Posted by: deadmousediaries | December 7, 2009

Disembarking on My Career – Transitions from Mitchell Kyd

 Note: An interview with “Mitchell Kyd” appeared in the Waynesboro Record Herald on Monday, August 29, 2011, and it included a bit about my separation from my employer.  For those of you reading my blog the first time, welcome to Dead Mouse Diaries.  I’m reposting one of my 2009 stories in this spot so you’ll get a better glimpse of the life I left behind and know that I am extremely grateful for the opportunities my employer gave me for more than 30 years.  I’ve also learned how unexpectedly fabulous it feels to have my sassy self unleashed. The story below first appeared on December 7, 2009, the official start of my new life. I hope you’ll take the time to linger while you’re here and read some of my more recent posts. I had no way of knowing there was another big, amazing world out here that could be filled with so much fun!

Disembarking on My Career

December 7, 2009 – If you are known by the company that keeps you, I’ve just become a missing person. After more than three decades of dodging the bullets of merger mania, the Reduction In Force was strong with this one and my position has been eliminated. I’ve used up all my good karma and time has finally run out on the career for which I was educated, that allowed me to excel and that I enjoyed beyond belief. I’ve been reduced to excess baggage expelled from the corporate jet. (Naw! I don’t really feel like that; I just wanted to use that corny analogy!)

I am a dying breed and a rare species all at once. It’s easy to be sad but hard to be bitter toward a company that has fed my family and my soul for so many years. How rare to know at age 12 what kind of “work” makes you happy and to then discover there was an employer who would pay me to do exactly that. How odd to be the anomaly who holds a degree and a long-term job that have been perfectly aligned. How archaic to have been happy all my life just doing the work that I do best.

My employer has gone through nine iterations of its identity in the past 19 years and I’ve ridden out each gyration without ever moving my office. It’s easy to get lost inside a Fortune 500 company with an environment like that but the community anchors my career has provided have assured that I never lost myself. It would be impossible to tally the number of amazing opportunities I’ve been given, the relationships that ensued to enrich my life, or the experiences I will take with me into the great unknown of unemployment at age 55.

I’ve collected my own set of stories across the miles and have put a freeze frame on individual moments that will always make me smile. In 1982, as a freshly minted newlywed, I was sent to interview a 100-year-old widow on her birthday. I casually asked if she had any advice for me as a young bride and her reaction resonates as loudly today as it did back then She never missed a beat but threw her bony little fist up into the air and shouted “Always keep the upper hand!”

   On another writing assignment, I developed the story of a company technician who was building an airplane in his garage. We later drove to the airport hangar to get some shots of his other vintage aircraft and he offered to take me up. I got some great aerial photos and a whole new aspect for the story on that little side trip but it never really occurred to me that some corporate attorney somewhere was having a silent heart attack while we were both exploring new horizons– in a non-commercial aircraft.

   My portfolio filled up quickly. I did a white-water rafting trip to cover the adventures of an employee who spent his weekends as a river guide. I caught a ride in a ultralight and glided between the clouds and treetops as research on another feature. I was given VIP access to the Gettysburg battlefield during the Civil War 125th reenactment and I touched the Rushmore Flag. When I was sent to capture the stories of a town where a flash flood had crushed their homes and swept away three neighbors, I was humbled and made gratefuI.

As the first woman manager in our department, I got a pretty good look at ole’ boy network at its best. At 25, I deflected a comment from my male boss to my two male counterparts as I left his office. “Gee, I wish I had a swing like that on my back porch,” I heard him say. I just turned and scowled because I knew that was a line he had heard somewhere and he had just been waiting for the chance to use it. That was just a hiccup from an important mentor in my life, a boss I admired and respected until the day he died.

At age 30, I was sent to serve as our department’s representative on an inter-departmental committee that was directed by a newly annointed HR manager. At my first meeting, he announced that we would need a secretary and that would obviously be me. When I asked why, he never hesitated: “You are the only woman in the room.” I thought he was joking so I know I threw back something funny in response. It was clearly not so funny to him.

   His next explanation to me in front of the group was that the men in the group didn’t take shorthand. Neither did I. That fueled the fire for the third volley that resulted in “Well, most of these men don’t type.” For a minute I thought I was trapped in the Twilight Zone. I waited outside after the meeting to assure him I would be a team player in whatever was needed but he could not make assumptions – or assignments — about my skills based on my gender. He was furious and stormed off, straight to his boss, I’m sure, who was a smarter guy. Within an hour, a memo went out to all committee members advising that the record-keeping duties would be rotated among us all each month. Wise choice.

