Thursday, March 29, 2012

Five years ago -- in medias res

It was Friday, March 30, 2007. And after 4 days in the hospital for tests and observation, I was going home. Before I was discharged from United Hospital, I met with the surgical team that would perform my operation the next week. I was told that I would have the surgery and then would be spending at least two days in intensive care post-surgery, with probably 3-4 days in the hospital after that.

Once I was discharged following the surgery, I would be under strict orders to maintain a low profile and take about 2-3 months for a complete recovery. Activities would have to be limited and, under no circumstances, was I to drive anywhere.

"We're very strict about this because you need time to recover," one of the nurses told me. "Now we know that taking this much time off could pose a financial hardship, but you really need to recover."

For what it was worth, taking the time to recover was not an issue at all for me, because I had nowhere to go anyway. Other than the Minnesota Workforce Center, that is.

I had been unemployed for months. My employer, Bank of America, had decided to close its facility in Bloomington in the spring of 2006 and to consolidate operations in Hillsboro, Oregon, a suburb of Portland. I had been offered the chance to relocate, but in considering the financial and social considerations of moving across the country, we decided not to take the offer. Instead I got to train my replacement and take a severance package. And in between everything else, I started this blog, so I'd have something to do over my lunch hour.

Finding a job had been difficult, because I was what you might call a "tweener." I had been a program analyst and team lead for B of A, managing the day-to-day financial reporting for B of A's corporate relocation mortgage business. I had even become one of approximately 34,925 Assistant Vice Presidents of the bank, which looked good on my business card, if nothing else. So I had done well in my 3+ years with the bank, but I was a bit nontraditional -- in fact, I'm pretty sure that I was the only analyst in the company who had a bachelor's degree in English and no additional schooling. I could do the job because I had learned a good deal about finance from my previous employer, the relentlessly metric-driven Target Corporation.

So while I had a good story to tell in an interview (Worked for Two Fortune 25 Companies! Successful! Adaptable!), my background left a lot of corporate recruiters puzzled, especially when they saw my resume. To say the least, my educational background was a mismatch for the sorts of finance jobs that I wanted to pursue. And while I had a strong writing background, not too many advertising teams were looking to hire a financial analyst as a copywriter. I had started looking for freelance gigs, but nothing had happened yet.

And while the economy in 2006-07 was stronger than it is now, warning signs were flashing all over. One of the reasons we didn't make the move to Portland was that we saw we would end up paying a very high price for a home -- while the housing market in Portland had softened a little since the go-go days of 2003-05, the prices were still astronomical, about 10-15% higher than in Minneapolis. And as it happened, a number of my colleagues who went to Hillsboro ended up losing their jobs with B of A later on, as the overall market tanked and B of A began to take on water.

By the time I went to the hospital, the severance had run out and most of my unemployment benefit was exhausted, too. We had scaled back greatly and weren't in financial difficulty yet, but things were starting to get a little dicey. So the idea of dealing with major surgery was pretty daunting.

Fortunately, Mrs. D had insurance coverage for the family, so we weren't looking at ruin. But while I could take 2-3 months to recover, things were looking to be pretty tough afterwards.

I tried to stay positive -- this post I wrote at the time seems pretty upbeat, considering the circumstances. But I was wondering how much longer I could maintain the facade.

As I suggested at the time, prayer was going to matter:

Prayers are greatly appreciated. I'm trying to keep my composure about all this and I can feel God's hand in the events. He will take care of me, with your help.
I would find out how true this was in the days and weeks to follow:

Next:  getting ready


Gino said...

this was just before the time our blogs crossed paths.
wish i was there for you sooner.

Gino said...

on the upside to transfering to OR: we'd be able to hang more often since i tend to make regular pilgramages in that direction now.
(cept this spring.. wont be happening)