It's been more than 18 months since my professional life changed in a way I never expected. There are days and weeks that I don't think of that or the people involved. I guess this could be called a failing on my part, and sometimes I'd like to be able to let it go - but, it's not really as it might seem on the surface.
I suppose there are legitimate reasons for this still impacting my life - the fact I never knew why (at least for certain, confirmed by those who did it); perhaps because it had never happened before; but, most likely, because I have frequent interaction with these people and these companies.
But, recent events have actually shed a new light on how life works and how we are all responsible for what we do and how we treat others. The last few weeks have been an illustration of how lucky I am to have gone through what I did in 2014 and how far I've come since then.
When I was fired in August 2014, it was without notice or reason - my employers did not even give me the courtesy to tell me themselves, after working for them for seven years, and they refused to tell me why. I've had suspicions about that why since then, and I think I'm probably right, but of course I can't say that with 100 percent conviction. They paid me severance, they didn't dispute unemployment (which I only collected for a couple of months and never without earning some freelance income at the same time) and only a the week before I heard from both of the owners I regularly dealt with what a great job I was doing. So, it was a blow - it was the first time I'd ever been fired, I was embarrassed, I was hurt, I was taken completely off-guard. The fact that some of the employees, people I'd considered friends (and who I had gone to bat for, gotten raises for and kept their secrets), have taken several opportunities to bad mouth me in the community hasn't helped, I suppose.
It took time but I've come a long way from those initial feelings. The hurt is gone, the sadness only extend to two newspapers I put my soul into that have been systematically dismantled until they are shells of what they were. I'm not saying that's all because I'm gone, but it's clear that no one involved has the love or dedication to what journalism is supposed to be (of course, in my opinion - and I'm sure they would disagree).
The fact I allow the past to enter my thoughts at all at this point is a source of irritation with myself - come on now, the past is past. But, our pasts are part of who we are, and in a way remembering that time - all of it - has helped me to actually get past it and, in fact, to stay in journalism when many others who have left there have gotten out.
That is in great part due to my absolute good fortune in becoming aligned with another local newspaper (ironically the main, and deeply hated, competitor of my former bosses). You could say the bad blood between these two entities has been a positive thing to me, but surprisingly, I've found it doesn't really matter. When I was employed at the "old place" I didn't buy into the whole "XYZ is a bad place with bad people;" getting to know them and work for them I've found I was right all along - and, in fact, they are better people than those I left behind. It turned out what I thought was the most awful professional thing that could happen to me turned out to be an amazing gift - a freelance career that has been inspiring, fun, busy and at the same time allowing me the flexibility I needed at this time in my life.
So, why am I writing all of this now? Am I just obsessing on the whole thing again? Not really, although sometimes I wonder if I'll always obsess about this, just a little bit. But, karma is a real thing - and karma has come around again, just to remind me that there is a force out there that helps balance things out from time to time. That karma came in the form of these employers "dumping" many of the very people who I suspect engineered what happened to me. I learned shortly after I left that the company was looking for a buyer for its second newspaper (the one I editing and, of course, none of us had known that); they approached many people but had no success; I had an inkling when a new player entered the local market the move might finally come to pass - and it did.
Now, these people still have a job (albeit with a new employer who has struggles of its own and, I hear, some negative side effects), but what they thought was safe and secure, the gravy train they've ridden as they've run these papers into the ground has abruptly stopped. And, from all accounts, they feel angry, upset, sad, betrayed. They should - I know I did. But, perhaps, even for an instant, they'll have a tiny idea of what they did to someone who did nothing but care for them, try to help them.
I won't say I'm happy about what's happened to them because, strangely, I'm not. When all is said and done, I feel sorry for all of them. The one thing I had when all of this happened to me was the knowledge I had always given my most, done my best and my integrity was intact. They don't have that, not if they're honest. Hopefully, they will learn from this so next time they hit a bump in their particular journey they will.
For me, all I can say is "thank you" - to the great people I freelance for, to my family and friends and even to those I left behind. Because the better person I am today is because of you and what you did to me - no, what I allowed you to do to me. And I am so grateful for all of it.