Truck Driver? Nope, I’m a Graphic Designer

This is a long one…

I never wanted to drive a truck. I mean, trucks are cool, and I have always loved Optimus Prime, but as a lifetime career, no way. For the past few years, my plans have been just to drive a truck until it makes sense to try something else. Trista and I had come up with a plan that would have me driving at LEAST until her student loans were paid off, and perhaps once we had purchased her a new car (not NEW new, but new to us) and myself a better motorcycle. In fact, I had gotten so used to the money that I can’t really see myself actually making the decision to stop. It’s like being a stripper, you KNOW you shouldn’t but who can turn down good money for not the much work. I say not much work because I know that I am capable of more in life than driving. I know that I have skills and talents far beyond the necessary ones used to drive a semi truck.

Fearless Leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime

Well, I had that decision to quit driving made FOR me and not BY me. As you read in my last post, I lost my job. Many people I know said that more than likely it was a blessing in disguise, rather than the horrible nightmare that it appeared to be.

After I found out that I lost my job, I was freaked out a little bit, I was also a wee bit excited at the same time. Ok, I was more than freaked out a little bit, actually, I had trouble sleeping at night. I kept seeing myself in the truck during the accident. I could feel what it felt like when it was tipping over. That, mixed with the uncertainty in what would become of my life, had me stressed out. I don’t get stressed out easily if that tells you anything.

I had been working on various web design projects for months and yielded little results due to the lack of time I had to put into them. Now, I thought, I will have time enough to finish them, put my portfolio together and then do one of two things, work as a freelance graphic/web designer, or get hired on with a good company doing the same. During this adjustment time, I figured I would also be able to collect unemployment benefits (UI), because, after all, I didn’t quit, I got fired.

In order to receive these benefits, I had to fill out an online resume at the Michigan Talent Bank (which is basically but run by the Gov’t). I didn’t think much of this so I didn’t make my resume seem overly awesome. I just knew that I didn’t really want to put any thing about driving a truck on there other than job history (basically, I didn’t want a bunch of trucking companies calling me). I didn’t really think that anyone would really look at it anyway. I had been on UI before and did this same online resume thing, and never once got a call. (not like I had any skills anyone wanted back then).

I'm on chapter 12 as of this writing, ...Kreacher and Mondungus... exciting

I’m on chapter 12 as of this writing, …Kreacher and Mondungus… exciting

So, in order to implement this plan, I put together a little daily schedule for myself that included chores as well as a prioritized list of my projects in order of deadline and importance. I had been following this schedule for about 2 weeks and then one day, out of nowhere, I received a call from an HR lady named The HR Lady that worked for a company called The Company. (I was downstairs making some nachos and about to listen to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in audio book form, and just got a voicemail from her.) I listened to her voicemail and got really exited, (not excited enough to call her before eating and listening to one chapter though.)

I returned her call and we chatted for a bit. She had found my resume on the MI Talent Bank and liked what she saw (I guess). One of the first things she mentioned was that they were located up in Traverse City (TC), to which I replied “would I be able to work from home?” She said, “No.” and I started to write them off as an interesting idea, but never would consider moving so far away. I told her this and we chatted a little more. I said that while I was intrigued by the idea of working for a real company, doing what I have always wanted to do, TC was a bit ridiculous. She said “well let me tell you a few things to help you decide”.

The Company is a company who’s primary service is “Search Engine Optimization”, which means that they help huge companies get their web sites to the top of the list when you do a search for something that is relevant to what they offer. They have been in business for over 10 years and have just under 40 employees. The work environment is quite relaxed and non-officy. You are allowed to wear whatever you want (within reason I suppose) and they try to promote a “family-like” atmosphere. They have a fooseball table (I LOVE this), table shuffleboard and an arcade machine.

They don’t have cubicles and crappy fluorescent lighting, instead they have super-sweet Danish, artsy furniture and table lamps. There are even dogs running around to be petted and played with.

They were looking at me to come on as a graphic designer and Flash developer. I would be involved with what they call “internal marketing” which is everything from the company’s web site, to fliers, to banner ads, to business cards. Basically anything that they put out to market themselves as a business.

