Chapter 8: Insubordination

I didn’t hear from Katie or Mark after I sent my recap email that day – and that was eerily scary.

The next morning though, my cell phone was ringing at 6:00 am sharp.

Oh shit.

I remember reaching my hand out from the comfort of my bed, grabbing my phone, and reading the name “Mark” on the screen.

And then I did what every other mature adult would have done…

I dropped my phone, pulled the sheets over my head, shut my eyes, and pretended like I was asleep.

Oh God.

You know when someone really wants to get a hold of you and they don’t leave a voicemail and then call again?

That happened.

Three times.

. . .

Oh God.

Oh God.

Oh God!

. . .

And then, I heard a chime.

I have a new voicemail.

. . .

Oh shit.

. . .

“I CANNOT believe you did that!

Me neither actually…

I CANNOT believe you went to Mr. X and now I’m going to HAVE to talk about your idea to SENIOR management!

Oh wait, that could be good…

I am ending your career at XXXXXXX this week!!!

Oh shit.

I’m lining up a meeting with HR right now!”

Won’t be the first time…


I can’t get out of bed.


And then Katie calls a few hours later…


Oh God!


“Hi Jessie.”

Good morning…


“You know what you did? Well……………










Is it bad that I smiled at this?


It was literally the first smile I had in the longest time and damn did it feel good.

She will NEVER know how much my heart giggled right then.


My dad has always told me something he learned when he was in the US Navy:

“The definition of stress is when you are stuck in between fight or flight.”

And I had been stuck for months at this point…

Not knowing how to fight or fly…

And now I was finally fighting…

With an idea to help our entire company as well as the Y…

How absolutely horrendous of me.


Then Katie goes on with the following threats and statements…

“I told you the YMCA idea is not viable!

Yeah, but that’s not true…

And now you’ve been insubordinate!!

What does insubordinate mean?

NOBODY at XXXXXXX likes you!

Believe me lady, I am acutely aware of that these days...

And you’re ACTING like you’re a VICTIM!

How exactly? But truth be told – I kiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinda am…

I’m ending your career this week!”

Oh shit.


After she was done beating the hell out of me, I hung up the phone and immediately googled the word, “insubordinate,” because nobody had ever called me that before.

I actually remember saying the word out loud – you know, trying to sound it out - so when I typed it in, Google could actually recognize the word.

And then…

To my delight and surprise,

the definition read:

Defiance of authority.

Refusal to obey orders.


And that would be the second time I smiled in forever.

I thought the word was going to be an insult,

not a compliment.


But wait a minute - how can I be insubordinate if Mr. X told me to go to him with an idea?

Wouldn’t - by definition - I be insubordinate if I DID NOT go to him with my idea?

I’m confused.

After that call, I ended up in another HR meeting that week – just as Mark had promised from his voicemail.

I get there and Mark arrived shortly after. The HR woman was running about 15 minutes late so we were told to walk into this small office space and wait for her.

Just Mark and me.

In that tiny office.


It was probably the most awkward 15 minutes of my life.

He wouldn’t even look at me.

And I couldn’t even look at him.

Then this HR woman walked in, apologized for running late, and started the conversation by hinting at their longtime friendship by asking Mark about his daughter and his wife – by their names!

This just wreaked of bullshit.

It was actually at this point that I was trying to look for a window to open up to let some of the BS out of the room.

I was suffocating from the fumes.

We ended the meeting and I was officially put on some sort of plan to help “coach me to success” by HR, Mark, and Katie for my “insubordination.” I had tried to talk a few times during the meeting, but I was always interrupted by the woman and she wouldn’t even let me say a word.

So, now it was officially documented.


I remembered thinking about all the “coaching” that happens there when I was walking out of that room.

And God knows

- I don’t know a whole lot of things in life -

But after playing 9 million different sports for about 20 years at this point,

- I KNEW -

these people were not



Shortly after that, Paul from cancelled our one-on-one scheduled meeting about the Y.

But after somehow surviving a few more weeks of complete hell and continuing to reach out to him by email and voicemails – he finally agreed to meet with me.

Paul, who Mr. X told me to speak with who is in charge of all of

Paul, who has no idea of what is really going on.

Paul, who initially loved the idea of my life’s purpose and immediately brought in other colleagues to help move it forward.

That Paul.

But his meeting request location indicated that it would be in the cafeteria.

That’s weird.

So, I met him there.

And we sat down and then he said,


 I don’t know what’s going on,

but you just need to learn

how to get along with people.”

And then he told me he was no longer interested in my idea and he got up from our table and walked away.

And that’s when I lost it.

Tears shot out of my eyes. This time, in front of the entire cafeteria.

He killed my life’s purpose.

Just like that.

Because of an incorrect perspective of me.


How often are we


guilty of listening to


when we should be forming our




But, how could I possibly tell the guy who’s running that he doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about?

