The First Day of the Rest of Your Unemployment

I’ve only been fired once in my life. I was fourteen. The woman who fired me called me up the next month. The conversation went like this:

Me: Hello?
Her: Hello, who is this?
Me: You called me?
Her: Is this Marina?
Me: [Exasperated silence as I prepare to hang up the phone]
Her: Wait, this is [name forgotten] you used to clean my house.
Me: Oh, yes. Hello.
Her: Have you called recently?
Me: No, you said you didn’t need me anymore.
Her: Oh, I was wondering if you called. Because sometimes my phone rings…
Me: Well, it’s not me so…
Her: I thought you might want your job back.
Me: No, thank you, I’ve found other work.
Her: Oh. Are you sure?
Me: Yes.
Her: Okay. Well, call me if you change your mind.
Me: Okay, goodbye.

Shortly after that, her son-in-law also stopped using my services, but that may have been because I told him I was a neo-nazi. I don’t actually consider that a firing, as much as it was a mutual decision to part ways. I was a punk, he was a fat cop, it was never meant to be.

In case you’re wondering, no, I am not a neo-nazi. I was trying to explain different punk genres, and for some reason anti and neo became the same word. I’m usually not that illiterate, but I was tired.

The next time I left a job against my will it was before I was ever actually hired to begin with. I was in training to be a hostess at the local hippie cafe and it turns out that giving everyone the wrong order isn’t the way restaurants work. Also there was this really stuck up girl there who said that her family “summered” in Bend, where my dad lives. To this day, I’m more annoyed that she didn’t realize that Bend is a ski town than I am that she was treating me like I was trash. Bitch, you’re from Oregon. The sky only goes so high.

All three times I lost jobs in the past, I had at least one other job to fall back on. The last time I lost a job, hopefully the last time I ever lose a job if I have anything to say about it (freelance forever), that was not the case.

Working at my last company was like finding out I’d married an alcoholic. In the beginning, everything was amazing. I was so crazy happy just to be allowed to sit in the building I worked in. I felt like Annie in whichever version of that play it is where she becomes the president’s daughter and a Broadway superstar.

Okay, so maybe I have no idea what the plot for Annie is, but you get the gist.

Then I was a little bit overworked, but it was still good. Then I was just a little bit burned out, but it was still good. Then I found myself daydreaming about getting hit by a car so maybe I would get hospitalized and finally get some fucking rest. And that was before my company got taken over by another company and I became my own assistant. By which I mean that the bigger company had three of my position while my company had one of me, so I became assistant to my counterparts.

Because that’s where you want to be. Nearing thirty with 35k in student loan debt, serving as assistant to the position you yourself held only days or months before.

By the time they finally did lay me off, I cried out of relief. I had to hide my face in my hands to keep from scaring the HR rep with the Joker-like smile of glee that I could not tamp down. I pretended my giggles were hiccups.

Eventually I composed myself enough to apologize for my outburst and remember at least thirteen of the hundreds of thousands of words I’d read about lay-off in the agonizing weeks while we waited to see for whom the bell would toll.

“I hope I can count on you for a good recommendation in the future.” I said.

The HR rep stared. Finally my department director made a strange little wince and told me “we don’t give recommendations.”

I mean, considering the hysterics, I might not want to give me a recommendation either, but the manufactured sadface coupled with the fact that she said “we” as in the collective we of this organization, and organization that only minutes before I was at least ostensibly still a part of. A terribly unhappy, underutilized and stressed out to the point of serious physical trauma part, but still a part. “We” as in not you.

We don’t give recommendations.

So I asked if that was all, took my exit paperwork and sobbed in the stairwell because I knew there were probably already at least five other women crying in the bathroom.

Then I calmed myself, called someone I had been interviewing with and changed my start-date availability. I didn’t get the job, obviously, but it felt nice anyway.

I’ve never been dumped. But the way this lay-off felt is how I imagine it feels to be dumped by the wrong man. But worse. It felt like being dumped by the wrong man after he ruined my life and made me completely dependent on him for my self-worth, financial stability, and social status.

I’ve said it before. I took that job thinking that it would be nice to not have to hustle anymore, that I could sit back and let work come to me. But that’s not what happened. I went from busting my ass to make ends meet, always having a side gig and at least one real job, usually two, to one single full time job. I had a title, I had business cards, and I had some status, although to be honest, it really wasn’t anything. I thought I could relax, but the truth of the matter was when I handed the reins of my income and my value as a worker over to one boss, I might as well have fallen asleep for five straight years. Instead of not having to drive the work, I wasn’t allowed to drive the work. Instead of being able to relax, the number of things that I not only couldn’t control, but was looked down on for caring about exploded.

All the things that brought me value in the real world: Being opinionated, loud, pushy, and unrelenting turned into things I was told to “tone down.” Every company and every campaign talk about how they want out of the box thinkers, but the ones they manage to catch die like bugs in a jar.

By the time that job was done with me, I was ashamed of everything that made me amazing and unsure of everything I used to believe in. All I wanted was to be a good dog for some other corporate machine.

Thank God no one would hire me.

Because in the desperation of my failure to be good, the old idea of ownership started to wink to life. Maybe there is a place for relentless, spirited, bitchy women who drive their own lives, make their own rules, and grab what’s theirs from the toothless jowls of an apathetic and over-saturated market.

It’s not the job’s fault I thought I was bad. I was bad. I was extremely bad at being an office worker. I’m still not that great at being a freelancer. The things I am an expert on, the things I am passionate about take up one to two hours a week, if I’m lucky. The rest of this is shit I never did before. Even when I was an independent contractor and cottage industrialist in the past. This is a completely different set up. For only being at this 13 months, I’d say I tackled the learning curve pretty well. But it’s still a slog. I’m not going to lie.

But I know this is where I belong because every single thing I was told to tone down in the office, I need to magnify in freelance life. I need to be pushy, I need to be tireless, I need to be blunt and clear, and I need to walk into meetings like I own this motherfucker. Because I do own this motherfucker and I’m the only one keeping the lights on. All my freelance success I owe to my corporate failure.

So, thank you for laying me off. I was a terrible fit for that company, and I was only making myself and everyone around me miserable trying to stick it out. No other corporate job would have fixed me, or suited me better. Thank you every HR manager who saw my resume and tossed it in the trash, I would have only become more and more frustrated and angry as I stagnated in your marketing department, just like I did at my last job.

I hope I never have to pretend to care about office politics again, or try and match my shoes to my stupid fucking biz cas dress.

I’m not the kind of girl who likes to sit back wait for instructions. I never was, and I hope I never try to be that again. I count the last years at that job among the worst in my life. Not only because they were terrible but because, unlike other worst years of my life, I did that to myself without any prompting whatsoever. I turned myself inside out trying to love that place and make them love me. And for what? A view of the Hollywood sign on the one clear day a year? I hate Hollywood.