At 36, immediately after I moved from staff to my field position, a male employee came to my office at lunchtime and whipped open a Hustler magazine. The model shared the same name as mine and he said “the guys” were just wondering if that was me in the photo. I knew he had drawn the short straw and had been sent to check out the “new girl” in the front office, so I zapped him with a sassy comeback that made his jaw drop. I never had any trouble working with that crew after that. In all these instances and many more, a phone call to HR would have sent heads rolling but that wasn’t my response. I wanted authentic respect, the kind that can’t be legislated, and I chose to prove I could command it. 

    Over the years, I reported to a dozen male bosses and two strong, confident women. One woman inspired and empowered me (thank you, Sandra!) but I also learned a lot from her predecessor who served best as a bad example. I later survived prolonged exposure to a poisonous toad who had been posing as a human being; he was Totally Useless. I outlasted him, too, but not before he had paralyzed some other very good people. 

   Throughout it all, I’ve shared my life with a husband who always has my back and who is my biggest fan. I’ve been surrounded by a growing circle of friends and have raised two phenomenal kids who think that a strong work ethic and the obligation to give back to their communities is just the way things are done. And I have been happy. That’s not too shabby at the end of the day.

   So here I am: older, wiser and out of a job. It’s clear that the life I’ve known is now all behind me. But isn’t disembarking where the fun begins? When you step onto a jet for that dream vacation, you embark. But it isn’t until you reach your destination and make your exit onto new ground that your real adventure begins. Even if I have disembarked in a place that can’t exactly be described as terra firma, what lies ahead is there for me to invent so I’ve started making lists:

Seek financial guidance and alter expectations.  Check

Review spring course catalog to update skills. Check

Sharpen coupon clipper. Check

Schedule drum lessons. Check

Dye hair purple. Check

Take charge of personal destiny. Check

   In the days before my career assignments were filled with acronyms and corporate-speak, I used to think I wanted to write for Rolling Stone. “Research” in those days meant listening to buzzed-up lyrics and studying album covers for great brain fodder. One of my favorite discoveries from the way-back is this post script from The Moody Blues and it seems a perfect fit. It was penned by British songwriter Lionel Bart and it appears in the liner notes of On The Threshold of a Dream.

“….I think…I’ll end these sleevenotes here and now and start a brand new masterpiece…or something…You may well say that’s no way to end a piece, a story, sleevenotes, call it what you will but look! There’s no results in art, or life. only beginnings… Which brings me to what better ending than…Once upon a time… “

   To all those who have had a hand in shaping the life I’ve lived, thank you. For all those that are guiding me out onto the tarmac one more time, please keep reading my stories. My next life is gaining loft and it’s going to be an interesting flight.

RIF’d in peace – Mitchell Kyd

Copyright 2009. Mitchell Kyd. All rights reserved.

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Responses

  1. You have only just begun!

  2. Aloha – which of course means welcome/hello AND bon voyage. I feel privileged to be able to be apprised of your journey!

  3. The best yet–this could be worked into something
    longer. Loved it, Yvonne.

  4. Fabulous post. I can’t wait to see the purple hair. Sending my best to you!

  5. Wow your life so far has been such a journey!!! Im so glad to know you and your family. You are such a inspiration to me. Keep loving life and step foward into the next part of your life dont be afraid because the Lord above is always with you! Love Jo

  6. Thank you, congratulations, and good luck. I love reading you and I am so excited for you and your future. You better get some funky sun glasses lady, your gonna need them!

  7. Yvonne, one of your best pieces ever!! A great summing up of a long successful (as it is truly measured) corporate career. And I hear if I look closely I’ll see a glint of purple in the southwestern sky! Let’s do lunch soon.

  8. Wow! Great stuff. Good to see you & get an update. Keep writing.

  9. Great writing! “How rare to know at age 12 what kind of “work” makes you happy and to then discover there was an employer who would pay me to do exactly that. ” I’m a little bit jealous–but then again, finding the “happy vocation” is part of my adventure.

    • Hi, Nathan! Thanks for reading!! I thought about you and your family several times over the holidays and I hope you made some wonderful memories with your kids. We’ll be headin’ out to Toastmasters in a bit; hope to see you there! Yvonne

  10. Mitch. You know I left the same day you did, and somehow I managed
    to miss this excellent piece. I know the people you referenced in code-
    the poisonous toad, my favorite. Thank you for all you are and your priceless musings.


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