Last Monday, I walked into work with a messy topknot, a big baggy sweater, and a pair of heels.
Ordinarily, that would just seem like a very normal (and very millennial) thing to do. But for some reason, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it reminded me of someone.
It wasn’t until I sauntered out to the bathroom in the middle of the day, absentmindedly practising my posture, that I figured it out.
It reminded me of the supervisor who fired me.
Now, let me just say something here. It’s hard for me to talk about getting fired without sounding bitter or angry, because there’s a part of me that really is. But 70% of me is water, and that part of me thinks that it was a blessing in disguise.
Where I was a year ago
This time last year, I was happily driving myself to work, doing pre-coffee car karaoke and mentally planning out my day. About half an hour after I’d settled in, I got called into a meeting, where my supervisor deposited me with HR and left.
Fifteen minutes later, I was being escorted out the door with my haphazardly-packed box of belongings. I was home by 9:15 that day.
At the time, it felt like the end of the world. I felt like a huge failure; I’d lost my job, Christmas was less than a month away, and how was I going to pay my bills?
I did three things that day: I told my family, I called a lawyer, and I drove myself out to the mall to lower my cell phone plan as far as I could.
Oh, and I cried. A lot.
See, in our society, we put such emphasis on the importance of having a career that when you lose one, especially unexpectedly, it’s devastating. It made me question myself, it made me question whether I was any good at what I wanted to do, it made me question everything about my life.
And that was just the start of unemployment for me.
When I was home, I only had one commitment; every week, on Tuesdays, I’d go read with my mom’s kindergarten class for an hour. That was it. Other than that, I had all the time in the world.
There was a part of me that wanted to apply for every single job I could find. I wanted to work again, even if it meant taking on a seasonal part-time job at a bookstore that I’d lose once the holiday rush was over. But my dad had some good advice for me, and I tried very hard to follow it.
“Take your time, and find one you really, really want.”
I didn’t find that job until April, and it kind of drove me crazy. I went through the ups and downs of sending out dozens of applications, getting a few interviews, not having anything pan out, and reporting on the whole disappointing process to the government. But it (and getting fired) ended up being worth it, because a year later, I can look back and say I grew a lot as a person—and I learned some very big lessons.
It’s okay to doubt yourself.
In itself, sure, it’s not great to doubt yourself. But when I lost my job, doubting myself made me sit down and reevaluate everything in my life that had led to that point. Did I like what I was doing? Did I want to do something similar? Did I think I was any good at it in the first place?
And doubting all of those things made it feel a whole lot more concrete when I could say “yes.”
It’s okay to lose your focus.
Writing was just about the hardest thing in the world to do when I was unemployed. My writing was what had gotten me fired, and I struggled to recreate the personality I always put into my work.
It does show, even here on my blog. But I don’t think it’s a bad thing.
I actually think it’s been a good shift. Now, I feel like I can be more thoughtful and helpful in what I say, where before I might have relied on rapidfire wordplay to create humour.
Good things come to those who wait.
This is probably the cliché that annoyed me most as an impatient and impulsive child, but there’s truth in it. And it’s why I didn’t rush out and find the first low-paying part-time job I could find.
Every time I looked at a job posting, I went through their website, their social media, anything I could find, just to get a sense of what they were like. I gave myself time to establish what I wanted from a job, and I looked carefully to see if it would be a good fit.
I waited until the right one came along, and I got it simply for being myself.
The right people will stay by you.
I’m not proud of this. When I lost my job, there was a little part of my brain that was afraid of how it would impact my relationship.
And I won’t lie, it did impact it. I know I frustrated Shane sometimes, because I myself was frustrated in my continuing failure to find a job. But no matter what, he was always there, ready to listen, ready to help, ready to step up and keep our little family afloat.
And that’s something I will never forget.
It’s not the end of the world.
When I was home, I watched the Office way too much. I saw this scene probably 12 times:
At the time, I definitely agreed with Michael Scott. But now, I don’t. I do think getting fired was the best thing that’s ever happened to me. It wasn’t the end of the world; it was the jolt I needed to reevaluate what I wanted from a job, from life.
Now, although I care about doing well at my job, I don’t have the irrational fear that I used to have, pushing me to do everything flawlessly and beating me down when I couldn’t. I push myself because I love it—not because I’m afraid of what will happen if I don’t.