Two years ago this morning, I was summoned from an on-air studio during a live broadcast, escorted to the office of the CFO of the MidWest Family Broadcast Group, and summarily dismissed. Fired. Terminated. It was a Tuesday morning, and I’d known for several days it was going to happen. My friend Glen and I figured it would have happened the day before. He was fired just moments after I got my walking papers. Both of us were shareholders and partners; both of us had long tenure with the company; I had 30 years, Glen had 17. My firing happened in the same office, carried out by the same person that I’d set my retirement date with (it would have been November 30, 2011), just a few weeks before the axe fell on November 18th, 2008.
Nobody bothered to thank us for our years of service. We were both given a bunch of legal papers regarding the termination (so poorly prepared that they even got the address of the Mid-West Family Broadcast Group wrong), offered a few weeks’ severance pay, and reminded that according to the terms of our stock repurchase agreements, the company had two years to buy out our stock and pay us off.
Both of us opted to reject Mid-West’s termination offer, hired top-shelf labor lawyers, and the legal battle for me ended several months later in a “sealed settlement”, terms of which both parties agreed not to disclose. Shortly after the settlement was agreed to, my wife and I decided to get away from it all, and on a spur-of-the-moment idea, spent the best and longest vacation of our lives at Spring Training in Arizona, thereby also crossing one off the “bucket list”. We’re going to cross another one off the list in January, when we spend a week at a resort in Punta Cana.
Getting fired is one of those really critical life events that rank close to the top in the “Schedule of Recent Experiences” that Psychologists and Psychiatrists use to get a handle on what your life is like. Being fired is #3 on the list, with only “death of spouse” and “divorce/separation” above it. Even if you know it’s coming, it’s still traumatic.
I can’t say enough good things about my wife, who was completely supportive through the long legal battle. Our retirement plans had to be adjusted, and thank God our health insurance is on her side of the ledger. Glen and I remain very close friends, and we agree we’re both better off “out” than “in”. We’ve had to reinvent ourselves. We both became our own bosses, and both of us have stitched together a number of projects as independent contractors. Neither of us is up at half past two in the morning any more; we set our own work schedules, and if Glen wants to take a few hours in the afternoon to put some miles on his bike and maintain his fabulous weight loss, he does; if I feel like knocking off for an hour to run the dogs or head to the health club and pound the “dreadmill”, I do.
I will be continuing to work with my clients on my writing and research contracts, and doing part-time work for an online news organization, and it will likely be long past my originally anticipated retirement date of 11/30/11. And I’ll continue this blog. But I won’t mind it a bit. I love what I’m doing, and I’m the captain of my own ship. I’ll be 62 next year, but I sure don’t feel that old. I really do believe 60 is the new 40.
I don’t often look back on the event two years ago; but I’ll always remember the date, just as well as I remember my wife’s birthday and our anniversary. There’s too much to look forward to! My friends, many of them who still work for Mid-West, say they’re happy that I landed on my feet and say things like “maybe the firing was a blessing in disguise”. Regardless, I’d still rather the “retirement” decision would have been mine, not theirs.
So, here’s to the “Undiscovered Country”: the future.