Post subtitle: "Moving in a Different Direction"
"Snow is of a loveliness beyond my most secret thoughts. . ." - J.R.R. Tolkien
It was a Monday. The last day of February. Six days after our loss to Heritage Christian in the district playoffs (see part II). I walked through the doors of AMG Creative at 8:03 a.m., ready to bid the first full week of work sans basketball a good morning.
Instead I was immediately ushered into the conference room by Terry, the VP, and Bill, the owner (also Terry’s father-in-law). They closed the door, we sat down, and I knew this wasn’t going to be good.
Terry did all the talking: Let me get straight to the point…we’re moving in a different direction with your position…this is your last day…here’s your last paycheck…you don’t have any vacation time left.
He opened up a manila folder he had with him and slid my paycheck across the desk. He seemed to be enjoying this – or, at least, he wasn’t finding it difficult.
I asked if I could ask why I was being fired so unceremoniously, so out of the blue nowhere.
A brief allusion was made to my performance review back in early December, but Terry repeated more than once that AMG was “moving in a different direction” with the Assistant Creative Director position.
“So, that’s it?” I said a little defensively, a little incredulously. “Nearly three years working here and I don’t even get a one-week heads up?”
Finally Bill spoke up. He seemed distraught; almost remorseful. His words betrayed the non-verbals on his face. “Do you want to gather your personal things now or later?”
“I’ll do it now,” I said, snatching up my check and quickly exiting the conference room without another word.
I was able to say a brief goodbye to the two graphic designers (we shared a common work space in the back of the building, the “creative den”) before Terry came back and called them into the conference room. They had no idea what was going on. It became clear then that my dismissal had been a well-kept secret in a company only eight people large.
Bill was polite and calm while I packed up my stuff and cleaned off my computer. I was a mix of anger, confusion, and a desire to try to save face and not douse this bridge with lighter fluid before I crossed it one last time.
Somewhat strange was how Bill hovered over me and frequently came back to see if I was done packing up my things. I later learned that my replacement was waiting in Bill’s office for me to vacate the premises, hence Bill’s sense of urgency for me to get out the door. Classy.
By 8:45, I was out the door. I offered a brief thanks to Bill as I left, hands full of boxes and books, but I don’t think I would have shaken his hand if mine were free, anyway. I sat in my car for a couple minutes, trying to figure out what had just happened, and thinking that this wasn’t how I wanted to part company with AMG.
Not because I loved the company and its management. Far from it. And it wasn’t because I was going to necessarily miss my job duties. Writing ad, website, direct-mail and personalized-letter copy for dental laboratories has a pretty short shelf life of passion/interest, and I had passed that expiration date several months prior to Feb. 28, 2011. But I was going to miss Mike and Mike – the designers – and Ben, one of the account executives. The three of them made my time there worth the struggle.
Now that basketball had wrapped up for the season, I had time to do some job searching and exploring of options. In this economy, I did not want to leave this job until another one had been secured. My animosity towards all things dental aside, I knew that this was better than nothing, and I was still mentally prepared to work as hard as I could, biding my time until another door opened. Lindsey and I were saving up for a house down payment, enjoying every perk that came with being DINKs in this day and age.
As I sat in my car, the future suddenly a blind curve in the Poudre canyon, I felt a little like George Costanza after being served up a deceitful helping of “It’s not you, it’s me.” We’re going in a different direction with your position. It’s not you, it’s the company. From Terry’s indifferent disposition, to the secrecy of the decision and the shame that accompanied the catastrophic suddenness of it all, I was in a state of utter shock and disrespect.
How dare they. I was raw. I had wanted to leave this place on my own terms, and instead I was dusted off their shoulders like an annoying speck of dandruff.
Bill is a certified dental technician, and started AMG specifically to help dental labs in their marketing efforts towards dentists. I would say that 95 percent of AMG’s clientele is from the dental lab industry. I joined the company first as a project manager right out of CSU in 2008, then worked my way up into the creative writer position. In January 2010, I was made ACD. By February, 2011, I was ready for some new scenery, a new stretch of road to experience – even though I was grateful for being employed right out of college. I was tired of writing about fake teeth and dealing with the nepotism and selfishness of AMG’s leaders. I wanted something new, something I was passionate about, something I actually wanted to do. I wanted to start the next journey of my life and career.
But not like this.
I sat in my car, not knowing where to go. I sat in my car, motionless. I sat in my car, thinking that at least I didn’t have to write dental copy anymore.
Events and activities over the next couple of days remain somewhat of a blur. I know there was lots of time talking and praying with Lindsey. I know I started treating my relationship with God like it actually mattered, and the Psalms became my hiding place. I know I tried to get over it too fast, resulting in my first mental and emotional breakdown. I remember going down a long and terrible rabbit hole in my mind, then “snapping.” The tears came as if through an overwhelmed dam on the Missouri somewhere in South Dakota. I cried for minutes on end, clutching my wife like a life raft, confessing my fear through the sobs. I could barely breathe.
The next morning Lindsey texted me Psalm 30:5 from her work and said she was praying for me. My prayers that morning were earnest, feeble, but enlightened with a slight awareness of hope yet to be fully realized.
I needed to get out. Being unemployed and living in an old lady’s basement aren’t exactly the greatest for one’s self-image and self-confidence.
I went snow shoeing in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Just me and God and the snow that fell periodically throughout the day. I was wanting to go all the way to Lake Isabelle, but the weather looked to be turning for the worse. Gray clouds crashed on the peaks above me; the pass was shrouded in cold secrecy. The high crags passed in and out of view as the clouds swirled. The snow fell harder. I turned home, my back to the wind.