It was one week into the start of classes, fall semester 2012, when human resources contacted me to set up a meeting. As soon as the meeting was requested, my gut told me it wasn’t good. I told my teaching colleagues about the meeting and said, “I’m going to be let go.” They all flatly denied it. I mean, after all, I had taught there for half of my life, with stellar annual evaluations. I taught two languages, I was Faculty Senate President, and I was well known across Virginia as an innovator and leader, being one of the first faculty members to teach nontraditional courses via compressed video, then later, online.
Although three years have passed, I still remember sitting in the office with the Director of Human Resources, the Vice President of Instruction, and the President. He handed me the letter saying my position was being eliminated due to a budgetary reduction in force effective December 15, 2012, while mumbling something like, “You are a great instructor, let us know if you need any help finding another job, blah, blah, blah.” The Vice President started crying, which caused me to tear up a bit. Then the President said, “I hope you don’t think I’m the Grim Reaper,” and I thought, “Of course, I think you’re the Grim Reaper!” I left the meeting in a daze and called one of my colleagues and said, “I was right.” Oddly enough, though, I felt a sense of relief, although I had just lost my entire career and my opportunity to retire with full benefits.
The next four months were the most difficult. I was going through the motions, trying to keep my students from finding out. I needed distractions and I’d thought about taking some wine certification courses to validate my wine writing on this blog. I did some research and found out a way to take both the Foundation and Intermediate levels of Wine & Spirit Education Trust’s (WSET) wine courses during that final semester of teaching. I took the Level 1 Foundation as a day course at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, North Carolina, then the Level 2 Intermediate course online through WSET London, as facilitated by phillywine.com.
I poured myself into wine writing, tasting, and traveling, landing a gig as a wine and travel contributor to Plum Deluxe. I continued as a home-based travel agent, providing travel management services to a handful of wine businesses. I also hosted wine tastings at my local wine shop on weekends. I traveled and wine tasted around the world: Napa and Sonoma (California), the Finger Lakes (New York), the Boston Wine Expo, Northern Virginia, Lake Chelan (Washington), Okanagan (British Columbia), Mendoza (Argentina), and Portland (Oregon). Little did I know that this crisis would also propel me into a part-time job as an executive assistant for Preston-Layne & Partners, Inc. (wine sales) and Magnum Wines International, LLC (wine importer). At the end of 2013, one of my wine business travel clients texted me, “Have you ever thought of moving to Napa?” My immediate response was yes, and in January 2014, I moved to start my new career in the wine business. I also took and passed with merit WSET’s Level 3 Advanced course via home study, which in retrospect, was crazy to do my first 16 weeks after a cross-country move and a new career.
Who’d a thunk it? Wine saved my life. Literally. Crisis averted.