The morning crackles with anticipation. It is our third Christmas in a row that our tree has few presents due to Covid-19 and other unfortunate events in my business ventures. My wife and son are quietly asleep after a fun night making Tamales, togetherness, and a few hands of Poker with my father-in-law and brother-in-law. My two dogs are huddled together in their dog house after a few nights of heavy rain.
Some how this moment feels perfect. In the last three years, I’ve made a concerted effort to develop my spirituality as for many years I hovered around atheistic and agnostic idealism. Once I turned Forty, I felt like I was missing something profound. I missed conviction and belief, faith and patience in a power greater than my dimming light.
Since that moment, my journey has taken me to very unexpected corners. I stepped up for myself, fighting for my rights where before I was resigned to my fate that I would be exploited. Around Thanksgiving 2019, I was harassed by my supervisor to deliver daily records for a job I couldn’t even bill for essentially running a $20 million dollar interstate bridge project in the Pass Area of Southern California while rejuvenating downtown Commerce in the Eastern part of Los Angeles County. During this time, I was delivering newspapers and commuting 3 to 4 hours per day fighting State auditors about a project completed in 2016. I had enough and I had cracked.
For both these projects, many others would take credit some getting insane bonuses and promotions up the political ladder while I toiled away in obscurity. I slept in my car, woke up and managed astute and money-hungry contractors and developers making sure that the work was properly built and managed. I obsessed over every detail of construction making sure the work was properly accounted for, with notes adding to public transparency. When I asked for help, I was bullied by my supervisor to work during my weekend or else.
I took this to my boss, the president of the Company. At no point did he try to get me assistance. Instead he mocked me with company lines. I resisted – I reminded him of all my loyal service over 11 years and that I worked diligently on his projects while my father was on his deathbed. I reminded him of that time, in 2014, that he callously told me that “well, we all got to die” when I told him of my father’s fight with terminal cancer. I stormed out of Temple City engineering office. That same night, I helped my father remove waste from his body as he was hooked up to a catheter due to an infection.
As we exchanged emails, again, he acted like I was crazy, gaslighting me that his company takes care of employees and that he felt shocked of my outburst. I asked for help with my projects and for the supervisor to get off my back with his micro-managing from afar. The next thing you know, his wife who has no official role and position in the company calls me to suspend me for two weeks.
I thought maybe my language was harsh. I apologized profusely. My wife was in tears when I told her of my situation. She cried “Selim, you are going to be fired!” She was right, a few days before Thanksgiving, I was laid off, leaving most my valuables at my desk wondering how my family and I would survive. I had newspapers in my car as I had picked up a newspaper route to make a little extra cash during the Holidays.
Later that morning, I looked at my life savings and figured I had enough to get me by until March, 2020. I worked hard to get interviews and was able to interview with some of the best civil engineering and construction contracting firms in Southern California. I was returning home from a very successful interview, I was mulling three great offers. As I was driving, the news popped on the radio – Governor Gavin Newsome had issued stay-at-home orders and all non-essential businesses would be closed down. The companies that were ready to hire me had to initiate a hiring freeze. They told me sorry, we don’t know how bad this pandemic will be.
My wife and I balled up on the couch fearful for our twelve year old boy’s future, watching our 401-K drop in value to next to nothing. We watched the Television thankful for our safety and togetherness as the body count from Covid-19 rapidly and alarmingly climbed. Despondent, I closed my eyes and heard a voice “God will provide”. And that gave me the hope that I needed to bounce back. Since that date, I consulted on over $100 million in Public Works projects. While I sit at home, I must remember that there is a greater good and positive force that will get me through this little career rut I am in now. Happy Holidays! And thank you God and Holy Jesus for this beautiful morning full of promise.