I Never Thought I Would Lose My Job, Part 2

Image by h.koppdelaney via Flickr

I had been laid off. I had nothing to do. And lethargy doesn’t suit me.

I felt like the anxiety was going to overwhelm me. I’m a worrier by nature, and the impending financial disaster, the lack of health insurance, and the embarrassment all made me feel hopeless.

My first thought was to run home. Live with Mommy, and work at the Dairy Queen. This was my first major life crisis as an adult, and I didn’t know how to handle it.

However, that would have necessitated telling my parents, and I was far too ashamed to even imagine the pity that would be all over their faces. Besides, I knew they couldn’t help.

As soon as I realized that moving into my mother’s basement wasn’t an option, the reality hit me. I had to find a job.

I started with every job search website I had ever seen advertised, and even a few that looked really sketchy when I Googled “job search.” But hey, I was desperate.

There were jobs out there that required degrees, certifications, and general education that I didn’t have. My field was incredibly specialized, and while I was great at what I did, there were only a few places in the country that I could do it.

Then my mind wandered to the idea of moving. Places like New York, Las Vegas, and California were packed with venues that needed sound technicians. And even better, they were packed with contacts and friends that could help me get a job.

But I kept hoping for something reasonably appealing that would keep me in my house and with my dogs. And preferably away from the ramen and Spaghetti-O’s. I made hundreds of calls, put my resume anywhere the internet would let me, and hit up every friend I had. I begged for temp work, for side work, anything. I had a pirated version of my design software, and I was willing to draft carpet patterns if it meant I could keep my house.

A few rejection phone calls and a whole lot of rejection emails later, I started to sink deeper and deeper. I didn’t want to feel completely hopeless, but completely hopeless was right there. Right in front of me. The people that didn’t even bother to respond were the worst. I wondered what made me so useless that I didn’t even deserve the courtesy of a “we’re not interested” text message.

My boyfriend was about as supportive as a mechanic covering an entire mortgage could ever be. He brought home beers, he carried me to bed when I fell asleep watching sappy movies on the couch, and he forced me out of the house with $20 and my pool cue every time it looked like I hadn’t been off the couch in days.

Then one night, my phone rang. It was a friend that I hadn’t talked to in five years. His company had once offered me a job, which I accepted and then walked out on because I’d gotten a better offer. I had known this man since college and had offended him so deeply I was shocked that he even still had my number.

He asked me if I wanted to work for his company. After finding my voice, I asked quickly if I could call him back in the morning.

I spent that night reminding myself that everyone at that company probably thought I was flaky, irresponsible, and a wash-out, and that my friend would probably never be able convince the other owners to give me a chance. I was trying to be realistic, to own up to the decision I had made five years ago that had gotten me where I was.

I talked to Quint that night. He reminded me that my friend had come to me and was willing to give me a chance. I was far less optimistic than he was, but it was a straw, and I was still allowed to grasp.

The next day, after talking to my friend, I realized that I had to talk to the owner, Scott. The man whose confidence in me I had shattered when I reneged on him. It was the toughest conversation of my life.

I knew he had no reason to give me another chance. But he knew that I was good at my job. We discussed why I had left for Nashville, whether or not I was going to run away again, his trepidation at having an employee who had to be responsible only to herself and could work in her pajamas.

The majority of the conversation hinged on one major condition: He could fire me for no reason immediately after my 90-day probationary period. My current low self esteem made me feel like that was indeed going to be the outcome. But I had no option but to try.

Complacency had become my only friend. Complacency had become me. It was the reason I’d been fired in the first place, and yet, I now realized that I had to work harder than ever before to keep any job I would get. Ease was the enemy….

It’s now been three months since I started with my new company. I’ve been more on edge that I’ve ever been in my entire life–as though one moment of slacking off can cost me everything I’ve earned.

In the past three months, I’ve learned four new programming languages, written thousands of lines of code, stayed at my desk for hours after the office closed, and worked harder than I ever have in my life. I’ve solved problems people had been working on for years and done everything in my power to make the entire staff’s lives easier.

Even working 60 hours a week, I realize that I’ve had it easier than many people in my situation. Yes, I admit it. I got lucky.

Still, I’d like to think that I’ve learned something from all this. I’ve learned that taking anything for granted is asking for trouble, and becoming too comfortable in any situation is what lost me my job in the first place.

Well, I don’t plan on becoming too comfortable again anytime soon.

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Rebecca Sullins

6 comments

  • Yes, awesome point!
    Becoming comfortable with your job is a good thing: it means you are good at what you do; it also means less stress (and thus higher productivity). On the other side, becoming TOO comfortable is the killer: the lack of a true challenge and that small feeling of trepidation and insecurity leads to complacency and/or dissatisfaction with your job. It also closes your eyes with regard to any opportunity that might arise, because they would take you out of your comfort zone and you don’t want that. I’m a big time stress hater, and a firm believer that stress is one of the greatest evils in our world. Nonetheless, I hate to admit it but a little stress, a little insecurity, just the right amount, is a good and healthy thing, not just for your career, but, paradoxically as it may sound, for your own peace of mind. The anxiety of a challenging job, IF it’s not too high, is definitely MUCH better that the low key anxiety/desperation/depression of not having a job or being stuck with a job that you hate, which slowly and surely eats away at your happiness and sanity.
    The ironical conclusion is that if you want a more comfortable life (from every point of view), you have to step out of your comfort zone and work towards it… Man, this sucks… *sigh* 😉

    • Rebecca Sullins

      Oh, how much I love the irony of the entire situation. I’m actively TRYING to make myself uncomfortable in this new job… new technologies, new levels of perfection, etc… just to keep myself on edge. I hope I can keep it up.

  • Hope the edge sticks and all goes ahead full steam. A challenge is good… as long as it does not cause people to burn out. Seen it too many times. As long as a job is exciting and feel challenging in a good way then it is fabulous. 🙂

  • Glad it worked out, Res! Hope you keep kicking ass at the new job.

  • Well Miss Sullins, like Nush said, just beware of burnout – trust me, it’s no fun. Please take care to have various activities to help you recharge your batteries and keep the stress level low (or at least not very high). If, say, you want to post an article on this blog as a way of… ahem, relieving the pressure, I don’t think anybody will mind… 😉

    • Rebecca Sullins

      Oh, I am. I still need to make sure I keep time for myself, and get out of the house (I work from home and live in the country, cabin fever is dangerous) as often as I can.

      I still enjoy taking my lunch break on a nice day and driving in the convertible, to some lunch spot all the way downtown. Or going outside and playing with my dog for a few minutes.

      You have to hold on to the little things that keep that burnout at a decent arm’s length away.

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