Last year, I was fired. Not laid off, not let go, not any of the other flowery-sounding descriptors I used in later interviews to gloss over the truth. I was straight up, “Pack your stuff, leave immediately,” fired.
I can’t say that I was surprised; I’d had performance reviews and candid conversations with my boss, and it was becoming exceedingly clear that the job and I were not a good fit for each other. But that didn’t stop me from feeling like the wind was knocked out of me when it actually happened.
I was called to the HR director’s office on a random Tuesday morning- not crazy unusual, since I worked in HR. But the second I walked in and saw my boss sitting there with a red folder on the table in front of them, I knew exactly what was happening. I couldn’t tell you exactly what was said during my firing, but I remember feeling surprised, hurt, and a little mad. The only thing I remember clearly is that when I left, they gave me the option of leaving by myself via elevator, or being escorted down the stairs. I told them I’d take the elevator, because I didn’t want the shame of an escort.
Can I tell you a secret, though? In all of the emotions I went through when I got fired, the biggest one was relief. Yes, I was scared to not have a job, yes I was wondering what I was going to do next, yes I felt embarrassed. But most of all, I felt so, so relieved.
The job I had drained me in ways I didn’t know were possible. It was a job that triggered exactly all of my biggest anxieties, and came with a workload that no human person could have handled alone. I worked for 12 hours many days, and the work still could not get done. On top of that, I reported to someone who is to-date the cruelest person I have ever worked with; not good for a sensitive soul like me. I used to wake up in the middle of the night having full-blown panic attacks because of the burden that I felt working in such a callous environment.
Despite all of the negatives, I didn’t have the courage to leave that job myself – I felt like I needed to tough it out and prove that I could survive. It led me to a really, really dark and unhealthy mental place. Getting fired gave me a way out.
In the weeks that followed, I re-evaluated my life. I joined my parents on vacation, because when you have unlimited time off, why not? I thought about what I wanted in my life and what I wanted in my career. And all of the things this job had taught me that I didn’t want.
Getting fired gave me a fresh start. I can’t say that unemployment was all sunny vacations and blissful free time – It turns out that sitting in your apartment alone all day filling out job application after job application can put you in a pretty lonely and sad mood. I applied to >100 jobs, had more interviews than I can count, and even turned down a few job offers.
But then finally, I landed a perfect job for me. My current company is fun, creative, and most importantly: allows me to really be me. I feel so appreciated at work and have such a wonderful relationship with my boss and my coworkers. I never knew that a workplace could be so supportive and freeing, and I am so glad for the broken path that led me here.
Here’s what I learned from getting fired:
- Just because one job was not a good fit for me does not mean that I am not a good employee.
- Being bad at one job does not make me bad at all jobs, nor does not mean that I am incapable of success.
- Having a poor supervisor does not mean that I am unworthy of appreciation and validation at work.
- Being fired meant that I wasn’t supposed to be there, and that I was made to do something else.
I am so grateful that I was fired. I can say that with my whole heart now and truly, truly mean it. The experience taught me to speak up for myself, to be confident in myself, and to know when something doesn’t feel right. I was so worried that the experience would shatter my confidence forever, but now I know confidence can’t come from your co-workers, your careers, or your salary. It has to come from you.
…P.S. When I left that day? I lied. I took the stairs.