Ill Prepared for Life or Death

Anyone who’s ever owned a pet knows that when they pass there’s no moving beyond, or turning the page, or putting it all behind you. There’s none of that. Instead, the challenge is in getting unstuck. It’s in finding a way to exist in neutral with a heart so swollen with grief it’s almost impossible to breathe.

For me, my boxer’s passing has been hell. It feels like I walked out of a vet hospital at 6:30 in the morning on November 26th and straight into a brand new world where the air is heavy and gravity has tripled its pull and it’s difficult to hear anything over the constant hum in my head that has not let up since Diesel closed his eyes for the very last time.

Dealing with my new reality would be so much easier if I could check out for a stretch but that’s not how life works. Instead, there are people to navigate, gigs to pursue, contracts to win, responsibilities to be addressed – the list goes on and I’ve been dragging my feet.

Last week the CEO of a tech company looking for a content marketing specialist contacted me. He said he was looking for someone to take on all of his digital communications needs, including web and blog content to today’s SEO standard; press releases; illustrator and photoshop requirements; how-to video content to support the web and blog content; product descriptions; and, social media. He had the makings of an ideal, longterm anchor client, having asked if I’d work with him exclusively. This opportunity came with all the right stuff, at exactly the wrong time, so I ignored the sick feeling that was building in my stomach, and the pounding stress headache making its way from the top of my spinal cord up over my skull and into the depths of my sinuses, and I jumped in.

On Monday I received my first assignment: “write a blog/press release that talks about Apple’s NFC friendly iOS 11, and the two awesome new hires the company made as a result.” Then he asked how much I’d charge.

Anyone with even the most rudimentary understanding of marketing and content knows that press releases and blog posts are two totally different pieces of writing that call on completely opposing approaches save for the exposure objective, ugh! Here we go…

I filled the guy in on the differences between blog posts and press releases, offering to write the post first and then rework the material into a press release. Then I quoted him a reasonable rate, throwing the press release in for free since, once I’ve done all the research I can knock those things out in my sleep. I fired off my email, went to the gym to try to coax a little blood flow and creative brainstorming, and while I was on the elliptical I came up with the perfect approach! I was ready to go, and pretty excited that, for the first time in forever, I felt motivated.

The minute I got home I checked my email to see if the tech guy had agreed to my terms and was hit with a seething message about my obnoxious rates and how he had no intention of working with me. Ever.

I couldn’t believe what I was reading because a) this is the tech industry, not a mom and pop shop on a shoestring budget; b) I’d purposely lowballed the guy in order to lock down the business; and c) six years of university plus 15 years in the business does not a fast food hourly fee, yield.

I responded by letting the guy know I was sorry my rates weren’t what he’d expected, and asked him what he’d budgeted for. In all my years as a sales professional this tactic has never worked, but I gave it a shot.

No response.

Unwilling to let this thing I didn’t even want to do in the first place end in rejection with my work having gone unseen I buckled down, hammered out the intro to the blog I’d planned to write, and then put together an outline that showed, paragraph by paragraph and right down to the kicker, or the CTA, or whatever strategic direction he desired, how I’d envisioned tackling the project.

I wrote a quick blurb letting Mr. GoToTags (google it) know that I understood he’d been put off by my quote, but that I’d supplied an example of my suggested approach to his project and, if he liked what he saw, I was open to a counteroffer.

Iced. Not a single word.

The point, (or generally accepted morality), embedded within this whole thing is the idea that professional titles – whether earned or, in this case, self-awarded – act as neither exemption clauses, nor supplanting mechanisms designed to legitimize greed, and the impulse to exploit and devour specialists deemed inferior.

Over the last few months the people in my world – friends, strangers and clients alike – have fallen into two separate folders: The Gold and The Trash.

It wasn’t until my best friend died that my world divided itself this way, and the effect on my new zombie self has been magnified and clarified in the same way certain people describe the effects of an elucidating yet troubling LSD trip.

The first group: The Gold. When members of this camp offer a smile, or when they ask about my day, or when a cashier I’ve never met before gives me a free box of Heineken branded gloves because the store’s promotion ended but there’s still a few gloves lying around, I feel so hopeful that, for just an instant, I can rise above my grief and sadness, and I do feel warm and alive and connected to my community, and I do see the flicker of a light at the end of a dark tunnel signalling the beginnings of recovery.

But then, predictably, a rep from that second group: The Trash set, will show up. A shitty scavenger who happily sucks all the oxygen, and any trace of a positive radial vibe out from the x-point of their existence, smashing deflated effigies to the ground one by one as they barrel through life, make way! Enormous egos coming through…

So it’s back to square one and I’m down for the count. Someone breathe some life into me, please, or point me to the nearest hole so I can crawl in and cry forever. Shield me from the predators who somehow smell weakness and grow ever the more instinctually edacious in return.

It is a free-for-all out there, sadly, and without my soul buddy by my side, I am roadkill.

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