Interlude 12: Lose a job, get a life

In December of 2012 I arrived at work one morning, turned on my computer, and saw an email summoning me to a conference room for a 10AM meeting. An HR representative was copied on the email. I hadn’t pilfered supplies, cheated on my expenses, or made inappropriate (or even appropriate) advances on any coworkers. I called my wife Ellen and told her about the email. After a pause she said “Well…I don’t think they are going to promote you.”

That made me laugh hard, a laugh that carried me through the next few hours and days as I dealt with losing my job in a restructuring. After nearly 20 years at McGraw-Hill I was offered a very healthy severance package: fourteen months of full salary and benefits starting in February 2013. Nobody arrived to bundle me and my belongings out of the office, so I spent a couple of weeks putting things into order, writing notes for my boss about projects in progress, and saying goodbyes. I was gone before Christmas but collected my salary for the next two months.

In those weeks there were occasional moments of panic (“What am I going to do??”) and anger (“How could they do this to me after all I did for the company??”), but mostly I felt relief. A new management regime had made work life unpleasant and it didn’t seem likely to improve. A combination of inertia and investment kept me from leaving on my own. Getting the axe turned out to be a thinly disguised blessing.

After the start of the new year I had a few conversations and applied for a couple of jobs, but nothing came of it. Then, in March, a phone call, a lunch, and the offer of the job in publishing that I had always wanted: music editor at W.W. Norton.

Reader, I said no.

Well…not exactly “no”–it was more “not yet.” Having been assured of future employment I resolved to maximize the benefits of my severance package. I agreed to do some work under contract for the balance of the year and Norton agreed to a full time start in January 2014.

And that is how I came to have a sabbatical. We did a little traveling. I worked on my golf game. And I played guitar. A lot of guitar. For I now had an abundance of the thing I had been lacking: time. 

By this time Jason Vieaux had become one of my favorite performers. I loved the sound of his guitar on his debut CD so much that I bought an instrument from the same maker, German Vasquez-Rubio. When I discovered that Jason was teaching online lessons through a new company called ArtistWorks I signed up and prepared a video to upload for his comments. Suddenly I was taking lessons with my favorite guitarist. How cool is that!?

In the spring of 2013 I attended the Cleveland International Classical Guitar Festival sponsored by Armin Kelly at Guitars International. Jason was one of several wonderful performers, and there were recitals and master classes galore. I even got to hear a talk given by the maker of my guitar and pose for a picture with him.

With German Vasquez Rubio at the Cleveland Institute of Music

And I marveled at the wonderful Mixon Hall, perhaps the best guitar recital space I have ever seen. 

I didn’t know at the time that this festival would become an annual event for me and an important part of my life, and I’ll write more about that in a future post. But this first experience seriously boosted my return to the guitar.

But it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t lost my job. Life opened up the door, and I walked through. 

3 thoughts on “Interlude 12: Lose a job, get a life

  1. This happened to me this past August. After 26 years, “we’re making some changes and your job is one of those being changed. Sorry”. So I know what it’s like. Fortunately I landed a new job fairly soon and my severance continues until June 2020. It seems to have worked out for me, gods-be-praised. Lots of people end up in a real mess when a restructure comes along.


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