A blessing in disguise
May 4 isnít a significant date for most folks ó unless youíre a Star Wars fan, of course.
But every year, May 4 brings me a reminder to believe in myself and to be grateful for the good things in my life.
Eleven years ago Monday, I got a phone call that changed my life. For the better, as it turns out.
When the sun came up that morning, I was an employee of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, working in the main office in Little Rock. I was a sports copy editor, and I was frankly miserable. I worked 4 p.m. to midnight Wednesday through Sunday, reading stories written by other people, writing headlines and proofreading pages. I was good at it, I made a decent living and I worked with a great group of guys. But the schedule was ridiculous ó especially for a divorced dad ó and I felt pigeonholed and unfulfilled by the work.
The economy had tanked in 2008 and the newspaper was still struggling. There had been a couple rounds of layoffs already. I wasnít too concerned, simply because we only had a few copy editors to share a massive amount of work. I thought I was safe, but I was wrong.
One good thing about the layoff was that it came on my day off ó a Monday. I had seen at least one coworker come into the office and sit down to begin his workday, only to be summoned into the bossís office and summarily let go. I had told my supervisor: ďIf I get laid off, donít let me come in and start working. Call me.Ē
And so, thatís what happened. That morning, there was a huge staff meeting and it was announced that cuts were coming in the newsroom. A total of 16 newsroom employees lost their jobs that day, including four in the sports department. I was just hearing about the layoffs when my phone rang. I was asked to come in and fill out some exit paperwork, advised to file for unemployment and informed that I would be paid for the next two weeks and was welcome to keep working during that time if I chose. Yeah, right.
I saw people in tears, having just lost their livelihood. I wasnít sure exactly what was about to happen to me, but I had an overwhelming feeling that I was going to be OK. Somehow, I felt liberated. I was so unhappy in that job; I just didnít have the guts to quit and find something better.
So, in the end, they did me a favor. The ďexitĒ meeting was tough; I felt sorry for the folks on the other side of the table who clearly felt horrible about what was happening. I assured them: ďDonít worry about me. Iíll be OK.Ē
It took a little while, and that wasnít the last time I was unhappy with a job. But 11 years later, I have a job I truly love. I have the chance to do good work, with a reasonable schedule, and live in a place Iíve come to love as well.
Every May 4, Iím thankful for blessings in disguise.