On January 30, 2009, Jon Stewart pontificated on the “The Daily Show” about the large number of Fortune 100 companies that cut people on that day.
That morning, I was told to sit by the phone at home between 9:00 and 9:30 a.m. EST and wait for my call to learn my career future.
I worked for a Fortune 100 company that sliced and baked 4,000 sales reps that day. My district manager called me at precisely 9 a.m. and read from a prepared text.
Everyone knows the drill. His manager called him the day before with the same outcome.
My company computer was shut off within 24 hours, and the 2007 Ford Taurus that was my company car wasn’t to move from my driveway after that Friday. I was lucky to be provided with a year’s worth of health insurance at employee premiums, but all the stock options I had earned as “bonus” were worthless that day, under water the entire time I had to exercise them. A decade of bonus money drowned.
That fall the company’s president was ousted and given $187 severance million package to walk away.
Mine wasn’t quite that much.
As corny as it sounds, in “The Sound of Music” the Reverend Mother tells the postulate Maria, “When God shuts a door, He opens a window.” While the elegant Captain von Trapp wasn’t on the other side of that window, our slide out of the upper middle class offered me an opportunity to pursue my dreams as a writer.
Thirty-plus years ago I graduated from college with a degree in journalism, but ran screaming from the low wage opportunities directly into sales and marketing. People tend to fall back on what we know, and I love telling stories. So, at fifty-plus years old, I became the world's oldest cub reporter, the Grandma Moses of local journalism.
A South Carolina newspaperman named Dan Brown (no, not that Dan Brown!) gave me some advice. “Contact a newspaper and tell them you will write for free,” he told me. Oh, you mean “The New Yorker” is not waiting for my prolific prose?
Once I accepted that I wasn’t Joan Didion, I contacted a newspaper I interned for in college, a local daily in my hometown. I started writing nostalgia pieces, and soon developed a fan base. My column "The Raven Lunatic" is now in eight small newspapers, and published every two weeks.
Readers suggested I publish a collection, and my book “The Luxury of Daydreams” came out last July and remains in the top ten best sellers on the publisher’s web site. While self-published, I received great reviews and am now making money. I didn't try to get a traditional publishing contract, aware of the odds against me.
I joined Open in fall 2009, unaware that I would meet the most amazing, talented, and engaging people from all over the world.
Fresh clips (er, links) in hand, I approached some local magazines in a larger town, and now write regularly for a number of area and regional publications. While I’ll never make the salary I made, I am making a living. I have many opportunities for work, and my reach and reputation is growing in a positive way.
The work is very fulfilling; as an independent contractor I can say "yes" or "no" to assignments. I am able to write about what interests me, and am not tied into the "golden handcuffs" that gave me fewer choices in my life. On a personal level, I am able to be more involved in the community and I have more time for family.