I always thought I was infallible. I am intelligent, funny, self-aware, and capable. I am, I always imagined, what anyone would want in an employee. I never imagined a world in which I would sit across from my employer and hear the words “you’re fired.” My life was not The Apprentice, I would never be dismissed from a job. How could I be? I was me.
But I was. I was fired.
I had always assumed I was too valuable, that there was too much I knew and controlled to be fired. If I were ever to leave my job it would take time, preparation, and, most importantly, it would have been my choice. But it wasn’t. I was blindsided and I was let go.
I used to think Rory Gilmore’s reaction to being told she “didn’t have it” by Mitchum Huntzberger was irrational. That she should get over herself and realize that sometimes not everyone was going to like you or think you were good at what you loved, at what you thought you were good at. I thought, for lack of a better term, she was a brat. And yet, there I was, fired and having the same reaction that Rory had. I didn’t steal a boat, of course. Mainly because I have a weird aversion to boats thanks to Titanic. But I did react with a sense that I was Shanghai’d, backstabbed, betrayed.
I was all “et tu, Brute?” I was flummoxed. I was depressed. It was as if my former employer had a Scarlet “A” professionally made and stamped onto my clothing. This wasn’t sup-posed to happen. I was supposed to rise in the ranks. I was supposed to make THR’s 35 under 35 list by the time I was 28. I was supposed to BE there.
The funny thing about being fired is that it makes you think about your life, your choices, how you got there and what the catalyst was. I mean… who the heck was I to assume that these things were going to happen for me? Why did I feel entitled to this job, to the accolades I hoped for, when there were so many other people out there doing the same thing I was doing?
I felt entitled. I felt greedy. I felt faultless. I spent my high school career as an honor student, I was cast in the plays, I had my articles published in the paper. I did the morning an-nouncements. In college, I received writing awards, acting awards. I pledged a top sorority. I was exceptional at being accepted. I had, in short, been led to believe that things would more or less come easily to me.
I always got the internships I wanted. I was accepted to the study abroad programs. All of my internship supervisors assured me that I was too hard of a worker and too wonderful to be anything less than successful in the real world. I had my life together and it was a natural high.
But all of my successes and praise caused me to have blinders on. I was so used to get-ting a “yes” that I never stopped to consider the alternative. I never stopped to consider that there would be a time when I wasn’t going to be successful or have the stars align. A bull in a china shop, with all of my past success as momentum, I went full force, blindly, into the workforce.
Being fired is a lot like grieving a death. Depression. Denial. Anger. The emotions came in waves and I had good mornings and bad mornings. I felt adrift, untethered to anything or any-one. There’s a security in having a job, having a routine. Less time to think about yourself and what you “really” want because you’re too focused on the tasks at hand. I didn’t know how to process the embarrassment or the shame. I was told by someone I admire in the industry that “everyone gets fired at some point, and no one cares.” That helped, a bit, but still… when you don’t think it’s going to happen to you and then it does it makes you question yourself, your character, your integrity.
But I’m proud of myself and proud to say that I didn’t let the failure stop me. I’ve heard a lot of people say that their best writing, their best work, came in times of unease, desperation, and turmoil. I used my anger and my confusion to write a screenplay in two weeks. It’s not done, of course. I need to edit and edit but it’s something I haven’t been able to do in a long time – sit down and write a full feature screenplay. I wrote something I’m proud of. Something I love. Something I want to one day share with the world.
I used my firing as fuel to move ahead in a new direction with my life. One that, quite frankly, scares the crap out of me. It was easier for me to take a desk job and try to work my way into the screenwriting world that way then by taking the hard road, the road less traveled. I decide to commit fully to my writing. I’m working on writing and producing a web series; I’ve got pilot scripts and plays and screenplays in the works. I’ve decided to take part-time jobs to pay the bills and on my free time focus on all the things I’ve been wanting to write but had felt too creatively stunted to do.
For the first time in a long time, I was doing exactly what I felt I should be doing.
It’s weird to learn that you’re not infallible, that you are not above the fray. I am just as vulnerable as everyone else. I am not protected by some invisible force-field. I am no more special than anyone else and I am not entitled to anything.
When you’re fired you start to see that the world and life is so much bigger than you. You start to work on yourself. You start to try and figure out how to not make the same mistakes. You have to put yourself out there. You have to take risks. You have to grow.
What happens when you’re fired and you didn’t think you could be? You move on, day by day, step after step. You learn. You listen. You evolve. You move forward. And eventually? Eventually, you get over it.