On one hand I wasn’t surprised. On the other hand, I was blindsided. One minute I had what I had called my “dream job;” I was the publisher and editor of SouthernMinn Scene magazine. The next, I was trying to quickly and efficiently pack all the stuff I had in my office into whatever empty boxes could be found.
They assured me that this wasn’t happening because of performance. It was a necessary “employment reduction” and I wasn’t the only person giving up his key to the employee entrance. Revenues were down, and changes had to be made to protect the bottom line. This was the day after ESPN had laid off some very high profile talent for the same reasons, so I comforted myself by thinking I was in the same company as people for whom I have great respect like Jayson Stark and Ed Werder. I knew that ad sales were down for the magazine. It was only a matter of time before the company would just shut the whole thing down.
My assumption, however, was that I would have the balance of 2017 to get things right. If things hadn’t turned around by the end of the year, it would make perfect sense to shut the magazine down. I hoped that they’d still want me to stick around in one of the newsrooms, but I knew there was no guarantee of that.
I didn’t think they’d ask me to leave but keep the magazine going. My ego is still struggling with that one. I was told that my responsibilities would be divided between two or three other people.
Clearly, my former employers had no idea how much work I was doing.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been fired before, but I have been. Quite a number of times, in fact. I’ve been fired for cause, out of treachery, and because the company was shutting down. I’ve been fired because I was not good at the job I was hired to do and I’ve been fired because I was too expensive to do the job I was hired to do. I’ve been fired by angry people and sad people. I’ve been fired by nervous people and calm people. I’ve been fired by people with tears and their eyes and I’ve been fired over the phone.
I’ve also had to fire people and I will tell you that, in the short term, it’s much easier to be the unemployed than the unemployer.
As a connoisseur of the experience, I will give my most recent former employers some good marks. They were sensitive about it. They certainly did not look like they were enjoying themselves, nor did they seem ambivalent (which would have been worse). I give them a B+. They missed out on an “A” because they did it on a Thursday (I would prefer to be fired on a Monday) and because I would have liked more severance pay (but I will acknowledge that they had no control over that).
And then that was it. Details were gone over, boxes were packed, hands were shook, and I was out. I was driving home pondering the inevitable question:
Two weeks later I’m still trying to answer that question.
If any of you out there have a good lead on freelance writing or copy editing gigs, please let me know. I have a strong suspicion that I will be working behind someone’s bar by the end of the month, just to make ends meet. I also have some other plans in the hopper, but you’ll have to stay tuned for that.
For now, I’m just looking around, hoping to spy a few opportunities. Hopefully I won’t be so quick to label the next one my dream job. And God knows, if anyone ever gives me an office again, I will keep the thing as empty as possible. I doubt I’ll ever be comfortable working for someone else ever again.
But I’m a writer, and a damn fine one if I do say so myself. Someone out there is bound to pay me to put words together. Like another great writer from Minnesota once said “The only thing I knew how to do was to keep on keepin’ on.”