As of this writing, I've been technically unemployed for two full months. Ten years ago, I started a job with Walgreens, working as their overnight stock boy/cashier while I also worked as an assistant manager at a theater, ran the register at my eventual father-in-law's music store and worked full time at a gas station where I was training my replacement to manage it. All I did was work at that time, but I loved the job. The people were quirky and the job was fun, but it was also quite physical, which I liked. There was something almost spiritually fulfilling for me to be awake at 4am, hanging ad tags or stocking shelves. It had a reflective dreamlike feeling for me. I also loved the company I was working for. Walgreens treated their employees well and they seemed to have a vision for the future. After a time, I decided that it was going to be a good move for me and I made the choice to dedicate most of my energies into working towards a future with them.
For a decade, I worked there. I moved to Montana to open the first two stores in the state, fighting strange challenges and problems that came with being so removed and eventually moved back to Idaho. I progressed in the company, but never aggressively. While I fully intended to be a store manager at some point, the learning and the culture was just as important to me. I took any opportunity to move and try new challenges and work with different employees.
Eventually my quest took me to Maine and a dozen different stores, including a stint as the district secretary. All that time, I progressed. I would regularly get calls from people I'd trained or mentored many that were above me in the company, asking for my advice or how to do certain things. I took pride in the massive group of friends and co-workers I discovered. I was invited to weddings, birthdays and funerals for customers. For the most part, I adored working corporate retail.
It did have its downsides. Over the years, I worked with some bad managers and some utterly terrible people and year by year, customers seemed to get lazier, more ridiculous and self-entitled. At the same time, the company I'd loved changed. Some of it was a natural evolution, but for every step forward there were steps back and sideways and sly shuffles to the diagonal that ended up swooping backwards. The ability to use my artistic side was stifled in favor of ever increasing minutia and redundancies aimed more at anticipating problems and covering them up, rather than preventing them. A job that I was initially more than happy to dedicate all of my time to started to expect that time, make it a requirement.
As much as I loved the idea of running a beautiful, clean drug store with a family of trusted employees and loyal customers, I could see that that was no longer the future direction. Leadership was being reduced in favor of poorly trained, lower paid subordinates and corporate didn't really care if your employees left the company, as long as you had enough paperwork filled out to prevent a lawsuit.
This makes it sound like I'm complaining, and I am. But despite all of it, I still enjoyed my job and I worked with some fantastic people, both above and below me. I just didn't feel like it was the place for me. I was working with truly excellent managers that felt it was expected and acceptable to work 60+ hours a week and break family obligations in favor of filling one more shelf or writing one more record of an employee being three minutes late.
Luckily, at the same time, avenues were opening up for our family in a way they never had before. A few years back, before moving to Maine, my wife and I decided that we wanted to run a small motel on the west coast. We got close, with no money and no help, but things fell through at the last minute. But we'd had that taste.
Back in August of 2010, while we were in Topsham, ME, and I was working for Walgreens, I opened a little shop on a website called Etsy, selling hand-cut Sasquatch silhouette stickers. In the last two years, that shop had expanded to include decorative switch plate covers, photography, sculptures and other assorted geekery. This Christmas, Deeply Dapper EXPLODED. It started to grow in October and by the time Christmas rolled around we had gotten so busy that Lindsay had quit her job at the hotel and started working full time for the shop. At the same time, I was continuing to work the 50+ hours a week as a salaried manager at the drug store, then coming home to work hours and hours on the shop, often overnight, just to keep up.
Finally, we had to make a choice. Continue trying to be a store manager for a company I was no longer totally sure of or violate my one cardinal rule – NEVER QUIT A SURE THING and follow my other rule, the one I'd never gotten to follow before – DREAMS CREATE THE FUTURE.
In January, after the shop had made enough money to secure us in the months to come if sales took a sudden nose-dive, I leapt. I quit the company a couple months shy of my ten year anniversary and went to work at Deeply Dapper full time.
So how's it been going? BUSY. The shop has dropped off quite a bit and the sales are sporadic. It's not enough to be extremely worrisome, but growing up poor, it's hard for me to ignore a slim day and look at the bigger picture, knowing that the sales are no longer extra; they're how we pay our bills.
It's also incredibly difficult to get used to the idea that I don't work for Walgreens anymore. Even now, after 60 days away, I still feel like I'm on an extended vacation and will have to return at any moment. That was especially bad the first month.
But it's totally awesome, I can't deny that. We're finally finding our equilibrium and getting used to the idea of both of us in the house ALL OF THE TIME. Together. We live in a mobile home with less than 1,000 square feet and we go further than the driveway twice a week. That has taken some adjustment, but I think that will get significantly easier if this winter ever ends. We're planning an office extension out back where we can build an artists and author studio where we can find some solitude. We're doing everything we can to get ahead on orders so that we can start enjoying the state we live in. We've been here for years now and have never really had time e to explore it. And sadly, we've started prepping for Christmas already – it has the potential to be life changingly awesome if we can keep up the quality and customer service we need.
I think the most important change I can make is to get myself into a schedule. Now that it is my job, I don't have an excuse to not update all of our blogs and websites regularly, there's no reason to not go after book covers hardcore, all of those new ideas in my big notebook? I'm making them! My weekly art jam at TRDL is going to get done, I'm going to finish my damn books, I'm going to read all of these books I didn't write! We're going to get fit! As I type this, I'm walking at a nice smooth pace on my treadmill. I've walked two and a half miles, that's pretty cool. I plan to try and do 90% of my writing either walking or standing. The only time I have an excuse is when I'm editing... and when I'm particularly lazy.
One of the most important things I need to do is write here more often. I actually miss having a journal of our lives and I miss hearing from readers like Randy and Steve. 2013 is gonna be awesome.
Step Write Up!