11.15.18 Central Florida Bureau Chief’s Desk

By : Jeremy Williams
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I was sitting at my desk, drinking my coffee and chatting with some coworkers when my team leader came up to me and said that we had a meeting to attend. I didn’t know what she was talking about but in those days I was terrible at managing my schedule so forgetting about a meeting seemed like something I might do.

I was a second-level supervisor at a call center for the company Express Scripts. For those who aren’t familiar it’s a Prescription Benefits Manager. That’s just fancy talk for insurance for medications. I started working there after I discharged from the Air Force in 2007. Six years in the military, of being told where to go, when to go there and to stay in the closet left me in need of a change in my life.

So instead of re-enlisting, I decided I was going to reinvent myself. I was going to head out into the real world and live my life as an openly gay man.

The problem was I got out and had no idea where this “new Jeremy” was going to go and what I wanted to do. I moved back home and, thanks to a little help from my little brother who worked at Express Scripts, I started my new life as a corporate man. I didn’t realize that after I entered into it that corporate life kind of sucks, at least for me it did.

I had gotten it into my head that I spent six years being told what to do and that in civilian life I was my own person. “The man” wasn’t going to order me around anymore. Looking back now I was still a young, dumb kid who absolutely had no idea how the “real world” worked.

I did manage to hang on at Express Scripts for about four years and make my way up that ladder a bit, but not without some resistance on my part. I remember about a year after starting at the call center, management decided they wanted to make some changes to schedules. People were forced into nights and weekends that they didn’t want to work. These hard working employees couldn’t afford to just quit or argue back so they went along. My response to this was to write the word “UNION” on a marker board, stand on my chair and hold it above my head. Sally Field would have been so proud of me if she could see it. Management, not so much. I wasn’t fired for that (shockingly) but I became a marked man.

A few years later, that meeting my team lead reminded me about turned out not to be a meeting at all. It was an exit interview with HR. I was being fired. I’m told by friends of mine who worked there that as soon as my team lead and I got around the corner that another member of management came behind us with a box and started packing my desk up. So quick and so cold.

I will say that while there were many reasons that I can think of that I should have been fired for, what they actually got me for was an account my team lead screwed up on. She used me as a sacrifice to save herself. The shame.

I had never been fired from a job before. I was angry. I was scared. Losing that job turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. It forced me to look at what I was doing and ask myself, “Is it worth holding onto this professional life if it has no meaning for me?” So from that moment, I decided to reinvent myself again.

I’ve wanted to be a journalist ever since I was a kid and if that’s the life I wanted then I should go for it. So I did. Obviously, since I’m writing this in a newsmagazine right now, it worked out for me.

That is what this issue is about, reinventing yourself after you were already established in another field. Watermark writer Holly Kapherr Alejos looks at two members of our community who wanted to live their dreams and went for it.

In A&E, we look at a couple of local movie buffs who built an LGBTQ-specific movie database and we see what Orlando Ballet has planned for artistic director Robert Hill’s 10th season.
In news, we recap last week’s midterm elections.

I hope these stories inspire you. Now get out there you magnificent dreamers and live your dreams.

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