The HR Lady persuaded me to at LEAST check out their company online, send her an email with samples of my work and discuss it with Trista. She said that she would call me the next day and see if I had changed my mind at all.

262 mi – about 4 hours 21 mins

I did as she asked, I totally read up on the company, sent her off an email with everything I could pass as viewable, and waited for T to come home so we could chat. I was just interested to see what someone in the “real world” thought of my work.

I honestly didn’t think much of the possibility, I figured that T wouldn’t like the idea of me moving. She had gotten used to me being home and, I’m sure, rather enjoyed having dinner waiting for her on occasion in the crock pot.

I told her all about The Company and where they are located and fully expected her to say something like “Well, at least people are looking at your resume, too bad it’s so far away.” She said nothing of the sort. I believe she said something more like “Wow, you could TOTALLY do it.”

Well, I wasn’t prepared for that.

Trista got super excited about me finally getting to make money doing one of my hobbies. She launched into an explanation about how me moving wouldn’t be much different than if I had gone back to driving a truck long haul (which we had discussed as an option if things didn’t work out otherwise). She also loved the idea of them not being a stuffy office, but a “cool” place to work.

Well, that certainly made me start thinking differently about this whole situation. We spent quite a while weighing out different possibilities, options and objections. The bottom line was that T was really pushing for me to consider this, and I couldn’t find a reason to disagree with her. I mean, aside form all the obvious reasons NOT to take this job, it just boiled down to one exciting opportunity.

When The HR Lady called me the next day at 2:00pm, the first thing she asked me was “Well, should we continue…?” I told her that T was on board so far and that we should see where this could take us.

She had looked over my work and showed it to the owner/ founder/president/CEO (I don’t know what she goes by but I know her name is The Owner) and they were quite interested in me. The HR Lady and I talked for about an hour about everything from what they offered, to my ability to leave my new wife and move across the state. Their primary concern is that I would take the job, decide I couldn’t handle being so far from everyone I cared about and pack up and head back home. This is when I told her about the fact that during T and my entire relationship, I had been a truck driver and that we were used to being apart. I told her about our plan for me to go back to driving a truck “over the road” (long haul like the olden days) and that we were prepared for that type of lifestyle if it came down to it.

The HR Lady is a fun lady. I really like her. I quickly found that she appreciated my sense of humor, which allowed me to really be myself. She seemed to really enjoy talking to me and out of nowhere she said “Why don’t you come up here for an interview?”

Bam! Now all of the sudden it became much more real. At first, it was fun to sit there and think about “what if” and yet still remain in my comfortable little bubble where I felt safe. “Why not come up tomorrow?” She said. I didn’t know what to say to her, I hemmed and hawed and tried to make up excuses why it was “too soon” or “late notice” or anything else I could come up with to stall. She really started to “up-sell” me at that point. “What else do you have going on tomorrow?” I didn’t have anything else to say but “I have to water the plants at 3:00pm. (which was true, according to my self-made schedule).

Now this was the Wednesday before Labor Day weekend and T and I had plans to drive up to Grandpa and Grandma Spaulding’s house for their 50th wedding anniversary party on Saturday. I mentioned this to The HR Lady and she replied with “Why not make a big weekend out of it, come up here tomorrow at 2:00pm, stay in town, look around, see if you like the area and then go to your grandparents for the weekend.”

I told her that I would have to think about it and call Trista and see if this was even a possibility. She said to let her know first thing in the morning whether or not I was on my way or what stupid excuse I had come up with (I’m paraphrasing).

So, T got the day off and we headed “up north” for a weekend adventure.

Katie also insisted that I remove my stupid earrings. I complied.

Katie also insisted that I remove my stupid earrings. I complied.

Later that day, T and I went over to Ryan and Katie’s house for some hang out and Katie asked me what I was going to wear. I told her that due to the nature of the “laid back” atmosphere, I was going to wear my nicest shirt (collared polo thingie) and my khakis (not dress pants, but tan colored jeans). She did NOT approve at all and made me drive her and T straight to Target (it was 9:00pm the day before we were to leave) and buy some nice dress clothes.

