2 years ago, yesterday. It was a Friday.
“Can I speak with you, downstairs?” I said to my editor.
She looked up at me as I stood next to her. “Uh, sure. Could you give me about half an hour while I clear out my morning routine?”
“Of course, take your time. I’ll be waiting at the coffeeshop downstairs. And just so you know, I won’t be coming back up into this office, again.”
The whole office heard me – a drawback of an open-concept workplace, and one that I was banking on. I took no notice of the others as I turned back, but not before I caught a glint of apprehension fall on my editor’s expression.
A while later, my editor came down to meet me, and what followed was a three-hour long exit interview that began with me saying I was resigning from the company, and looking at the way I was being treated -as an employee, a father and a person – it would be much better off, and much safer too, if everyone accepted that it be with immediate effect.
It was almost as if everyone knew this job wouldn’t last long. I never really settled in the whole 2 months I worked there. I was never given a proper desk of my own to settle into, anyway. As a result, there was nothing of personal importance that I brought to work, and thus none that I needed to bring home with me.
Except my heart.
I told my editor what her boss – the person who hired me – told me; that I was hired because I wrote with heart. And while I was in there, I tried to keep up with what I felt were their ridiculous demands, with all the hope and innocence of a writer that would put all his heart into his writing and his job, no questions asked, simply because I was in absolutely no position to argue against those demands. When I voiced my concerns, I was made out to be disruptive. But to manipulate my circumstances in such a way and force me into a corner (from full-time to freelance, with only 4 days to either decide or leave, and even a now-empty threat of legal consequences should I freelance for any other publication in a related field), whilst either knowing full well or completely neglecting the fact that I was a father with a family to feed, and after two whole months of me trying to conform to their standards, and pleading for chances when I failed to, one can hardly expect me not to snap, and subsequently push back with equal force.
They wanted a writer with heart; they didn’t consider that they also had to deal with one.
Throughout that morning, the editor was trying to explain the company’s actions away, but as I threw down (and reiterated) point after point in rebuttal, over and over again, she found herself less able to protect the interests of the company she worked for, and at some points, even wondering if she was safe from the treatment I was subject to. She even tried to recalculate the articles I had to submit, stating again that this was the workload she routinely had to deal with herself when she first started. But you could tell from the faltering resolve in her voice that the numbers were starting to look ridiculous even to her.
Later after lunch, she would request I go to the conference room for a talk with the CEO’s right-hand man, the company’s sales director. Having not been privy to the emotions I displayed in the morning, he commenced the afternoon’s session with the remark, “I’m sorry, but by leaving without notice, it feels like you’re screwing us over.”
My editor’s face went pale as mine turned a richer, bolder dark red, and I swear the room also went a few shades darker. I said, in as calm a tone as I could muster, with my left hand clenched and pressed hard on the conference room table and my right index finger pointed solidly just a centimetre away from the skin between his eyes, “Consider what you have put me through, and please speak to the editor should you have any doubt of the ordeal that your company has orchestrated over the last 3 days, and Say. That. Again. To. My. Face.”
He backed up a little, fumbled with his words as he tried to mask his confusion over the sudden turning of tables, then asked to be excused with the editor and left the room for a few minutes. He’d return later with the editor (who decided she would take notes of our afternoon meeting for whatever reason), and try to explain his company’s position over the last few weeks that led to such a drastic restructure, ultimately involving their proposal to switch me to a freelance contract.
But he had already lost me.
In his bid to salvage what was left of our working relationship, he said two things to me. First, that based on my writing for Blogfathers SG! and Dear Xander, I could seriously consider monetising my blog(s) as my primary means of income (something that I did consider later on). Second, he hoped that I wouldn’t consider any part of this a “burning of bridges” of any sort.
I replied to his second notion with not a little scorn: “Haven’t you already beat me to it?”
Then I stood up, and I left.
At a recent blogger event, I was introduced to someone who was looking for dad bloggers to join her company’s writing pool. When she passed me a namecard indicating she was a new marketing manager for this company, I froze for a good 15-30 seconds, and my wife had to briefly (and curtly) explain why on my behalf. A few minutes later, I couldn’t bear to stay, and we left in haste. It had been close to 2 years since I quit, and the wounds still felt as fresh and raw.
I decided to pen this down not so much for public reading, but to figure out how to close this chapter in my life. I can’t say for sure I won’t freeze again if I ever encounter another member of that company in the future, nor can I say I can put all this behind me right now.
Because right this moment, I’m not sure where I will be headed. Last Friday, I was told my services would not be extended for my current job.
The feelings I had facing the uncertainty of my future 2 years ago came flooding back over the last three days. And once again, I am at a loss.