I led a very quiet and uneventful life until I was 46 years old when a tide would wash over me so immense it turned my life upside down and inside out. To this day, I’m still trying to recover and pray to God every night to just carry me through the next day – certainly no way to go through life. My personality changed and dreams for the future have been banished. Somehow, my wife has stuck with me, but even that is hanging on by a thread (I can definitely understand). I’ve acted like a fool for five years and still don’t know when the suffering and foolishness will end. I have the most beautiful family you will ever find – a beautiful wife and five great kids, yet I have a hard time appreciating any of it. I’ve turned on myself and continue to beat myself up day after day. I have a tendency to live in the past and just cannot face my present situation. When things get bad, ruminations attack me and tell me I should have never made the decision. I’ve tried to go back in time a million times and undo the hurt, but it just never works and makes things worse (ruminations at its best). The one thing with ruminations, though, is that for just a moment I never made the bad decision and for a few seconds the pain goes away and all is well. It only lasts momentarily, but in an odd way it seems worth it. Please God, I pray, just let this pain end, but do not have any sympathy for me as this was all self-inflicted (which makes it worse).
The long journey started in the Spring of 2011. I was a little worried about my current job going away sometime in the future and was feeling not very challenged by my position (like I was too good for it). It paid very well, though, and I enjoyed all of my co-workers, but I constantly perused around job boards looking for other employment (without any success). I finally started hitting the government web site – a job with a retirement would be great. My usual search involved looking for any jobs in Atlanta as it was just too expensive to move. Finally, a job came up which seemed to fit my skills (or somewhat closely). The only problem was that the job was in Fort Bragg, NC (Forces Command or FORSCOM) and I had no intentions of moving there. On a lark, I decided to fluff up my resume and see if I could actually get a response (as I’d never even got a response back from any of the jobs I’d applied for on the web site). Part of the process involves going over a questionnaire where you rate your skills. Since I had no intention of ever taking this job, I decided to pump up my ratings (again, just curious to see if I would actually get some feedback). After completing the questionnaire, there is a little section where it says you confirm your answers are honest and truthful. For just a second, I held up and almost didn’t hit submit, but then told myself what the hell and pushed the button. I soon forgot about the job.
Several weeks later, I was sitting at work early in the morning (before anyone else was in the office). The phone rang and I picked it up – it was the human resources department for FORSCOM. The HR lady spoke about how the job was not in Atlanta, but was actually located in North Carolina and if I did not want to interview, it would not hurt my chances for any future job prospects. The entire time she was speaking, I sat there with the thought, “I’m content” going through my head – ready to say no to the interview. Finally, she was done speaking and just before I uttered the words “I’m content”, a thought passed into my head that I should do a practice interview to help my interview skills. I then uttered, “I’ll do the interview.” We set up a phone interview for the next day at 4 PM at my house. I don’t know what it was, but I remember just feeling this odd presence in the room after I said it – it was as if I actually felt evil for taking the interview.
The next day, I got stuck in traffic coming home and barely made it home for the 4 PM interview. Since I had absolutely no plans of ever taking this job, I was perfectly calm during the entire interview. As a matter of fact, I even acted a little cocky. The interview zipped by and I said to myself, “That is the best interview you’ve ever done!”
The next day was Friday and I got home a little early (to avoid Atlanta traffic). Sitting at my computer, I checked my email and noted one from FORSCOM. I quickly opened it up and sure enough, they were giving me a job offer. I immediately told myself that I was not going to accept the offer and prepared to send them a reply email rejecting the offer. My head told me, “Don’t ever take that job – it is evil. Nothing good will ever happen.” I usually don’t think such things, but the thought just crossed my head. I started to write the reply email and then for some reason told myself it was pretty rude to reject the job immediately. I should wait a day or two as if I was thinking about it and then reject the job – it would show that it wasn’t just a show interview and I’d been serious about the position.
Several days went by and I didn’t think about the job, but then re-addressed the email. For some reason, I decided to think about it. After all, my job wasn’t real secure and I was a little worried about my skills. Maybe this might not be such a bad job after all. The only problem was that it ranged from a low salary (you’re step level in the government to a salary which, although not bad, wasn’t nearly what I was making at the time). I decided to talk it over with my wife anyway, because it did have a retirement plan and I’d really not accrued enough for a comfortable retirement and was running out of time.
My wife, Michelle, and I discussed the job. We went over the pro’s and con’s and thought we might look into it a little more. I did not mention any of my earlier worries or thoughts. We’d always wanted to move to Florida and be closer to family and besides, most of our neighbors were big parties and were not very nice to my wife. It might be an opportunity to get the kids into a better environment. The main concern was the salary and the moving expenses, could we afford it! I looked at housing costs and my first thought was, “This house is a big anchor holding us here – there is no way we can afford to sell the house.” It was also one of the worst times ever in the Atlanta housing market. Short sales were all over the place. We thought it over and thought it over, and thought it still might be a good idea because I’d get some needed training and skills update.
