On February 13th, 2017, Betty was laid off from her soul-crushing day job at an advertising agency in Manhattan. After a night and subsequent day of sulking, she woke up particularly clear-headed and wrote the following to a friend and writing mentor.
Sent: February 15, 2017 9:04 AM
Subject: I lost my job again
I really wish this wasn’t the update I had to write you after a long time of no update, but I was let go from my job AGAIN. My boss wasn’t there to do it. In fact, I think they would have let me go last Friday, except that she was out for a wedding and had emailed management over the weekend to let them know that I could help them with whatever. If need be, I could work over the weekend for them… So I did. Monday rolled around and another big presentation came in and I started on it, and my boss was strangely nice, nicer than she’d been in a long time. At 5PM she stood up, took her computer and phone with her, and mumbled something about another meeting.
At 5:20, I was just finishing up the deck I’d spent all day working on, when the HR lady came and asked for a chat.
When I sat down, I couldn’t believe that it was happening again, but then of course I could. They said their chief complaint was that I hadn’t been learning the business nor did I show enthusiasm to want to do so. That’s true, to a point. But it stung because I did try in other ways. Tom said that my strategy was wrong – that I should have really focused on learning the business rather than try to stay out of my stressed out boss’s way and make myself useful. I was “helpful” but not valuable.
On top of that, I think my dissatisfaction was palpable (not that it should have been) and that my relationship with my boss had disintegrated so that even though she wasn’t there to do it or when they did it, I wasn’t surprised. But I would have appreciated a bit of warning from her. Just to be up front about it especially since we had a good relationship in the beginning.
The conversation was over in less than 10 minutes. There wasn’t even paperwork for me to sign, just HR telling me I would have an extra week’s pay and time to clear out my desk and computer. It also occurred to me that if my boss couldn’t afford me the small courtesy to at least be in the room with me at the time of my dismissal, then I really didn’t owe her anything as small as the presentation I’d been working on all day.
I deleted everything I ever worked on or saved on my desktop. I thought about going into the server and clearing everything out there too, but that might have led to a lawsuit… so I left that.
I was pretty sad on Monday. Tom had no idea until he met me at the Union Square Barnes and Noble, where I saw him browsing in front of the “New Fiction” table. I tapped on his shoulder and as soon as he turned around, I burst into tears. I was holding my racquet bag and a little shopping bag filled with snacks and a tea canister I had brought to work to make it more bearable. My parka was stained and I felt I looked like a bum (albeit an athletic one), and as I hugged Tom I thought what a small relief it was that I hadn’t bought a plant for my desk as I’d wanted to do that morning. Otherwise I’d probably be carrying that too. The only other upside that evening was I managed to leave work before 6PM for the first time in a long time.
We walked downtown together for a drink at Perla, where I cried over two glasses of wine, and then dinner at Westville, where I calmed down and we had a good talk about my shortcomings, my boss’s shortcomings, and what my plan was. I really am lucky to have Tom. I doubt anyone’s boyfriend would dump them after getting fired, (maybe after getting fired twice), but he is always so calm after this type of news and supportive in a way that goes beyond money. He gives me an emotional stability that has carried me through the entire time I’ve been at this job. I think sometimes I do just want someone to be on my side, blindly, but Tom’s much too reasonable for that. It’s not always the best to hear, but ultimately I leave and want to revisit our conversations (though sometimes Tom is like, “Man we have already talked about this so much”) because they make me a stronger person.
After we arrived home, I sat down in front of my computer and immediately applied for health insurance and unemployment. An upside to having been through this before – I actually know what I’m doing.
This time it felt different, to be let go from a job I was actively trying to stay at and make the best of. I was more ashamed. Rather than blast it on the Internet like I had last time, I stayed quiet for a few days, wondering how to tell people without sounding like I was just shrugging it off.
I realized after a while though, that’s just not my personality. I get angry, but I don’t stay angry. I stay sad for far longer, but in this case as with most, those feelings don’t get me anywhere. Yesterday, I felt better. A few coworkers wrote to me asking how I was. I finished up a writing project for my client, and I slept well.
And all too quickly, I was reminded of how those days come and go. This morning I woke up to find that the client didn’t like the new edits I’d made and none of the part-time jobs I’d applied to since Monday night had written back.
But for now, I’m going to take it one day at a time. My plan is not really set in stone, but I am going to find more copywriting clients and work on my own writing, until it makes sense for me to look again for a full-time job. And when/if it does, I’m going to make sure it’s one that I at least can wrap my head around in terms of, “Is the product at least something I can see myself using or at least recommend to someone else?”
So that is the news around here. I just wanted to write and let you know. I appreciate your overall caring and support of my writing and never ending…trying-to-figure-it-out-ness.
Never in a million years did I think I’d be back at square one: unemployed again. I think amongst my friends and family I truly hold the record for most times dropped out of school and let go from jobs. But instead of hoping that everything happens for a reason I’m telling myself I’ve got to give myself a reason now that it’s happened.
Thanks for reading.
*Featured Image: Rooms by the Sea, Edward Hopper (1951)