Losing My Ride

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By Susan Phillips

If I didn’t understand the pain and frustration that most IndyCar drivers will experience at some point in their career, I do now.

Nothing can prepare you to hear the words that I heard on January 16th; “Today is your last day with the company.” I could feel my heart break, as the reality sank in. As I packed up my office, so many thoughts went through my mind, “What did I do wrong,” “Will my team be able to find the files they need to keep everything on track,” “Did I prepare them to carry on so that everything is seamless, as if I simply made a ripple on the water which will disappear when I am gone?,” and “Why are they doing this to me?” I’d like to say that I held my head high and simply said “Thank you for the opportunity” and moved on as if this were simply another path that my career took. Not me—I fell apart. I loved my job–it was part of who I was. I was meant to be a Graphic Designer and as my career moved on, I was meant to lead people. I hope I made my workplace a better place to work while I was there. I tried.

I am moving through the stages of grief. I think I am not quite to the acceptance phase, but I am slowly getting there. It is a loss just the same. A hole remains. I probably said and did things I shouldn’t have, but they were things that I felt as I moved through those stages. I am human. We all are. Anger is the worst stage, but I hope I’ve moved on from there. I have begun the part of healing that only a great loss can bring—the learning. I have become retrospective, I am moving forward and identifying my weaknesses and I am learning how to make them strengths. I learned so much in the 5 years I was there. Nothing can replace or take away what I learned.

In the end, the place I considered my second home, is a business—they make decisions based on what is right for the business. I can’t blame them for that. The health of the business and keeping all the other people employed, supersedes the needs/wants of one person. That learning will sustain me for now, until I become an asset to the next company. I have a great support system, when my heart feels vulnerable—which it often does, I can just pick up the phone and call someone. I use the “Phone a Friend” option frequently. Someone is always there for me, I can’t ask for more than that. One of the hardest hits is on your ego. While I did not think I was immune from losing my job, I was cocky in the way of “They can’t let me go–nobody can do the job better.” It is a humbling experience, the fact that they can and will get along without you.

George has been a great support to me as well. He may not be that soft-hearted, ego-soothing person, but he is the voice of reality for me. I need that just as much as I need the “shoulder to cry on” friends. He sees this every day in his job. Good people who have lost their jobs, because businesses make tough decisions. I’d like to think it was tough to let me go, but he brings me back into the real world—business is business. There is a balance in it, no matter how much it hurts sometimes—I need that balance.

As the IndyCar season moves closer, there are many drivers who feel the same way as I do. They find themselves without a ride to begin the 2013 season. Before, when I was a mere observer, I thought that it was sad. I wondered why they were not in a car—they are good drivers that bring so much to the sport. It is so clear how much they love what they do, who would not want to put them in a car? But now I know that no matter how much you love what you do, things are beyond your control. Something you loved and is a part of you is gone or on hiatus. It is a deep and unrelenting pain. In the end, it all comes down to simple business—the ability to fund and sustain a team. So much goes on behind the scenes that we don’t see – politics, sponsorship, being a great representative to your sponsor. So many factors play into getting into an IndyCar for the season. The love of simply sitting in the cockpit with the feel of the pedals under your feet just isn’t enough anymore. Even how many times you stood on the top of the podium is not enough.

Some sit patiently by the phone. Some go out and try to be the best ambassadors for the sport and try to bring in more fans. Some focus on the future of the sport—bringing others to that love by sharing their skills. Some continue their involvement by volunteering or by doing sideline commentaries–anything to do what they love and keep that love affair going. I know what that feels like now. As much as I’d like to say, “It’s just a job,” I know that it is not just a job, it is an extension of yourself. It is your heart. You love your occupation and for reasons sometimes beyond your control, it is lost to you for the moment. What else can you do but keep physically working out, pounding the pavement, networking, looking for sponsors and people who will take a chance on you. You continue with business as usual, so you are ready at a moments notice for that call that will give you back what you thought you had lost.

Now I know. Now I feel that pain. It will get better and you pray that just when you think it is hopeless, that call will come and you will joyfully have the privilege of doing what you were meant to do. Right now you learn, you improve, and you do the things that will make you an asset. I hate to bring up that old chestnut, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger,” but it is true. Let’s get through all the things that happened in the off-season that were damaging to our sport. Let’s get stronger.

Note from George: Assuming I get over this flu bug that has sidelined me for the past two days, be sure and listen to "Blogger Night" Thursday night from 8-10 EST on 1070 The Fan.com. This is the electronic equivalent to Caddy Day at Bushwood Country Club in the movie Caddyshack. If you think we butcher the written word, wait until you hear what we do to the spoken word. Catch us tomorrow night here and then click the link that says 1070theFan Streaming Audio Page under the first category "Stream".

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5 Responses to “Losing My Ride”

  1. Watching the show go on without you.

    Good luck finding your next endeavor.

  2. Stay confident in your skills but not arrogant like former Cowboys coach Rob Ryan.

  3. You will always be an asset. Business may be business, but they will feel the loss soon enough.

  4. Carburetor Says:

    Sorry to hear of your loss Susan; after 34 years of continuous employment, 25 of which was at the same company, I received the same message several years ago. I then endured the longest, toughest 11 months of my life but thankfully found another job. You are on the right track in working through the stages. You will need to proactively work your network to get possible referrals into future opportunities. It sounds alot easier to do than it really is, sorry to say–at least it was for me (too much pride…). It sounds woefully trite, but work hard to keep your spirits up and keep reminding yourself that you are excellent at what you do and that somewhere somebody absolutely needs your talent–perhaps they just don’t know it, or know of you yet! All the best to you!

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