It’s been quite the ride since Sept. 14.
On that stormy day in St. George, I drove to work listening to The National’s “Sleep Well Beast.” Lightning was crashing all around and I remember thinking, “It will be really strange if I’m laid off today.” I knew layoffs were scheduled. Unfortunately, that has become a normal part of the employment in the journalism world lately. But I never thought it would be me. After all, complaints about the newspaper for which I worked were common but most people seemed to enjoy my contributions to that newspaper, even if they were unhappy with it overall.
Yes, I was probably a little cocky — even prideful. Perhaps I would have been better prepared for what happened if I hadn’t been so prideful.
It’s amazing how well I remember the next few hours. Aside from meeting and marrying my wife, it was the most impactful few hours of my life since I had first accepted a job with The Spectrum & Daily News 13 years earlier. There were three layoffs that day. I was the second one. It remains a surreal experience in my memory.
The coming weeks were filled with mourning, words of comfort from friends and family, the excitement of new opportunities, reflections on my goals in life, and a few fun projects, including my photography exhibit at Dixie State University.
I began applying for jobs in Southern Utah and throughout the country. Most were in the public relations realm. And I started doing more freelance work, including photography, writing, and editing. No matter what happened, I began making plans for more of that type of work on the side.
Eventually organizations began to call and offer interviews. With each one, there was excitement for something new. Southern Utah University presented a chance to move into higher education and some of the perks associated with that. The Cedar City-Brian Head Tourism Bureau was enticing with the potential of working in the Southern Utah outdoors I love so much. And Dixie State University was my “sure thing.” Obviously, I know nothing should be a sure thing until there’s an actual job offer, but it sounded like the job was mine to lose.
When the “sure thing” fell through, my world crashed down again. I began to wonder if I need to look at seasonal employment at Target to get me through.
But then I went on a walk with my love and she convinced me I had the drive and talent to start my own business doing writing, editing, publicity and photography. I talked with my accountant, my self-employed father, and my self-employed, LLC-owning father-in-law, who all helped me realize I could do it. And so Em Dash LLC was born.
In the midst of all of this, I was still on state unemployment, which required me to make four significant job contacts per week. Only one really stood out to me during this time: a position as public relations specialist for Scottsdale Arts in Arizona. Even then, I had mentally moved on to starting my own business and was just preparing for the big launch.
However, my resume and writing samples stood out to the folks at Scottsdale Arts, so we set up a telephone interview. When that went well, I made plans to meet with them in Scottsdale a few days before Christmas.
Well, that in-person interview was even better. They liked me and I liked them. Today, I accepted an offer to work as a PR specialist there.
I’ll be doing public relations for the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Scottsdale Public Arts (including the Canal Convergence and Scottsdale Arts Festival events), and education programs associated with both. Additionally, I may help out from time to time with Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, which is under the umbrella organization of Scottsdale Arts. Even before my layoff, my dream job was doing public relations for an arts organization. So, career-wise, this is a perfect fit.
I am sad about leaving Southern Utah. The St. George area has become my home. I love the red rock, the opportunities Southern Utah has provided me, and, most of all, the people. Cammie and I will miss so many of you.
I’m particularly sad to leave behind the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization, where I’ve been a Big Brother mentor for more than 13 years and where I’ve served on the board for seven years. It was my honor to serve as chairman of the board for more than three years. I’ll especially miss my “little brothers,” Jeremiah and Nathan. I’m also sad about leaving behind the BackTrek charity hikes I started through The Spectrum and continued after my layoff. But I’m glad to say I helped raise more than $10,000 for various organizations in the community through those hikes. I’ll miss the BackTrekkers who supported them, including many who became good friends.
Yet, the move to Phoenix will provide more than just a job for me. It will be positive for Cammie’s job as well. She’s actually been working for a charter school network based in Phoenix since she moved to Southern Utah when we were engaged. She’s had to travel to Phoenix monthly since that time. This will eliminate that travel for her and allow her to have in-person interactions with her colleagues.
As for Em Dash LLC, it’s still happening. I will continue to do writing, editing, publicity and photography for clients on the side, as time allows and as long as there are no conflicts of interest with my position at Scottsdale Arts, which will, of course, be my primary focus. I already have a few clients that will likely keep me busy in the coming weeks, especially as we prepare to move and sell our condo. But after I get situated in Arizona, I may be able to take on more projects, especially with editing.
My start date is Jan. 22. Though the next few weeks will be busy, I hope to get a chance to see some of you and say goodbye. We might even look into finding a place for a little farewell get-together.
Sadly, this blog will not be able to continue covering the arts of Southern Utah as I’ve tried to do in past months. I’ll be sorry to see the local theater reviews go. I’m thankful for the opportunity I’ve had to continue those after my layoff and I appreciate the continued support from the local arts community. However, I do plan to continue this blog with writings about the arts and the outdoors. We’ll see where it goes.
Thank you again, Southern Utah, for all you’ve given me. This region has molded me into who I am today. Thank you for your support and your love. And, as I always said to those who contacted me about articles in the newspaper, thanks for reading.