T and I left the house a little after 9:00am and just barely made it to TC (actually it’s another 1/2 hour PAST TC) by 2:00. I dropped her off in a little town called Sutton’s Bay where she could walk around, look at antiques, eat and read Harry Potter 7.

The interview was me sitting across from The HR Lady (Human Resources), The Marketing Guy (Marketing Boss), and The Owner (Owner/Founder/President/CEO). I was SOOOOOOO nervous when I sat down. They were all wearing normal clothes (like it was a Saturday and they weren’t working at all) but this didn’t help me relax. The Owner started with easy questions about my trip up and G & G’s anniversary party. I began to settle down a little bit and then came the more “interviewy” questions. In the middle of my answer I just stopped and said “I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t know how to answer these questions like a real grown-up, I don’t know how to conduct a real professional interview, I have been a truck driver for the past 6 years and before that, I was a grill cook.” They laughed and said that I was doing great and that they didn’t want to hear the normal “canned” answers anyway. I felt much better and then informed them that that was good, because I was fighting back an involuntary nervous gulp.

After that, I felt right at ease. I was able to answer all of the questions with amusing stories and witty remarks that had them laughing their heads off. The Owner asked The Marketing Guy if he had any questions for me. He sort of looked like he had been put on the spot and said, “I know I’m supposed to have a bunch of things to ask him right now, but I forgot them all because I am so impressed with his enthusiasm and excitement. It’s quite refreshing.” I couldn’t believe how well the interview was going. He then came up with a few questions for me that I seemed to answer to their satisfaction.

During one of my stories, The Owner glanced at her watch and said “Wow, I am supposed to be at a meeting in TC in 10 minutes (we were 30 mins away) but I just found this interview so entertaining that I lost track of time.” She and Scott immediately got up, shook my hand, and ran out the door straight to the parking lot and left.

After that, it was just The HR Lady and myself left in the conference room and the interview was mostly over at that point. She leaned across the table and sort of whispered “You did SO good!”. It was almost as if she was proud of me.

We went back to her office and she got me some literature on The Company and a magazine called Traverse that dealt with the TC area for me to give to T. She then recommended that T and I get to know the town a little bit and to take a walk downtown so we can see if we even like it up there.

Trista and I did as The HR Lady suggested and gave ourselves a tour of downtown. Boy is it awesome. It sort of reminded me of Ann Arbor the way that all the buildings were laid out and how they were all bustling with coolness that I wanted to be a part of. This short time spent walking around was all T needed to help make up her mind. She loves Traverse City. “This is our type of town.” She said.

After this little excursion up to TC and visiting the town and meeting the people and everything, we were feeling pretty good about the whole thing. I felt that the interview went so well, I wouldn’t have been surprised if I received a call 10 minutes after leaving the office. I sat there at a good 90% sure they wanted me. The HR Lady said I would hear from her no later than Tuesday (this was Thursday and they didn’t work Fri or Mon).

One thing I forgot to mention was that on the day before our trip up, I received a letter from the unemployment office stating that I was not eligible to receive any money due to some sort of misconduct. it’s just silly. So this means that we had to consider this option much more heavily.

As we were driving to G & G Spaulding’s house, I received a call from another company that found my resume online and wanted me to come in for an interview. We will call this company “Company-B” and they are a firm that specializes in online training videos for large corporations. I said I’d give them a call on Tuesday to see about coming in and seeing what they were all about.

Isn’t that insane? This threw a whole new dimension into the mix. Now, not only did I have to consider the possibility of moving up for an awesome company, I was being called by local web design firms as well.

Tuesday morning came and I went in for the interview. The whole thing was a completely different experience. First of all, their HR lady that was supposed to interview me was like 20 minutes late from lunch, so I had to sit in the waiting room getting more and more nervous while wondering what the deal was. Finally, I got escorted into the conference room by the head “tech guy”, where they had some of my web sites up on a huge projector for critiquing. He, along with the owner of the company, started questioning me about my technique and my coding skills and abilities. They didn’t want to know anything about me, at all. They only seemed concerned with whether or not I could actually do the work. Which seems reasonable, but nothing like my interview with The Company.

