No use in burying the lede on this blog post, folks. One of the things I’ve always striven to do with this blog is be honest and forthcoming about how my life has played out since graduating from college and as I have come upon another one of life’s little surprises, it feels right to lay it out here for you.
First things first. I turned 28 years old last week. It felt strange. I usually enjoy birthdays and don’t get too fussy about them. They’re a great excuse to get a lot of people together and celebrate – in this case, I rounded up about two dozen of my closest friends and we enjoyed a fierce Nats/Phillies baseball game. I was perfectly content to have people buy me beers and wish me well in the coming year and not dwell on my age.
That is, until Monday night – the night before the actual day. I don’t know if it was just the exhaustion from coming off a packed weekend or one of those momentary nervous breakdowns that come out of nowhere because someone looks at you wrong, but I snapped. All of a sudden, I felt the distance between me and my youth (10 years since high graduation! 5 years since college graduation) and the weight of each of the twenty-eight years weighing down on me. What had I accomplished with that time? By any factor of success (wealth, health, wisdom, self-fulfillment), did I have any achievements of note?
I tried to shake it off. A low-key afternoon on my actual birthday – a little museum strolling, sangria with friends, a chance meeting with Jose Andres, and sweet phone calls from my parents – helped to ease the tension and I felt as if perhaps I should save the freak-out for when I actually turned 30.
But apparently, it was the perfect time to freak out. The very next day, about halfway through my morning work routine, I was called into our department supervisor’s office. I have written about the end of my previous employment before, but I have to say, this time was different. You usually have a clue, an inkling, that these things are coming – either because they’re mutual or you can feel it in the air – but this truly took me off-guard. I knew as soon as I closed the door behind me and the shock was so palpable, I found it hard to catch my breath.
I didn’t cry. I didn’t argue. I didn’t fall back on snark or sarcasm, which is really the triumph for me in uncomfortable situations. I listened plaintively as they explained that there were too many and not enough work. That they were happy with my performance, that everyone liked me, but it wasn’t a good fit and it wasn’t the right time. That they could see that I was unhappy. This last one really stung – because it was true. I hadn’t been happy in this job, chained behind a desk, with little work to fill my days. But I had always prided myself on being an outgoing, upbeat person, especially in the workplace. How could they have known I was wilting inside?
And that was that. I was truly so stunned, I just grabbed my purse and walked out the door. I didn’t even clean out my desk – so, you’re welcome, person who gets that desk eventually, for the free granola bars and cough drops and the one fancy pen I brought from home.
I would be lying if I said it hasn’t been a tough couple of days. Telling my parents was like pulling off a band-aid – it stings initially but it’s better just to do it quickly. They are loving and supportive, which in some ways makes it worse. It must not be easy for them, a few years away from retirement, and worrying about an adult child who seems to skip and hop her way through life instead of hunkering down and forging a real career path somewhere.
Honestly, the absolute worst thing about getting laid off is telling people. The financial worries aren’t great and the lack of daily routine is not well-suited for someone as OCD as myself, but the aspect of this entire ordeal that is so trying is having to let people know. I know that it’s the right thing to do – your support system of friends and family exist to support you when times get tough but having to volunteer the information that, for not the first time in your life, you’ve been let go is a frustrating endeavor. Trust me, there’s no easy way to do it. I am so terrible at it, my roommate completely missed what I had said the first time.
I know there are lessons to be learned here and that, in some ways, this is a relief. Iwasunhappy at my job and even though I thought I was a spectacular actress, it was obviously clear to others. I’m learning that I am truly not cut out for a run-of-the-mill desk job and that I have to stop accepting so many administrative tasks just because I’m good at it when I’m better at creating, innovating, and implementing. I can be proud of the fact that I cultivated strong connections to previous employers and prospective employers, which have already given me a couple of opportunities for the summer and possible beyond. I have always been happiest when hustling, pursuing projects and working with organizations and people that I’m truly excited to be with, and perhaps I shouldn’t have let my desire to appear more “adult” or “grown-up” to others pull me away from that.
Or maybe that’s just what I’m telling myself to get through this weird first week of non-working. All I can say for sure is that right now, from my current “office” aka my kitchen table, it’s a beautiful sunny day and I get to go outside and enjoy it.
So, it could be worse.