It's sort of odd. Earlier this week, I was going to write a (hopefully) humorous post about Bill Kurtis and how I have been obsessed with working for him for years. I mean, who wouldn't be? The man is the pinnacle of journalistic integrity, has awards a mile long, is a humanitarian and conservationist, and is pretty much the godfather of gravitas to boot.
A number of years ago, my obsession was at its peak. The company I was currently working for was restructuring, and I needed to find a new job. Part of my severance package was that I received outplacement counseling in the form of a really cool job counselor named Judy. We met in her office and hit it off immediately. "What would be your ideal job?" she asked. "Working for Bill Kurtis," I said promptly. She burst out laughing (in a nice way). "I'm serious, Judy," I replied, "I have borderline stalked the man already." Then I explained how I had, er, aggressively gone after the company that published his book "We Interrupt This Broadcast..." I had sent my resume to Kurtis Productions. I had (ok, this is where the possible stalking charge comes in) found out about a private event at the WTTW studios in Chicago where he was making a special presentation and crashed it.
I found another job soon after with Judy's help, but for at least a year after that she would send me little clippings about Bill Kurtis and his doings. And of course told everyone else about her wacky client with the Kurtis fixation.
This week in the Chicago Tribune, I saw this article and planned my little blog post about it. I thought I might write it on Tuesday during my lunch hour. Normally I work from home on Tuesday, but this week I went into my office because I had worked from home on Monday instead. When I got in, I saw that I had a publishing meeting scheduled at 9:30. That seemed a little odd, because usually only my boss invites me to meetings and this was from a vice president. But I saw my colleague Jim's name on the invite as well and didn't think much of it.
I went to the meeting room, and the other meeting participants were already there with the exception of Jim who was working from home that day. Then I saw the human resources woman with a stack of blue packets sitting there as well. The vice president came in and said, "Hi. Well, you probably know this isn't really good news. I am now going to read to you." And he pulled out a script and read to us. "Due to the dwindling economy and educational cutbacks in this state, [this company] has lost significant revenue. Therefore, your jobs are being eliminated. Your responsibilities end here today." Then he looked up and said, "Sorry" and walked out.
The HR woman handed out our packets and told us what to do next. She asked us to please not say anything to anyone because these same meetings would be going on throughout the day--we were only the first group (I found out later that by the end of the day, almost 1/3rd of the company had been let go). Somehow I walked to my next meeting, but my legs were shaking so badly I'm not sure how I made it. I got through that one without hearing a word she said, but I did notice on her whiteboard in large red letters: PROJECTS: JOB RIF. Yeah, I guess they were really trying to keep that confidential.
After that, I met with my boss. She was shocked and outraged. The decisions were made on a much higher level that hers; she assured me it was not a performance issue; that essentially Jim's and my names were pulled out of a hat. I asked her if she minded if I said goodbye to all my co-workers (or what? I'd get fired?), and she said sure. I went around to each of my team members whom I have enjoyed working with for years. They are all my friends. I hated putting them in that position because...well, because. Each of them was pretty devastated as well.
Then I pulled out the white cardboard box I had been given and began to pack up my things--coffee mug, hand lotion, pictures of the girls, drawings they had made for me to hang in my office. I erased my whiteboard that gave my schedule. I turned in my security badge and my laptop. Then I left the place where I have spent close to a decade of my career.
I went to pick up Elaine from daycare. Of course they weren't expecting me at noon and wondered why I was there. I told the director what had happened and explained that as of now, I would be withdrawing Elaine. The center where I have entrusted my girls for five and a half years with people I have greatly appreciated and they have absolutely loved...gone. We'll never see them again.
It was like, I woke up with my regular life I've always had and was coming home with a completely different one. One that I didn't choose or want.
Elaine fell asleep in the car on the way home, which was fortunate for me because I didn't feel like talking. I've been involved in reductions in force before at previous companies, but I always knew it was coming so I had time to mentally prepare, and I always had gotten a good severance. This time...nothing. No warning. No severance. The human part of me felt like the place where I had poured my professional life into for the past almost nine years had just tossed me into the garbage without a second thought. They read to me from a script.
But instead of just staying alone with my thoughts, I pulled out my iPod and clicked on King James. "God is in control...even when I'm suffering," he boomed over the car speakers. "And if you're sayin' 'Everything's just rockin' over at my house, man,' well, that's not good news. Because the Scripture says that who the Lord loves, He chastens. What I mean is, all His kids are gettin' it. All His kids are going through hard times. Sometimes the number one tool He pulls out of the chest to work on our faith is suffering. Whatever has come your way that has surprised you or shocked you, GOD is at work in that. He's working working working for your good. That's a great spot for an amen, isn't it?"
Then he said, "So, it's time to get your eyes off your spouse, get your eyes off your children, and your finances, and your career, and your health, and get them back on the Lord. Walk by faith, not by sight. Love the PROMISER, not the promise. We're so focused on, "When, God, when? When are you going to help me? And how, how, how, how? When instead we should be asking ourselves, WHO? Who promised? GOD promised."
I felt a wave of peace wash over me. God gave me that job. He had every right to take it away. And I thank Him for both of those things: the giving and the taking. He's going to work it for my good, (great spot for an amen!).
So, now I am home. I was not due for any leave over these holidays, and now I get some. I finished decorating the Christmas tree yesterday with Elaine. Lucy and I went outside and made snow angels. She and I are going to have our special Mom/Daughter weekend we've been looking forward to for the last couple of months (Darren and Elaine are gone for the weekend). We're going to eat popcorn and red velvet cake, watch Anne of Green Gables, do a little Christmas shopping, and a lot of Christmas baking.
And in all of it, I'm not just going through the motions either. I'm walking by faith, not by sight. In addition to peace, I've gotten joy as well. God is in control.
Don't think I didn't check Kurtis Productions for job openings first thing though. I'm just sayin'. He needs me, people. He just might not know it yet.