Alex's Place

How to be fired

Mar 1, 2020

“What does it feel like to be fired?”

Your first thought is, “Oh, I saw this in a movie once.” It feels empty, like it may not have happened: this might just be a dream. You think, “I’ve had bad dreams where I got fired before, right? Maybe this is just one of those dreams and now I have to wake up.”

And then it becomes real.

Your mind is molasses. The thoughts come slower than you had hoped they would for a meeting with the CEO. Except for the fear. The fear moves fast.

You realize you’ll have to cancel the dinner plans you had because it’s an unknown amount of money, and in the last two minutes you’ve become acutely aware of your bank account.

You should call people and…well, you’re not really sure if you should tell them or ask for advice or even if you can get the words out without crying again.

You should tell your parents, let them know that this happened, and that you’re going to be trying your best in the coming months, but you might call them and be sad sometimes, and that they should be prepared to hear their son be sad.

A perceptive coworker may have noticed you packing up your belongings and walking out, and pesters the HR person who was escorting you: “what’s happening? Why?” Neither of you can say anything: the HR rep for legal reasons; you for other, more complicated and alien reasons. You’re happy to hear the indignance in his voice, but you also realize the chatter is drawing more attention to you and your box of former desk toys.

As the door to the office comes closer, you try to flick back through everything:

What about the lunch I had brought that day? (Leave it—forfeit the Tupperware)

Can I recover any of my work on the company Google Drive? (Hard no)

Did I govern myself proudly in the meeting where I got fired? (No, but it’s okay, nobody’s first time is pretty)

Can I say goodbye to anybody? (No- possibly one of the cruelest things we do to people leaving a company)

When you emerge, and the door shuts behind you, and your coworker is sitting there with you while you think and cry, pretending that he’s just out here on his smoke break, your mind is racing but empty.

You cry, and you cry some more. You should have stolen some tissues.

Eventually, you’ll get it together enough to thank him, and say you’ll be okay, and you need to make some phone calls. He goes back inside with a lingering glance, leaving you to some surprisingly blissful loneliness. You make your calls. They help

There’s papers to sign, a severance-for-NDA swap to consider, COBRA to finagle, but before that you go to the park and you drink a beer, because you’re actually out at 3PM and it’s curiously a lovely day.

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