By the time their HR lady (I don’t know why I’m referring to her as “lady” in my mind, I refer to young women as “girl” or even “chick”, and older women as “lady”) arrived, we didn’t have much time to talk before we had to vacate the conference room for another meeting and everyone decided that they didn’t have any more questions for me. The whole interview took less than 12 minutes. I was then informed that they weren’t actually hiring exactly, but that if I was chosen, I would be “hired” on as a contractor for 4 months with intent to hire. Basically, they had a HUGE order to fill with the new 2008 car lines hitting the market and needed 5 new people to start immediately to help out with the workload.

This added even more to the pot to sift through to make a decision. I could move up north, away from everyone and everything to go work for a company that I really believe in, and who seems to better fit what I am looking for as well as my personality. Or, I can stay in town, take a chance on working for a company that may or may not continue my employment past the 4 month period, working as basically a workhorse to churn out content and have very limited creative control. The kicker was that they were both talking of offering the same pay (give or take).

To some of you, the choice may seem simple. I don’t know, it sure wasn’t for me. Either one would seem as acceptable as the other depending on which side you view it from.

I still hadn’t heard from The HR Lady and it was like 2:00pm. This made me wonder if I had read them wrong. That couldn’t be, they loved me. I didn’t know what the heck was up so I called her myself.

The first thing I said to her was “I don’t know what the official business protocol is about calling you when you said you’d call me, but I just wanted to know what the heck was going on.” She thanked me for calling and said she thought that it showed initiative. I was thinking it was anything but initiative, it was more like “Why don’t you love me like I think you love me, why haven’t you called me, where were you last night, I was worried sick.” (more like that).

The HR Lady told me that they, in fact, did love me and really thought I would be a perfect match for the company. The only thing that is holding them up was a question about my commitment to actually moving and staying up there. She told me that she really needed a true commitment from me saying that I fully intend to see this through and not cut and run when it seems difficult.

“Wow.” I said, “That’s all? I’m not worried about my commitment once I move up there, it’s getting me TO move that you have to talk me into.” I then told her that I wanted to be completely honest and told her about “Company-B” and about my interview and about my tough decision to choose between a company that I really liked that’s far away, and a company I didn’t really care for, but was able to leave my current life intact.

She thanked me for my honesty and said she’d take these concerns to The Owner and get back with me. Less than ten minutes later she called me back and officially offered me a job.

After talking to T extensively about it, she was really leaning towards, (actually more like pushing for) the Traverse City position. I could tell that she wouldn’t be truly happy unless I checked it out and see how it went. Trista loved everything about the company, she feels as if they honestly care about me, and the work atmosphere is something that I would thrive in. She also has no problem with the fact that we will be apart. “We’ve been dealing with this since we’ve known each other, so it’s not as if our relationship can’t handle it.” She said. What a good wife, don’t you think? I do.

I called The HR Lady back on Wednesday morning and accepted the job. I’m to start on October 1st (or before if I can).

Now this brought up a few other snags that we’re left dealing with. First of all, I had JUST signed the new lease on our apartment not even 2 weeks ago. What I didn’t know is that the NEW lease was under a NEW property management company that does not allow for early termination. Which basically means that I’m stick here until the lease is up, or if I do move out, I’ll have to continue to pay until they re-rent this apartment.

2nd snag: what about T?

Part of the reason that she was able to push so hard for this job of mine was that she was willing to stay wherever and with whomever. She is used to living like a “college student” and is willing to do so for a while longer. Right now we are working out the details for her to stay with a friend here, while at the same time, I look for apartments up in TC that are similar to the one we currently live in. We want to call Traverse City our home, and so there is where we will make it.

I guess that about wraps up this ridiculously long story and I am still leaving out details here and there, but the main points were covered.

My life is about to change forever, I am about to ride off into the sunset to pursue my dream and leave everything I know and care about behind (5 hours behind anyway).


Thank you to all of you who have offered help and/or advice to Trista and myself during this difficult decision. We also ask that you would keep us in your thoughts during the next few months while we try to make this transition.

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