Life

What a Difference a Year Makes

954 Rusty CrownOne year ago today, I received an email invite at work telling me to report to employee relations the following day at 2:00 in the afternoon. The time had come for me to go. Hallmark didn’t love me anymore. This didn’t come as surprise. I had actually been given a heads up by my Art Director 8 months earlier that I was probably on my way out. I met all the criteria. I was over 50, made too much money, and didn’t check off any of diversity boxes. Plus the downsizing had been going on since December of 2012. I’d dodged the bullet for the last couple of years, but there was no way I was going to dodge it this time.

The reality is that being let go from Hallmark was the best thing that had happened to my career in over a decade. Since returning to Hallmark in 2005 I had struggled to advance my career there. I had hit the internal glass ceiling in a sense and over time was given less and less challenging work. There are only so many senior level positions and with a creative pool the size of Hallmark’s moving up the food chain can be difficult.

I’m not angry, I’m not disgruntled, I’m not even irritated. I’ll admit that I was a little pissed off at first. When you are told you aren’t needed anymore, it kind of stings, no matter how shitty the situation is. By the beginning of last June I was creating crappy banner ads for products I didn’t believe in, for a brand I personally feel is dying. The timing was right, it was time to go.

On June 2 2015 I met with employee relations and was told I qualified to “Retire”. My  position was being eliminated as a cost cutting measure, and I was one of 165 creatives that were no longer needed. I was told by ER that I was allowed to work until June 10, and then I would have to leave the building. I hung around for a couple of days, but coming into work just made those that didn’t lose their jobs feel uncomfortable for the most part. By Thursday it was time to go. I backed up my Mac to a server, powered down and walked out. My “Give A Rip”, factor was zero at this point, and all of my assignments had been given to the remaining studio creatives. Sticking around just seemed like delaying the inevitable. I said adios to a few people and walked out the door for the last time. Thankfully I didn’t have any personal items to carry out. At 11:30 that morning I became a free man. It felt like a giant weight had been lifted from my shoulders, and driving home I remember thinking how great it felt to know I wouldn’t be going back there. I knew things were going to work out for the best.

So, how’d it all turn out? Pretty damn good. I had a new job before the end of the week. I had additional freelance work lined up. I got a solid severance package, and I never missed a paycheck. At the new job my opinion matters, I’m challenged creatively, and from the business side of things. My colleagues listen to me and engage me for feedback and insight. I’m helping to develop a new brand voice for a company that is actually growing and is looking to the future. I feel valued, something I hadn’t felt at Hallmark for years. At Hallmark I felt the complete opposite. I had no motivation or desire to be there. The work I was given could have been done by someone fresh out of design school. My opinion was hardly ever asked for or wanted. I simply wasn’t being challenged on any level.

That isn’t a personal dig at anyone, it’s simply how I felt, and how I know others feel as well. Not just the 165 that walked out the door a year ago, people who still work there as well. In my opinion, It’s a reflection of Hallmark’s corporate culture, and something that probably won’t change any time soon. It’s too bad, because when I first started working there in 1994, I loved the place. When I left in 2000 I missed it, and when I returned in 2005 I thought I had made the right choice to come back. At the time I felt that my career had a future, that I’d be given opportunities to grow as a designer. By 2009 I knew that probably wasn’t the case, but I had settled in for the long haul. It’s easy to

In the end I know I worked with some extremely talented individuals. (I also worked with people who had little to no talent, but played the system and bullshitted their way into positions of authority; but that is story for another time) At Hallmark I made some of the best friends I’ll ever have, and I miss seeing them on a regular basis. That doesn’t mean I’m not better off though. Like I said earlier, leaving Hallmark was the best thing that happened to my career in over a decade, and I can’t thank them enough telling my I was to old and made too much money.  I’m doing better design work than I have in years, I’m more creative than I have been in ages, and I’m happier. And that is what is most important.

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Death and Life.

Well this will bring a tear to your eye. A beautifully done, hand drawn animation about the day Death fell in love with Life, and the inevitable outcome. Created by Marsha Onderstijn with music by Ramon De Wilde, this 5 minute animated short was featured on the EYE film DVD of Selected Dutch Shorts, and is now on Vimeo. Since it was uploaded 6 days ago, it has already been view more than 250,000 times.

“An Undertaking”, A Genuine Relationship With Life, Death and Sawdust.

This is a story about love, craft, and connections. It is a beautifully filmed and edited piece about a grandmother’s request of her grandson. Do yourself a favor and take 8 minutes out of your day and watch this. This is a great little story that is touching and heartfelt. It’s worth watching, not only for the story, but for the beautiful visuals, and the emotional connections that are captured here.

“Michael Yates’ passion for working with wood arose from the wood’s accessibility, its palpable presence and the hope that his efforts would last. But when his grandmother requested that he build her casket, the stability of oak collided with an evocative “conversation” with impermanence, death and the inevitability of absence. In spite of his initial fear and resistance due to our culture’s steadfast avoidance of the D-word, Yates eventually agreed to build the casket and began the real work of constructing a genuine relationship with life, death and sawdust.”

Be Yourself, and Do What You Do Best.

I could write about the quality and production value of Avant Garde Diaries short film about Malcolm Brickhouse, and Jarad Dawkins, but I don’t want to take away from what they have to say, their dream, and their skills as young musicians. These two young men can teach all of us a thing or two about life, and simply being yourself.