Here’s what they don’t tell you about being fired. Of course you lose the paycheck and you lose the insurance and you lose your colleagues and you lose the comfort and routine of the day-to-day, but the biggest loss is your sense of worth.
You may have created award-winning marketing campaigns in your recent past, you might have won accolades for your essays and your debut novel, but when one company—one human—decides you’re not enough, that’s the voice that stays in your head.
Let me tell you about the awesome vacation I’m about to take with my family. Then let me tell you that we’re finished with you. Any questions?
You have so many questions, you can’t even formulate one. Why didn’t I know? Why wasn’t there a plan to make things right? What about my kids? My health? The beautiful new rig we just bought? The grief I’m still mired in after losing my mom and my sister? The ways I origami-ed myself into tiny pieces to try and make things work the way you wanted them to? The very specific and suffocating way you wanted them? What about the job I left to help support your vision, your dream?
No. No questions.
Disposable. Replaceable. Those words are sticky. Like flypaper. You cannot rid yourself of them.
Seven months and 200+ job applications later, those words are now a part of you. They are you. You are disposable. You are replaceable. You are too old for the corporate world of the young, but your life is not yet over. You still have to pay the bills. You still have to go to the doctor. You still have one kid in college. The corporate world may not want you, but you are still a citizen of the world. You are a part of this capitalistic society. You cannot trade an old tire for a loaf of bread. You have to figure out how to make your way, even when The Universe keeps saying, “No. Not here. Not today. Not now. There is someone younger, cheaper. There is someone who is not you.”
Your bank account hovers precariously near double digits which only exacerbates your waning sense of worth. You are once again the poor kid living in the tiny apartment, splitting a steak with your mom and sister because you can only afford one. You will always be the poor kid. You will always be left wanting. That is what you were born into, that is who you will always be.
Your mom died before she ever got the chance to go to Europe. It was her dream. You were going to take her someday. But then she got sick. And now she’s gone. And you will never get to stand with her under the Eiffel Tower, marveling at the lights, the enormity, the sheer magic of it all.
You know you could flip your situation and see it as an opportunity instead of a death sentence. And on your good days, you do. You truly do. On your good days, you write a few more chapters and send an essay out into the world and you are grateful—oh so grateful—for the time you’ve been given to write what you want to write instead of what you need to write to survive.
But then your beloved dog has a bloody lump on her leg and you know in your heart it’s cancer even though you’re still waiting for the biopsy report. But the vet bills are high, and you can’t pay them. You have to rely on someone else for everything. Even saving the dog. Your heart. Your soul.
How can you save the dog if you can’t even pay the electric bill?
How can you save yourself if you can’t even save the dog?
At 53, you thought things would be different. You thought your bank account would be padded by now. You thought there would be safety and security in your financial life. But you had four amazing and expensive kids and then you got divorced and then you lost your job and now you are free-falling and the ground is rising up to meet you. Hard.
You are preparing for the impact. You’re pretty certain you won’t survive it.
You desperately try to switch gears, to find a new career path, but writing is what you know. And it doesn’t pay the bills unless there is a corporate sponsor behind it. So you pour your heart out into your words because being able to string them together in a somewhat moving way makes you feel a little less unworthy.
But you know in your heart that you’ll always be that little girl in hand-me-down clothes and knock-off Kmart sneakers, hoping you’ll find your worth in three-point shots and diving centerfield catches. Remember those days when your young, amazing body could do those magical things?
You do remember. You do.