I will always remember February 27, 2015 for a couple of reasons. First, it snowed that day, ensconcing downtown in a beautiful blanket of white. It ended a wild winter weather week in North Texas where we endured multiple winter storms, but that did not slow me down. The record will show that I was one of a handful of people in my office that showed up for work every day.
That’s nothing new. In 2014, I took a total of five days off from work and billed nearly 2,100 hours. During the summer, I worked a couple of 60 and 70 hours weeks. At the time, I didn’t really mind. The work was there and the 30+ hours of overtime certainly looks nice on a paycheck. In spite of all this productivity, for the first time in my life, my employer relieved me of my job duties that snowy Friday afternoon.
You never want to get a call from HR on a Friday afternoon and it’s even more ominous when you walk into the conference room and she’s sitting with one of the partners, yet surprisingly there was a sense of relief when I sat down at that table, even as the words “today is your last day,” came out her mouth.
Sure, there was part of me that lamented the loss of income, but the funny thing is that at no point along this journey have I considered myself “unemployed.” On the contrary, I saw this particular event as a means to get me to focus on my primary job. While there have been some tense moments over the past seven weeks, I feel I am a much better father and husband after all this time off.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that my wife has had the hardest job in our family for the past two years. Though immensely rewarding, spending every day with our son showed me what it’s like to be a stay-at-home parent. (Here’s a hint: it’s not as easy as it looks)
Over the past seven weeks, we have become experts at experiencing all Dallas has to offer on a budget. (Here’s a hint: there’s a lot) Living in an urban environment can be such a rewarding experience for kids with all the cultural and learning opportunities available and we have taken advantage of it, visiting the zoo, the parks, the museums, and even giving our son his first trolley ride around the city.
There were also the afternoon walks on the Katy Trail and around our neighborhood, soaking in all the beauty Turtle Creek has to offer, understanding that we won’t always be able to live here and trying to appreciate it until we are forced to make that dreaded move north to the wind-swept prairies of the Dallas suburbs.
During this time off, I have had the opportunity to meet with my mentors, and examine my life and discover what really drives me–family–which makes it that much easier to put a plan in place for the future. I know now that there are far more important things to a job than the compensation package. “Work/life balance” is real and, for some of us, it’s the most important aspect of a career.
Immediately following my termination, I had several friends who had been through similar situations reach out to me to offer support. Without fail, each one of them told me that this situation would turn out to be a blessing, and though I doubted them at the time, I have to say they are 100% correct.
Today, I feel closer to my wife and son than I ever have before, not only because of the time I have been able to spend with them, but also because a life event like this forces you as a family to focus on the things that really matter. Losing a job can be stressful, especially when you are the sole bread winner. You have no choice, but to take an inventory of you life individually and collectively, and realize that nothing is more important than that which you create together.
On Saturday, Stephanie and I will celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary, and Monday, not only do I return to work, but we will also celebrate our son’s second birthday. I think these two dates frame this event perfectly.
A day after my termination, I was talking with a friend about the hymn “Come Thou Font,” one of my favorites. Most versions contain the line, “here I raise mine Ebenezer, hither by thy help I’ve come.” One of the things I learned in an Old Testament class is that an “Ebenezer” was simply a stone that folks would raise to show their thanks for God’s deliverance through tough times. As I embark on the next stage of my career, I am confident that the past seven weeks have served as a metaphorical stone, “mine Ebenezer,” raised in honor of God’s hand leading me through it all.
Thank God for life’s little hiccups.