. It was a young Cork Tree with it’s first cork bark growing. I rubbed my hand on the cork and the smell of it was in my hands. And I remembered all the cork products in the shops. From the wallets to umbrellas and hats! Hat I actually had just recently bought one!
And suddenly I realize I had never seen such products in Ireland, quite literally there was no cork in Cork! This idea started to brew in my mind, and so on my lunch breaks I was watching videos about cork on youtube. At home I’d start to read more and more about this bark from an oak tree.
And so, in May 2017 I went a weekend to Portugal and walked into a Cork Shop.
i immediately became friends with the owner as we had met before already years early when cork products first exploded. I bought from him a number of products a vast selection of items, put them in my luggage and tried my luck in The Fair Alternative.
It was an immediate success! But there was a problem.
At my day job, in my new shift that my beloved employers forced me into, I was working Saturdays. Saturdays was the day that The Fair Alternative was on..
Though the shift I could not do nothing about it, my new manager was extremely comprehensive and despised what other managers where doing. She fully understood where I was coming from in regards to my previous experiences and fully supported my new business. She kept pulling strings to give me Saturdays and when it wasn’t possible she managed to make it that I could work after the market.
And so, once my holidays where finished and I could not book anymore Saturdays as holidays, I started working half days at work and full days at the market. This meaning I’d go to the market from 8 AM to 6 PM walk home with all the market gear and then work 5 hours on my daytime job. if you’d see me at that time dragging a big blue suitcase across Cork City Center into Blackpool every Saturday at a very quick pace!
Other times my partner would come and stay at the market so I’d go and setup the stall at 8 AM with her. Start working at 11 AM, at my normal workplace, at my lunch time cycle to the market pack everything back, help her unload at home and then back to work 5 more hours.
And so this was Summer 2017.
But everything was about to change and The “Escape Plan” finally completed. Through much persuasion from my new manager i finally got my shift change, in very short terms, my “brilliant” previous manager had left her position and there was no opposition to me getting the shift where i would have Saturdays off. The problem though the managers under her where under the same school of “micromanagement galore” The kind of manager that since taken position had led to a bunch of employees to actually leave the company.
i knew immediately this was it and understood how I could use this to my advantage. I knew I would not permit having my dignity and my rights as a human being stepped on again. I knew immediately there would be conflict, there would be attempts at discrediting me, destroying my reputation and killing me psychologically to keep the control they wanted to have over me.
An authentic real life Game of Thrones (but less bloody) at a corporate level like they had done so many times before with so many including me.
And being fully aware of this I prepared for battle. I was ready to fight to the ultimate consequences in a psychological game that only the most intelligent could win.
I was quite effectively walking into a snake pit. And I was ready to fight them to the very end if necessary…