The First Day Of The Rest Of My Life

Now that it’s behind me I’ll talk about it a bit. Yesterday was both an exhilarating and terrifying day. I did the employment equivalent of jumping out of a perfectly good airplane — some might add without a parachute.

I quit my job. The one I’ve had for the last 3.5 years. Talked it over with Susan and then submitted my resignation two weeks ago actually wanting my last day to be that day, but my boss — who’s a great guy — asked if I could hang around until the end of the month finishing up the current issue of the magazine I edited, and out of respect for him and because I’m a nice enough guy I said sure.

Why’d I quit? I suppose if there were an over-arching theme it would have to be that I really felt like a puppet on a string and the puppetmasters were a succession of kids running wherever they wanted and dragging me along whether it be through broken glass or bullshit. And after the first exciting and great few months on the job, there wasn’t ever a time where I felt secure. The magazine I was in charge of was struggling and the company was sold less than a year later and from there on there were waves of layoffs and until the company was sold a second time there literally wasn’t a day I came in when I didn’t wonder if it would be my last.

The last company told me things weren’t going to be much different right out of the gate when the CEO arrived at the office for introductions last year and in the midst of a presentation given by my boss to him about the state of my magazine, the sumbitch literally sat there checking email and texting on his phone while my boss was doing his best to showcase the publications he managed.

In mental replay, I don’t sit there in mute shock at such an insult. Instead I stand up, interrupting my boss to storm out saying that I don’t work for assholes — especially those who sign my paycheck — whose first impression made is one in which they can’t afford the basic fucking decency of turning off their goddam phone and giving someone their full attention and respect.

But of course I just sat there. Because beyond the low opinion the CEO provided for himself, things actually started looking up. Editorial initiatives previously shot down by the prior regimes that I stubbornly re-presented, finally gained traction and support and approval and I thought 2011 was going to be the year things turned around. For the first time since the first few months on the job, I was excited at the prospects of revitalizing the magazine.

Then and without any discussion or advance warning in December, I was told by my boss that drastic changes were underfoot, which translated once again to my best laid plans and enthusiasm not meaning shit. Cryptically he told me to hold tight that he had a plan to keep me employed but he just couldn’t be certain at that point the execs would go for it. They did, and in January my magazine was basically gutted down to a twice-yearly shadow of its former self, and I was moved from it to edit another monthly magazine, whose editor my boss terminated.

So in absence of any form of a transition and with literally microscopic knowledge of the industry this new title covered, I put on my game face. But in addition to the initial chaos, I couldn’t get past the fact that without even the slightest  forewarning to or input from me, my corporate overlords didn’t look at the potential for 2011 to be positive for the magazine I’d worked on for more than three years, they just looked at the bottom line as they always did and saw no hope.

Then came my vacation last month. Though it had been percolating for more than a year, I had repeatedly hesitated putting in the time-off request for two reasons: 1) As previously stated there was a good chance that every day in the office might be my last so why bother, and 2) There was the possibility the vacation wouldn’t happen itself. As a result I didn’t submit the request until about six weeks before the date of departure. And that caught my boss and his boss a bit blindsided, leaving them to question who I was so new in my new job to “suddenly” want to take two weeks off. Not an invalid question for debate, but one they once again didn’t put much regard in my rebuttal.

Nevermind my defensive explanations that I hadn’t taken an extended vacation in two years, or that this was something planned for a long time, or that company guidelines dictated that vacation requests need to be submitted only as soon as two weeks prior to the first day off, word came back from my boss that his boss had been threatening a veto.

And that was pretty much the straw that stress-fractured the camel’s back. What stressed it even further were the conditions that followed. In “granting approval” for me to utilize vacation time well-earned I was ordered in the few days remaining before jetting off to the far east to have all my ducks in a row not only for the current issue, but I’d damn well have every single fucking waterfowl lined up and standing at attention for the two successive issues after that.

I tried my damnedest, but failed. While in Cambodia I got an emergency text about a minor project deadline that had slipped under my radar. I texted back my apologies and that I would deal with it first thing upon my return — and I did, despite the news that greeted me of my mother’s hospitalization with a serious illness.

But that failure was enough to send my boss’ boss into orbit and force my boss to dress me down with an Official Verbal Warning in the form of a solemn phone call that week that included plans to micro-manage me going forward.

“Are you confident in your ability to do your job?” he asked at the end of the call, and I answered without hesitation confidently in the affirmative.

I didn’t lie. I had no doubt I could do what was asked of me. But what I realized as I thought about it extensively over that weekend of the second CicLAvia in Los Angeles, was that where I lacked confidence was in the company for which I worked, one whose CEO sat texting while his magazines burned; one that didn’t care for the hard work I’d wanted to do in my previous editorial role;  and one that veritably demonized me for daring to take a well-deserved vacation — and then added insult by so heavily conditionalizing its approval of the time off.

So Susan and I talked it over and she saw how important it was for me to terminate rather than be terminated, to take positive action rather than be acted negatively upon, and on April 11 I did so, reluctantly agreeing to stay through to the end of the month and completing my final issue.

True to my word, I did.

So now what? Now it’s on to putting an end to my adult-lifetime’s worth of being to afraid to see what I’m made of creatively. To finally devoting myself full-time to unlocking my imagination and letting the stories long dormant in there spill out into actually form. I’ve given myself four months to manifest a variety of projects fiction and nonfiction. Is that enough time? Of course not. But it’s enough time to give myself that chance of which I’ve too long been unwilling to take.

I’ve never been brave enough to do such a thing, but I’ve also never been brave enough to voluntarily jump from the safety of a job into the void.

The first step’s a doozy, but done. Onward.