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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I Lost My Job Today

The Five Stages of Grief In One Hour

Yesterday was the first time that I felt truly excited about my job, which I’d had since April. I was on introductory probation, meaning that I couldn’t feel secure about my job until October. Still, I felt connected and integrated with the team, I had exciting projects lined up, and I finally got my Downloads folder sorted.

Today, I noticed that people weren’t messaging me like usual. I went out to lunch, went to one of my work locations to do some paperwork, and came back to my primary office. Then I received a notification that I was called to a “probationary status” meeting, scheduled during a team meeting that had been on the calendar for weeks.

I stared at the notification as a pit grew in my stomach. I knew instantly that they were letting me go, but I didn’t want to believe it. There was no other reason to schedule a random meeting with a vague title in the middle of a preexisting meeting, on a Friday afternoon.

This was the first stage of grief as I reckoned with my fate: denial.

The termination conversation was painful, but what really struck me was the disconnect I felt between what I felt and what they were saying I felt. They pointed to an apparent lack of ownership and passion on my part, while meanwhile I was thinking about all the amazing projects I was about to lose.

This week, I successfully proposed a new LinkedIn plan, set up video shoots for two multimedia projects, and reported on a social media campaign that was doing well. I felt on top of the world, like I was finally able to overcome the extreme stress I’d been under since moving to a new city.

The stress had affected my work, for sure, although this week, finally and ironically, I’d felt empowered to overcome. While I knew I hadn’t been performing my best, I also knew that it was due to my chronic depression, not a reflection of who I was.

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Image by Małgorzata Tomczak from Pixabay

And instantly, I entered the first stage of grief: anger, that once again my depression had ruined a good thing for me. Anger that my opinion that I was in fact, passionate about and dedicated to my work, wasn’t shared by my supervisors. Anger that I would have to mar my perfect record of car payments and let checks bounce.

Bargaining wasn’t really an option, they said. “There’s no mind-changing in this meeting,” my manager said. I wondered if they were regretful, as I sat there, unable to keep my eyes dry, feeling unprofessional and burdensome. My anxiety had a heyday, dancing around my chest with celebration at my torment. I’d asked to leave early on Tuesday, as though I didn't care enough to stay late. I’d been worried about incurring overtime without my supervisor’s permission, and I’d come to work an hour early that day. I was caught in bureaucracy’s crosshairs. Now, I was out of a job for it. If only I had taken a different path. If only.

Bargaining.

My depression, which had cost me my job, was eagerly waiting its turn to make an entrance. As my supervisors continued to try to make me feel better, saying that they would miss me, that it wasn’t personal…my prefrontal cortex gave way to sublimation into base desires. I wanted to go home, to crawl into bed, to drink enough to make the remaining thoughts shut up. While I’d just gotten a termination, my depression had just gotten a promotion.

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Photo by yns plt on Unsplash

As I drove home, tears silently streaming down my cheeks, the final stage of grief hit me. I accepted that those project opportunities were gone. I accepted that I’d done my best and it hadn’t been enough. I accepted that I was going to have to hustle for work and not be able to pay my bills. I accepted that I was going to suffer for awhile.

Acceptance.

And in a strange way, I felt relief. I felt like a better opportunity was just around the corner. (Or maybe a few blocks down, but I’d get there.) I felt like I’d grown a lot, even if there was no payoff. And I could take my new and improved self to a workplace that appreciated me.

Life is too short to work so hard and not have life be awesome. What you put out into the world should unfold blessings thrice in return. You shouldn’t have to feel like your best work is never enough. Now that I was out of it, I realized that I’d felt stuck in my job, knowing I was meant for something greater.

And now, I have the chance to pursue that. And I’m taking it.

Rachel Wayne is a writer and artist based in Orlando, FL. She earned her master’s in visual anthropology from the University of Florida and runs the production company DreamQuilt. She is an avid aerial dancer and performance artist, and also dabbles in mixed-media. She writes nonfiction stories about herself and other awesome people, as well as essays on feminism, societal violence, mental health, politics, entrepreneurship, and whatever cultural topic strikes her fancy.

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Writer by day, circus artist by night. I write about art, media, culture, health, science, and where they all meet. Join my list: http://eepurl.com/gD53QP

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