Updated: Dec 16, 2020
Four short stories of people that reinvented themselves after tragedy. “There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.” Ronald Reagan Mary the resilient Mary was a AP Manager working for a midsized company in Texas. She had three children and was divorced, receiving no child support. When the kids were younger it seemed like an Olympic struggle to get them to school or daycare and herself to work on time. Now two of the kids were in high school and her youngest entering 1st grade. Mary was starting to get into a groove. Wake at 5am, get the oldest their breakfast then wake the youngest and get his breakfast. Drop the youngest at elementary school then bolt cross town to work. In 10 years Mary had never been late. Then it hit. Mary’s youngest was struggling in school. Patrick had been a introvert most his life but Mary thought school and kids would bring him out of his shell. Instead Patrick was diagnosed with a form of autism. Mary’s healthcare coverage was vague at best on autism and the school was insisting he be put in a special school. The school unfortunately that was recommended was even further from her work, almost insuring she would be at least 15 minutes late each day. Her company had a Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) and they looked all over for alternatives. Mary met with her boss to discuss the situation. Her boss, Justin, took the situation to the CFO. The CFO was not pleased. Already the AP department was behind and cost cutting measures were being talked about. Justin was concerned and said to the CFO “ you are not thinking of adding Mary to the layoff list are you?” . The CFO just shrugged and said “ we have to make cuts somewhere”. The CFO continued and told Justin” Tell her we appreciate her plight but if she cannot get here at the set time then we need to move her to a part time position and out of management” Justin relayed the message to Mary who was heartbroken “ Its like you are punishing me for my child’s illness” she cried. Mary refused to volunteer to take a step back. She came in late three times one week and 4 times the next. She was terminated. Mary looked at legal remedies, but the bottom line was she was out of a job and her insurance did not cover Patrick's autism. Plus COBRA was over $1000 a month. Mary was so stressed. She frantically sent resume after resume with no response. Finally Mary had her oldest son develop a web page featuring her experience as a CPA. Mary joined a West Texas business club and the Chamber of Commerce. The first year was rough but years two and three picked up. Now Mary runs a successful CPA business. Terri the Tenacious Terri was a great recruiter. Living in suburban Maryland she made the daily commute into Washington DC . Terri had worked at the firm on K street for 5 years. She often was recruiting on as many as forty open requisitions. One rainy nasty day Terri drove down Wisconsin Ave through Chevy Chase on the way home. A Waste truck had just run the light red and smashed into Terri’s car. Terri went to the hospital with injuries to her back. She contacted a very well know law firm that specialized in suing companies involved in auto accidents. It was a long drawn out process. The real problem was that she had trouble sitting for a long time at her desk. The pain was unbearable. She would often stand at her desk. This helped a little but a 40 to 50 hour work week took its toll. She also had numerous doctor’s visits and rehabilitation appointments. Terri’s production fell off. Her internal customer often complained to the VP of HR that they felt the quality and quantity of candidate had fallen off since her accident. The VP told the internal customer to give her time. A month later the internal customer became frustrated that the VP of HR was not going to correct the situation, so they went directly to the CEO. This all caused friction. Not following the chain of command and other issues. Terri was caught in a war of departments. Terris last rehab session went badly. She now had an issue with her knee. The stress of the commute, injury, work place war and the law suit was making her physically ill. She basically slept all weekend and dreaded going into work. Finally, the paper trail started. Terri’s production had fallen off. First a verbal warning, then a written. The next shoe was getting ready to fall. Terri had to make a decision, her back pain was unbearable due to the commute, standing and stress. Terri had a music major and during college she had taught piano. She considered teaching piano again. The decision was made for her as the firm let her go with a final warning. Terri took what little she had from the accident settlement and made business cards, a website and put flyers around schools. It was a very hard 5 years. She had to sell her car and home and downsize. The fifth year she got traction and now runs a very successful piano school for children. Terri always tells me her slogan is “When your going through Hell just keep going” . Steve’s Stroke Steve was an executive with a retail company. He ran the compliance department. He was fifty and in great shape. One day Steve was bringing his dog back from getting his shots. He was on the phone with his sister. Suddenly the dog sat up abruptly and as Steve began to say “what’s wrong?’ his arm went numb and he dropped the phone. He was lucky he was pulling into his drive way when he picked up the phone and called 911. Then his speech began to slur as he spoke to the operator. The ambulance came and took Steve to the hospital. He missed about a month of work. When he returned he noticed something funny. People were treating him like he was glass. Very breakable. Also if he coughed or sneezed people dramatically would ask “Are you alright ?” It got more and more noticeable. Finally Steve met with his staff and told them “guys it was a mini stroke. I am fine”. The awkwardness still continued. Budget cuts came and Steves job was eliminated. The company stressed over and over it had nothing to do with the stroke. Steve wasn’t buying it. Now unemployed, Steve discovered another problem. His circle of friends had shrunk considerably. The Whisky and Cigar Friday night with the guys was no longer available. Steve inquired as to why he hadn’t been invited. The host stammered “well, some of the guys are afraid you may have another stroke”. Then Steve went to a friends Super Bowl party. Steve again noticed no one was really talking to him . Steve asked the host what was going on and the host just shrugged. As Steve was headed back to the kitchen he could over hear a small group talking…” Can you believe he has a stroke and loses his job! Wow, his career is over !’…Steve in total shock turned the corner as the embarrassed group stared at him “You know, a stroke and unemployment are not contagious” he said sternly. Steve had a long road. Depression set in. His relationship ended. He had to downsize his lifestyle. Steve was a fighter though. He moved to a different state and started over. He told me “I use to think I had a lot of friends and even family support, but this has taught me that it’s the quality not the quantity of friends that matter”. Jerry’s Kids Jerry had five kids. His wife had died of cancer. The kids ranged in ages from 5 to 18. Jerry was a marketing guy with a so called progressive employer in California. He had the help of his sister with the kids until one day she told Jerry she had a job offer in Chicago and had to take it. Jerry was devastated. It was at that point Jerry met Tiffany . She had two kids both girls. After a short time of dating they moved in together. Unfortunately, blended families are not always the Brady Bunch and the new family dynamic wasn’t gelling. In fact all the drama was affecting Jerry at work. Literally dozens of calls daily about the latest arguments. Jerry could not keep his mind on his work. He asked for a sabbatical and was granted a month. He believed that if he was at home he could rebuild the family. At the end of the month Tiffany told Jerry she could not do the blended family. They spilt. Now a new issue , with no sister or Tiffany there, the kids spun out of control. Jerrys boss met with Jerry to go over his performance review. No raise. A 90 day improve or leave development plan. Jerry knew that no matter how progressive the company was that nobody ever stayed with the company after being put on a PIP (Performance Improvement Plan) . Jerry was terrified. Five kids was hard enough but without a job it would be impossible. So Jerry worried. He manifested his own destiny and he was fired. Jerry began sending out resumes. He realigned his goals. He rebuilt. Wasn’t easy but he was motivated. The common factor with all these people is that they stayed positive in fighting adversity. They didn’t blame anyone or themselves. They learned that one solid friend is worth more than fifty Fair-weather friends. But the key is they never gave up.