After not thinking about the job for another week, I decided to look back into it. My first concern was the low salary regarding which step you received (from Step 1 to Step 10). I called up HR and they said you could negotiate your step level – just send in a written statement explaining why you should be a higher step level and also include a W-2 so they can see your current salary level. More out of curiosity than actually considering the job, I decided to try and negotiate a higher step level. I thought they might offer me a step 5 which would be way too low of a salary. I also looked at my current salary and thought I make way too much money and this job was not worth it. Just out of exercise, I decided to type up a letter justifying a higher step position. Naturally, since I wasn’t going to take the job, I really fluffed up the letter with all kinds of achievements.
Surprise of surprises, they came back the next day with a Step 9 level – unheard of in government offers. I still thought it was too low of a salary, but put it on the back burner. About a week later, I started thinking about the job again. It wasn’t a bad salary and I was really lacking confidence in my IT skills. For some reason, I doubted I could even get a decent IT job with my skills (crazy in hindsight). I knew that at some point in the future, my job would probably go away – it might be a year or it might be 15 years. This might be a nice secure job I can have the rest of my life – maybe it is a good move. The only problem was that it did not include any moving expenses and I couldn’t really afford to move. We called some movers and got a quote of $6,000 to move our house. I called up FORSCOM and said that moving would bankrupt me and I needed some help moving. Low and behold, they came back with a $10,000 moving bonus. Problem solved. Still I did not accept the job, my wife and I would talk it over.
For the next month, my wife and I mulled it over. I did a spreadsheet and determined if it was financially a good decision – my calculations showed it to be an even proposition if we moved. Of course, my calculations were based on me being able to sell my house at its asking price and finding a comparable house for around $250,000 wherever we moved (actual cost ended up being $350,000). I also did not factor in all the additional costs of moving. My wife asked if we should have someone else look over my spreadsheet and check my numbers – naturally, I said they were good and there was no need (another big regret).
The next factor to consider was what we could sell our house for. Although it was a really bad market, we were in a prime area (great schools) and had a very nice house. We went to four different realtors and they all quoted $225,000. We owed $180,000 on the house and the money we would make on the house would allow us to pay off our credit card debt. The house looked good, so we thought on the decision a little bit longer.
After about a week, we decided to make a decision. I was looking at all the numbers and told myself that there was no way we could afford it. I was just about to tell Michelle that we could not afford the move when out of the blue a thought crossed my head, “There is no way we can’t afford this move.” My entire careful decision making process and this random thought appears in my head and I tell Michelle we should take the job. We were ecstatic and decided to tell the kids the next morning.
That very week-end, we were having a birthday party for Amelia. As fate would have it, one of our friends, Beth, brought along a friend we had never met. For the entire party, the man raged on about one of his friends going to take a job in San Francisco for the same exact salary – he thought he was a fool for doing it and raved on and on about it (could it have been a God whisper to stay). I sat there and listened and didn’t mention that we were taking a job for considerably less money. After the party, Michelle brought up about the gentleman raving about the lower pay and asked if we should consider this – naturally, I said we were fine (another regret).
Before putting the house on the market, we called Michelle’s sister Maggie in Florida and told her about our move. Since we were moving, she thought we should ask her friend, Dan, about getting a job in Florida (he has a copper business). I thought it was worth a try and gave him a call. We talked on the phone and he set up an interview with one of his managers up in Tennessee. I took a day off from work and ventured up to Tennessee. Then we waited and waited and waited for Dan to respond. He didn’t get back for about a month and finally said he couldn’t afford me. Michelle was incensed and thought it didn’t give us enough time to sell the house before I had to take the job (at the end summer). I saw her hurt in not being allowed to move and immediately decided to say we could still move (as it would make her happy). Another God whisper ignored.
We finally put the house on the market after carefully selecting from six realtors. Just after putting the house on the market, people from the Department of Army called me up and I had an interview for a security clearance. The interview went through in record time and I was assured of getting my clearance (after taking names and numbers for employers, friends, and neighbors).
Another month went by and I still had not told my boss about my decision – for some reason I just felt like I shouldn’t tell him yet (another God whisper). One day, my boss walked in and was in shock. The DOA had just called him to verify my employment at Wilson LLP as I was going for a security clearance. He asked me if I wasn’t paid enough or what the problem was. I hesitated before saying, “I still haven’t made up my mind. It really isn’t about the pay, but this is our bridge to get down to Florida to be closer with family.” I still had an out of the job (another God whisper). I decided to go and look at the job description. I looked it over and immediately said to myself, “What the hell am I doing taking this job. Not only is it way over my head, but I’m selling my house in the worst housing market and the move is going to kill us. There is no way in hell I’m taking this job!” I looked at the phone and got ready to call Michelle about the job. I sat and looked at the phone and looked at the phone. Then the thought, “Well, I already promised Michelle we’re moving” crossed my head. I didn’t pick up the phone and call. This moment in time really bothers me to this day. I shared everything with Michelle and to not call about this important of an event just ticks me off to this day. I still cannot believe I did not call her. In my head, I’ve called her a million times since then, but it does not help. Over and over I call her in my mind – it just doesn’t work no matter how much I run it through my head.
