How’s your year going so far?
I gotta admit, mine hasn’t been the very best. Although, based on how it began, I expected something completely different. I’m guessing we all did.
My story is no better and no worse than yours, but it is mine, and so I want to tell it to you, for whatever it’s worth.
I started a new job on January 6th, after a difficult and somewhat morally challenging exit from my previous role. Y’all may remember that I was laid off from my job about a year ago, and a friend and former boss immediately helped me get a new job.
Problem was, the job was never a particularly good fit for me. My boss was wonderful, supportive, and challenged me constantly to be better. Her boss was a micro-managing maniac who had nothing better to do than dig into spreadsheets 20 hours a day. I didn’t have any passion at all for the job—it was never more than a paycheck. Oh, and the paycheck wasn’t anywhere near what was promised. After my guarantee expired, my compensation never reached more than 66% of the target they gave me, despite growing my book of business every quarter.
So when I got recruited away by company that promised significantly more compensation, more responsibility, and a smaller geo, I didn’t hesitate. I made the difficult call to my boss, explaining that I needed to take this new opportunity. She was quite supportive, and allowed me to work out my two week notice.
I took the time off before beginning my new role to go to New York for NYE, partying with my good friend Alex Roy at his NYC going away gathering. I met some wonderful friends of his who invited me to their home for a lovely dinner a couple of nights later. I managed to hear the Mingus Big Band, Melissa Aldana, and see some great theatre, too.
So when I flew to Dallas to start my new hire training on January 6th, I was expecting 2020 to be one of my best years yet. Of course, we all know how it’s gone for most of us, but I have had a couple of extra kicks in the teeth along the way.
My new boss turned out to be a narcissistic sociopath. She disliked me from day one, even though she had been the one who hired me. When I asked her if I could send an introductory email to my new team that I was managing, she replied by sending me an email that she had crafted on my behalf and told me to send that email to my new employees. She made it a point to attend all of my team meetings, and basically conducted them herself.
After less than two weeks on the job, she called me to tell me that I had to lay off one of my employees, a hard-working single mom who had been doing a great job. I refused, saying that she was actually my strongest employee, and that we should be hiring more people, not laying people off. My boss replied with, “Well, that decision will likely come back to haunt you.” This was on a Thursday afternoon.
She refused to respond to any calls, texts, or emails after that. On the following Wednesday morning, January 29th, while I was watching my daughter star in her school play, my boss called me to tell me that she was laying me off after 22 days of employment. Keep in mind, the company had paid me a $5,000 signing bonus the previous Friday. I would be offered two weeks’ severance, and no benefits.
Now, this wasn’t all bad. Including the severance and the signing bonus, I had been paid about $20,000 to work for 12 days. I think most people would take that.
I figured that I’d be able to find new employment rather quickly, and thanks to a referral from a friend, I was right—after six rounds of interviews, I was offered a new job with an automotive software company. My daughter made me a big banner and hung it over the fireplace when I got the job offer—it said, “We’re proud of you, Dad!” The title was going to be a bit of a demotion, but the pay was more than I had ever made, and the travel was minimal.
The start date was also going to be about a month away, thanks to their new hire class schedule. No worries—I was also in the final stages of interviewing for three other jobs, so I figured that I would accept, and that if it didn’t pan out, I had options.
Well, not so much. All three of the other jobs ended up being put on hold due to the Chinese virus. Again, no worries—I had a verbal offer and a start date. However, my offer letter kept getting delayed…and delayed…and delayed. Finally, I called my recruiter. She didn’t know exactly what was going on, so she referred me to an HR person. He didn’t know exactly what was going on, either. I called my hiring manager. He didn’t know exactly what was going on. It quickly became obvious to me that I wasn’t going to be starting this new job any time soon.
My suspicions were correct. The position had been placed “on indefinite hold.” Could be a week, a month, several months…who knew? But the HR person promised to do a weekly check-in with me to keep me updated. We did exactly one of those before he was let go, as well.
So I did something that I’ve never done before. I applied for unemployment.
I realize that may not seem like a huge deal to most people, but to me, it was a total gut punch. I felt like a complete and utter failure. The banner that my daughter made me was eventually taken down. Financially, I knew I’d be okay for a little while longer (please, save your comments about my spending and saving habits), but that wasn’t my real concern.
I don’t think that everybody, especially women and younger people, understand exactly how much value men of my age and older have always placed on our jobs. They give us a sense of who we are. In many ways, we are defined by what we do. When we meet people at parties, we always ask each other, “so what do you do?”
For literally the first time in my adult life, the answer is now, “nothing.”
So I have decided to control what I can control. I started a cycle of the workout program P90X3 43 days ago, and I haven’t skipped a single workout. I started intermittent fasting on a 16/8 cycle, and I haven’t cheated once (I’m extremely hungry as I type this). I’m down about 10-12 lbs in the last two months, and my Cardio Max score is “excellent.”
I spend a lot of time with my children, and I have to say—I’ve been missing out. My kids have never known a life in which Didi, as they call me, wasn’t gone 4-5 days a week. I haven’t been on a plane in over two months, and I’ve made nearly every dinner and lunch for them. My daughter joined me in my workouts in Week 2, and now she is a Tony Horton disciple, too. My son started two weeks ago, as well.
We go on walks. We play games. We sit at the same table as they do their school work and Dad searches for jobs. It’s been absolutely wonderful, and it has made me take serious inventory of my life. Chasing the next airline or hotel status, or even the next job doesn’t see nearly as important as it once did.
And last Thursday, I got a call from the COO of the company where I was supposed to begin work a couple of weeks ago. He reassured me that they definitely wanted me to work with them, and that I would be the very first hire the company would make when “everything is back to normal.” He also set up a new weekly check-in for me with the Director of HR for the company. He didn’t have to do that. I thought it was extremely kind of him to do so.
Of course, not everything is rosy. I have been fighting with the Kentucky unemployment website on a daily basis—I filed my claim over a month ago, and have yet to receive a nickel. I fight off the demons of depression and worry every day, too. I renewed my prescription for Wellbutrin XL, something I’ve been reluctant to do over the years, and it seems to be helping quite a bit.
But I don’t always feel positive about life.
It seems that the country has become quite divided on the issue of when it will be safe to “reopen the economy.” And it’s not the usual divide, either, between R and D. It’s between those of us who aren’t working—a group with over 25 million members now—and those who are staying safely employed at home, taking Zoom meetings and collecting paychecks. I’ve heard people say ridiculous things like, “Are you willing to die for capitalism?”
First of all—YES. I’m absolutely willing to die for capitalism. I’m willing to take the risks associated with working in this environment. I’m 42 years old and in something resembling the best shape of my adult life, with no underlying conditions. Shouldn’t I be allowed to take that risk if I want to?
When I say this, I’m usually met with some remark like, “Well, which essential jobs have you applied to?” I’ll tell you what—find me an “essential job” for which I’m qualified and which pays even half of what my salary has been for the last 10 years, and I’ll do it tomorrow.
I don’t know that I have a moral to this story, or a great summary close. Nothing feels particularly certain for any of us right now. As several states prepare to “reopen” this week, I’ll be paying close attention to see what happens, as I think we all will.
But regardless, I’ll come out of all of this a better man in many ways. I’ll be a better father, I’ll be in better physical condition, and I’ll be in better mental health. And if I end up taking only those three things out of this, then I’ll call it a win.