How do you possibly defend your character in this situation without just sounding like you’re “bitching?”

How do you even begin to talk to someone who is clearly not even interested in hearing your side of the story?

You can’t.

- They had won -


Perspective matters.


If Paul only knew what I had been going through,

he would have been mortified by his own words.

So, I just sat there for a minute, trying to take in everything, with tears running down my face, absolutely devastated, and now also humiliated as everyone in the entire freaking cafeteria was staring at me.


A few days later I was on a national sales call with my team and the rep in Atlanta proudly announced to everyone that he just closed a HUGE deal. And guess what? It was only ONE YMCA and their numbers were freaking enormous.

I can’t make this shit up.


“I am not impressed by


social status,

or job title.

I am impressed by the way

someone treats


human beings.”



Remember when I mentioned my Grandpa didn’t sound good when he picked up my phone call?

I guess when you look up to someone so much and know them that well, they know how to let you know when they’re almost done with their time here.

It’s almost like their heart

somehow knows

how to talk directly to yours

and tell it they’re ready to go home.

I told one of my friends about my Grandpa not doing too hot and the next thing I know, she sent me a free plane ticket to go see him.

Turns out, that would be the last time I would ever see him alive.


Thank God for friends.


My Grandpa

Lambert Prettyman Jr. -

died May 20, 2009


It was one of my Grandpa’s wishes that the whole family get together for his memorial in New Hampshire a few months after his passing. He wanted his ashes to be buried alongside his parents and grandparents at the summer camp they started in 1904 called Camp Moosilauke.

How neat of an idea is that?

Even after his passing –

He gave us - time, so we could heal a little.

He gave us - consideration, so we could make arrangements.

He gave us - thought, so we didn’t have to think when it was hard to.

He gave us - so, so much.


Imagine what would happen



thought that much

about everyone’s feelings

in the future.


I took off work for a few days to go to my Grandpa’s memorial and then I had to return for a meeting with Katie - who was flying back out to Portland.

I knew this was going to be the day she was going to fire me. She had been teeing this up for a while and was quite good at it – apparently, she had done it to many others as well.

If any of you have been on a “coaching plan” you know they lay out the rules and make it nearly impossible for you to accomplish – like what she had done to me. I had to submit my hourly schedule for the entire week by Monday morning and if I wasn’t following it perfectly throughout the week, she would tell me that I’m not communicating effectively, and because communicating effectively was part of the goals of my plan, I now wasn’t adhering to it, and that’s grounds for dismissal.

And then of course, you just can’t do anything right in the meantime.

She was betting that I would just give up.

But, she wasn’t raised in my family.

I don’t quit.


Not quitting

can be

extremely hard.


Katie had lined up a meeting with no clear outline of the agenda or anything – just a date, time, and invitation from her along with another woman’s name who would also be attending.

Must be someone from HR…

So, today was the day…

I’m so tired.

So sick of it all.

So mentally, emotionally, and now even physically drained.

I walk into this random room at one of the buildings on campus. There was a long table and Katie was on the left side and this other young woman was sitting on the right.

And then Katie stands up from her chair, puts out her hand to shake mine like we were meeting for the first time and said,

“Did you have a fun trip?”

“To my Grandfather’s memorial service?” I ask and tilt my head with tears welling up in my eyes.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot,” she said and SMILED.

Chills came over my entire body. It actually made me feel sick to my stomach.

I’m not sure if she truly forgot or if she truly was that mean.


I may never know the truth.


Intention is so hard to prove.


Then I turn to the young woman with tears now falling down my face and I said, “You must be HR.”

She was in shock from Katie’s words as well and replied, “I’m so sorry to hear about your Grandfather, can I get you some Kleenex?”

“No, thanks.”

And then HR begins, “Well you know Jessie, we’ve tried to work with you for several months now on your action plan…blah blah blah blah…and we’ve found it’s best we terminate you.”

I can’t remember exactly why they terminated me - after all, they had a lot to choose from: insubordination for listening to Mr. X, failure to communicate properly by not reporting my hourly schedule correctly on Monday if it changed over the course of the week, or it may have been failure to listen?

I don’t know, I wasn’t really listening.


They fired me.


They beat me up for months. Made my life completely miserable. I walked through hell after being “coached” to try to overcome the retaliation I went through down in the LA office, I had been bullied for something someone else reported, I listened to leadership and followed their instructions and then got my ass handed to me…and now they’re firing me.

And all I ever wanted to do was make something amazing happen – that would impact millions of lives and help XXXXXXXXXX in an incredible way.

“Um, I need to talk to someone about this.”

“There’s no one you can speak to,” HR tells me.

I’m thinking Mr. X would like to know about this…

And Katie just sat there and reveled in that moment like she had just won the freaking World Cup; I was just praying to God she wouldn’t rip off her shirt and start parading around campus.

And then something odd happened...

Jessie Fream