Meanwhile, Michelle and I talked about all the benefits of being in the government – perhaps I could get a job overseas for a while and travel with the whole family. The job seemed to be getting better and better – I entirely forgot about the job description. Finally, I decided to go up and look for a house in Fayetteville. I called the person who was to be my supervisor, Holly, and got a recommendation for a realtor. I called up the realtor and scheduled a meeting the next week-end. I went up and met with the realtor and remembered driving around Fayetteville. I really didn’t like the area and was surprised that the houses were more expensive than Atlanta. I stayed the night and came back the next day. On the drive back, I remember feeling very funny – like there was a slight fog in my head. I just ignored it, but it was the beginning of depression and I didn’t recognize the signs. I remember driving up to the house and thinking to myself, I should pull down those for sale signs right now. I like it here much better, but I hesitated again and said maybe tomorrow. I went inside and went to bed. The next morning, I woke up and the thought was gone from my head.
I told Michelle about the area, but we decided to both go up and view the houses. We took the whole family and drove up to Fayetteville and met with the realtor. Michelle was not impressed. She didn’t like the houses and did not like the area. We were about to call off everything, when we decided to go and look at Southern Pines – a small town in the area some people had recommended. We drove into downtown Southern Pines and loved it. We had found our small town. Again, the whole trip I felt a little funny (more depression setting in), but waived it off to being nothing.
Michelle was beginning to show the house, but there weren’t any offers coming. We kept pressing on. I finally decided to tell Wade of my decision to move. I went in that afternoon and told him I was going to take the other job. On the way home that afternoon, my Fayetteville realtor called me up and told me that I should not take the job – to stay in Atlanta. It was too late.
It was still several months away before I had to take the job. During this time, we were having a surprise 80th birthday party for my mom. Rather than take the whole family (which was the original plan), I decided to go myself. It was a grand party, but I did feel funny the entire time (depression setting in more). My parents even noticed it, but didn’t say anything. They thought I was just sad because I didn’t have my family with me.
Finally, my last day at work arrived – a Friday and I was slated to start the next Monday. During the meantime, we had one rental property in Southern Pines which ended up falling through. He called me up and expressed concern that we had five kids and didn’t want that for his house (which is totally illegal – just did not know it). We did some online research and found one in Whispering Pines and decided to rent it sight unseen – probably not the best decision.
On Sunday, I was all happy and left for Whispering Pines. I loaded up the car, kissed the wife and kids, and out I went. On the drive up to Whispering Pines, the devil began to play with my mind. During the drive, I started thinking about all the times I went to turn down the job. All of the do not take this job to this job is evil started running through my mind. By the time I got to Whispering Pines, I was a nervous mess. The depression had set in and robbed me of all my confidence. I didn’t want to take the job, but felt I was stuck. I didn’t think I had any skills and couldn’t get another job. Every night, I had panic attacks running up and down from my stomach up through my chest. They all said I’d lost the ability to support my family. I went into work and everything was already in a cloud. I called my wife and told her it was a miserable rental place. Every morning before work, I’d shake like a leaf before going in. But I proceeded on, thinking it was the only option available to me. After a week, I came home to help with packing. I walked in and did not kiss Michelle – she thought it was awfully weird. I couldn’t sleep that night and called my old boss in the morning. I asked him if I could have my job back. He said he’d think about it. He called back about an hour later and said I could have my old job back until December (about four months). I told him I’d take it (wish I would have followed through).
I went and told Michelle about the offer. She asked if I could get a job after that and for how much. I wasn’t really very confident and said I could probably get a job for $60,000. Naturally, that wasn’t enough money for our family (although in hindsight, I would be happy to live on that much money); however, she said it was my decision and I had to decide before the movers came later that day. I sat there and thought and thought about it and finally decided to press ahead with the job. The movers came and I sank further into depression. I barely slept that night. The next day, Michelle loaded up the van with the kids and took off for Whispering Pines. I stayed home to finish cleaning the house. I was so depressed, I could hardly move. Finally, I finished and took off for Whispering Pines. I determined I was going to drive into a median on the way and end it all. I drove for several hours and stopped for a bathroom break. Amazingly, I drove by and there was Michelle and all the kids. It saved my life. I followed up the rest of the way and we arrived at the rental. By then, I was deep into the depression. The moving van came and started unloading the furniture. I let Michelle direct them all and I just sat there – empty.
Maybe I’ll finish this later, it is just too painful to even write.