Your boss knows if you've been bad or good...and he has a letter for you. It's bonus day.
What your boss also knows this year is that you might have been good, but in all likelihood your employer has not. And the markets and the global economy most definitely have not. In addition to that, he knows that his boss told him how much the figures need to be down from last year.
Bearing this in mind, I woke up very early the morning of the day I knew this year's discretionary payments would be announced. It was impossible to ignore a certain anxiety that had been lingering for a while, but the fact that a baby needed attending to kept me from painting too bleak a picture in my mind. It was more than just a welcome distraction, since in a year of hard and rarely pleasant work, quality time with him had been sparse, and I embraced the opportunity even though it was 5:30am.
For additional peace of mind, I had my wife confirm that I could still come home even if figures for this year were disappointing - I wouldn't have to stroll the blocks of the City like a student scared to go home after getting a D.
Since traditionally not much work gets done on b-day anyway, I took my time with leisurely stops on one of the bridges across the Thames, a beautiful, winter-morning sunrise not going unnoticed. At a stop for a coffee, the headline about the assisted suicide on TV caught my eye, and continuing to walk I kept thinking.
There had been days in my life which were memorable. Upsetting or uplifting, they would stick with me. The day I lost a parent, the day I became a parent. Those days, and many more, I could repeat like a movie in my mind no matter how long ago they were.
If last year's bonus day, although it had been a good one, wouldn't even come close to making the cut of memorable days, why would I worry about this one? It would come and go just like any other day. The implications could be uncomfortable, but it wouldn't be the end of the world.
It took another half-day until my boss called me into a meeting room to discuss the numbers.
By that time, anxiety had been replaced by general curiosity about how close to the truth my own estimate would be. Because when I opened my letter, I had already made up my mind that at the end of the day, bonuses don't matter.
It's life that does.