This is the story of how I got fired and it how my life changed for the better.
I have been working in the mental health field since I was 20. In my eight-year career, I worked in an alternative school, at the Department of Social Services, at an inpatient addictions facility, at a co-occurring day program for women, and a transition age youth group home. Each job has had its rewarding moments, but towards the end (the group home), I started experiencing burnout pretty heavily. This job required more of my energy than any job previously, and it started taking a toll on me within a month of being there.
In my time at this program, I’d been cursed at, told I deserved to be raped and murdered, almost been stabbed, stood between a client wielding a knife and a guy she had gone on one date with, been accused of dealing drugs to clients, been accused of doing drugs while on the job, had doors slammed in my face countless times, screamed at the top of my lungs to end fights between clients, chased a client to prevent her from running into the highway, only to fall down a hill and do major damage to my back, been physically assaulted by a client or two, and been “accidentally” bumped down the stairs by a client.
At the same time, I learned a lot about myself and my level of both patience and compassion. I learned about my own limits. I learned that, while it was detrimental, I can handle a LOT of stress. It wasn’t and entirely negative experience. I had beautiful moments with my clients. I saw clients get jobs. I saw clients go to community college. I saw clients transition out of the program, either to live on their own and work or continue their education at a 4-year university.
The beautiful moments, while few, made all of the bullshit worth it.
My relationship with my job became unhealthy halfway through. My identity melded with the job; I was a counselor and that is the only thing I would ever been and without it I wouldn’t know who I was. My boundaries also weakened during that time; I began to let certain clients get away with bullshit so as to not have to do dreaded paperwork. I bent rules, or selectively followed rules, or blatantly ignored them altogether.
My downfall was not reporting a situation to my supervisor. The next day, I came into work and was promptly called into my supervisor’s office. He explained what had gone on that morning as a result of my lack of communication. It was bad. Not the worst thing I’d ever done on the job, but there was enough stacked against me to make this the final straw.
“What were you thinking?” he asked, giving me some opportunity to clarify the situation. Maybe he hoped I would say something redeeming. Maybe he hoped I would hammer the last nail in my own coffin.
I blamed burnout. I blamed not giving a single semblance of a fuck about the job. I blamed the flawed system. More than anything, I blamed myself. I took complete responsibility for my own actions.
And that is when he called in the head of Human Resources to initiate the termination process.
I handled it as best as possible. I could have screamed. I could have cursed him out. I could have flipped his desk in a moment of blinding rage. I could have called discrimination on some level (For what? I don’t know, but it could have happened). Instead, I preserved my dignity, signed all the exit papers, handed in all official work papers, gave my supervisor my copies of the keys to the houses and made my exit.
I got into my car and promptly had a cry, unleashing every emotion I had held back. But it didn’t last long. I composed myself, turned my car on, and drove off.
Instead of going to my parents’ house, I hit the highway going west to seek comfort from my boyfriend. As I drove, as I shuffled through my music library, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” poured out of my speakers. It may have been the most perfect song to hear at that moment in time. I rolled all of my windows down and sang loudly, my voice booming, feeling every word in the song, even feeling one with the song.
I didn’t want to be fired, per se. But if I had not been let go, I would never have left. I would have subjected myself to the abuse and to the bureaucracy until the end of time.
I made a commitment to myself: the next job I held would not be as taxing. It would not cause physical harm and emotional collapses.
I arrived at my boyfriend’s house in a pleasant mood. I was mildly manic, but oddly content with everything. We ate, we hung out, we had a lot of sex, and we decided that it was time for me to move in. And I did. And it’s been beautiful ever since.
So, once again, beautiful things came out of a terrible situation. And things will continue to be beautiful so long as I make it so. I have a new lease on life, and I feel like I can accomplish anything. I haven’t found stable employment yet, but I’ve worked odd jobs and made money off of my writing. It’s not sustainable, but it’s my choice and it’s all within my control.
I’m mastering my own destiny, one day at a time.