The Day I Was Fired

Written by Galatea on Saturday October 22, 2011

On Thursday, out of nowhere, Ed told me that they were letting me go.

This was not how this conversation was supposed to go. I walked into my boss’s office of my own volition to talk about a long-term project. I was bright, and cheerful, and putting on the semblance of being happy. I wasn’t supposed to be sitting here, mouth agape, hearing that I no longer had a job.

But I suspected it the moment Ed motioned for me to sit in the chair across from his desk, a grim look on his face.

“But…” I grasped in despair. What did I do wrong? My god, did I suck? I blurted out these questions without thinking—but I had to know whether I’d been lazy or foolish or, well, both.

No, Gala.” Ed actually looked sad. He said I wasn’t lazy. I did good work. I acted punctual, made sure I got along with people, and managed to stay on top of my responsibilities. “It’s just…” Ed paused for a moment, trying to find the most diplomatic of answers. “Right now, we can’t afford you.”

In a nervous tic I instinctively reached for my hair, finding strands when I pulled my fingers away. Ever since my friend lost his job weeks ago, I’d thrown myself into my own work—arriving at 8 AM, leaving at 8:30 at night, barely seeing friends. Whenever I started slacking, I pulled up magazine articles about other college graduates who’d been hit by the recession, statistics turned into narratives. Whatever happened, I resolved, even as my face grew older and I found more and more hair on my pillow after a restless night’s sleep, I would not give them a reason to let me go.

So much for that.

“Look,” I began bargaining, though a part of me recoiled at the thought of me begging, “I just started, give me some time…”

“We don’t have the money, Gala.”

“But I have a great idea—”

“We don’t have the money,” Ed repeated, and he could tell that I threw a last-ditch, desperate half-lie out there to keep my job. I scrounged around for anything else I could use as leverage. I came up with nothing—no expertise, no experience, no real skill or talent that I could immediately monetize for this company’s immediate benefit.

He handed me a sheaf of papers, and the reality of my situation crystallized. All desperate hope of this being a dumb work prank, or something I could barter my way out of, instantly died. I automatically opened it up, not comprehending any of the crawl of legalese. There was something about a severance package, and returning company property, and the promise not to sue (how the hell could I afford a lawyer, anyways?)

“I’m sorry,” he repeated, as I blankly scanned my severance agreement. He tried softening the blow—maybe he could help me find something.

My head jerked up. “You promise you’ll find me something?”

“Gala, I can’t promise anything,” he said, taken aback, and my face flushed in embarrassment. “I said that I’d help you. Look.” He leaned back in his chair, surrounded by pictures of his family and accolades from his work. “I’ve been in your position before. But you’ll get through this. Trust me.”

Dimly, I heard a television set outside murmur about the violence at Occupy Wall Street, and distantly, I heard the beating of drums in Freedom Square.

In the days to come, after a long crying jag and mornings of sleeping in, I’d snap out of the daze and immediately begin emailing every single contact I knew in town. I’d sit down for lunches, I’d ask my mentors for advice, and I’d move quickly in order to stay relevant.

But at that moment, when my future stretched in front of me and I saw absolutely nothing ahead, I seriously considered throwing in with the protesters.