Beginnings & Endings



I’ve started this blog entry at least three times between late April and today and never quite had the will to finish it. As my husband said when he called to tell me about his first layoff back in 2013, “I have some good news and I have some bad news.”

Good news first: I accepted a full-time job and started on my 50th birthday in mid-April. Because I like to think of this blog as a transparent look at the hiring process, I’ll share a bit about how it all came to be.

I was contacted by a hiring manager at the company via LinkedIn in late February. At the time, I’d grown weary of people who reached out only to disappear as well as those who put me through the wringer with 90-minute interviews that left me wanting to shout, "I've been in long-term relationships with people who know less about me!” Then there was the place that wanted me to write a 4,000-word test article complete with an interactive map of the U.S. (No, thank you!) 

So, initially, I was reluctant to respond to this message. My husband had started a new job in December and while it was a step in the right direction, it didn't offer benefits for the entire family, and because it's a relatively new venture, the salary wasn’t what we’d hoped for either. But in the midst of a pandemic it seemed best to accept anything that came his way. 

In the months since he started, each time he's drifted down from our shared desk in our attic and sighed, my knees have gone weak as I expected him to tell me this job had come to an end. 

With all that in mind, curiosity got the better of me and I responded to the inquiry. Still, I was hesitant to move forward without knowing if this was a paid position or something they'd spin as a "resumé builder" or a quirky "experiment" that paid you in cans of Fancy Feast and locks of the CEO's hair.



In a bold move, I told her I needed to know the salary range so I didn’t waste her time or mine. While she couldn't share that, she said I could tell her what I’d like to make and she’d let me know if that was feasible. Fair enough. I picked what I’ve earned during a peak freelancing year. When she said they could beat that, I was in. 


The first step, however, was to take a logic test—say what? She explained that it would be a timed test conducted online while someone from their organization watched me over video. (As I jokingly said to family, "Let's hope the person on the other side of that screen enjoys hearing the 'F' word!") 


The test involved looking for patterns in a series and selecting the one that would come next out of an array that, to my untrained eyes, all looked identical. I was still scratching my head at that point because, really, ask me to write a sonnet that incorporates the Beatles, the Berenstain Bears, and Ted Bundy, and I'm your gal. Ask me to choose a subsequent shape in a series of dots inside stars surrounding hexagons and I hyperventilate. 


If only the test could've involved Ms. Pac-Man I'd have been far more confident. I got a tabletop version for my kids for Christmas and somehow it's ended up in our dining room (if that doesn’t signal pandemic-related giving up, I don't know what does). For a while, I played almost nightly as a stress-reliever and a way to distract myself from having second helpings of dessert. 


Though I wasn't too sure how I'd fare on this test, I said to myself: "What do you have to lose other than 15 minutes and a little more self-respect?"


After the hiring manager sent a practice test, which I failed spectacularly (4 out of 10—woohoo! Feeling logical? Give this practice quiz a whirl at this site), I spent the next day falling down a rabbit hole of YouTube videos designed to help you nail this sucker. Many begin with this pop-up:


Cool! No pressure, right?


Following hours of more practice tests, a voice I'd buried during my high school SAT days came whispering back, "Just click ‘c'!" it urged.


I tried my best and still failed. But! It turned out the test was merely a formality, and I moved on to the next rounds anyway. I'm guessing because my position in corporate communications wouldn’t require the same level of "logic" as say, coding?


After three mercifully brief video interviews, I received an offer so generous it felt like a proverbial middle finger to everyone who’d ever snarfed at me and said, “What are you gonna do with that English degree?” I’d been waiting my entire life for an opportunity like this. Pretty much right up until the day my fancy company iPhone and new laptop arrived, I was fairly certain I was being catfished. 


But it was real and everyone was lovely and welcoming and eager to help me acclimate ... and now for the bad news…


Two weeks into the job, my dad went to the emergency room complaining of chest pains. He'd had a heart attack twenty years ago and thought he was on the verge of another. Though he didn’t have COVID, he was struggling with COPD and other issues from nearly a lifetime of habits that don't go hand-in-hand with good health. 


At first, we weren't too worried. He’d had other close calls. He'd gone into the hospital before and he'd always come home—our very own cat with nine lives. When he got behind the wheel of his giant Mercury Marauder, he floored it, barreling through backstreets and flying down highways like a stunt driver on a meth binge. Yet he hadn’t had a fender bender or received a ticket in decades. Even though he’d turned 79 in January, to our family, he seemed invincible.


I won't get into the abysmal care he received that rollercoaster week that would be his last, but because of the hospital's policy, only my mother was able to see him until the night before he passed when I said a surreal good-bye. And, as so many people can relate, especially these days, we've found ourselves shocked and reeling. 


I took a week off and my boss couldn't have been kinder. Still, it's a strange feeling to be new to a company and trying to get your footing only to find yourself suddenly grieving and completely disoriented. Despite the fatigue that felt like a weighted blanket, I couldn’t crawl out from beneath, I debated going back to work a day early. I didn't want to seem like I was taking advantage of my new employer. Plus, hard work had defined my father's life and it was ingrained in me, too.


I've been working on a memoir based on this blog (more on that soon) and I've had the pleasure of being paired with an editor whose wisdom has been invaluable. Like a literary Edward Scissorhands, she's trimmed and shaped at the same time she's made me dig deeper into why I carried such a sense of guilt and shame when I lost my job in 2014.


I've realized it had lot had to do with my dad who’d worked tirelessly to provide my mother, brothers, and me with a nice life. He'd lost his dad when he was just two and worked multiple jobs to put himself through college. He was the OG DIY-er—performing plumbing and electrical work at his own peril. When he set his mind to something, he accomplished it. 


In working my way through these memoir edits, I tapped into the profound respect I had for all he’d achieved and all he'd given us. His life story was one I'd heard a million times, yet only as an adult could I appreciate it. 


In the days since he's been gone, I've found myself wondering: had I ever really thanked him for all he'd done? Had I told him how much I admired him? I'd thought about it sometimes before we hung up the phone. But he wasn't a sentimental guy, and I guess I always thought we’d have more time. Actually, I thought I could hand him the memoir—especially now that he’s a central character—and he could read the words I'd always struggled to say. 


At the risk of sounding preachy, if you've wanted to tell someone in your life what they've meant to you, don't wait. 


As always, thanks for reading, and I hope you are well. 


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Thank you!

Comments

Unknown said…
Beautiful post Liz. I can't wait to read the memoir. Love you so much. XO
Liz Alterman said…
Thank you for reading! XO

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