Dear Melanie, after what happened at the office last week, we're scheduling in-person one on ones with the entire team to discuss next steps. Please let me know which timeslot works best for you tomorrow: noon, 1:00, 2:00, or 3:00PM.
I looked down at my phone to read the email.
Immediately it felt weird in my stomach.
We were told we'd be off for two weeks after what happened. Especially me, being there the night of the fire. And now I was expected to make time within a day?
Was it weird or was I pissed off? Or both? Why were we meeting 1:1 and not as a team?
1:00PM works for me I replied.
Trying to shake the feeling and go about my day as planned, I got out of my car and walked into the library. Usually, the bright colors, the new book covers, the wall of goings on – usually they’d capture my attention and I’d be enthralled by a land of wonder and mystery at the library. But the feeling in my belly remained, and I glided through the library in a trance.
Before I knew it, I was back home. The clink of my seatbelt as I unbuckled me brought me back to the moment. I’d been stuck in my thoughts trying but failing to shove off the feelings inside of me. Why did this seem so off?
I wanted to get out of my own head so badly. This company had been irking me for months now. They didn’t deserve to have my peace. They didn’t deserve to make me spin.
But I couldn’t shake it. The feeling was crawling through my body, tangled around every vein in my body. Unprompted, deep, heavy, frustrated sighs kept releasing from my chest, barely easing the tension.
I was doing my best not to gaslight myself into thinking this was nothing. I was starting to trust myself – my body – lately as she’d often proven right even if my mind had not yet caught up.
And my body was certainly trying to tell me something.
What was it?
So I texted Tamia and Sabeen, my two trusted colleagues, asking what they thought of the email.
What email? was the response I was met with. From both of them.
At first, I relished in the fact that I trusted myself and knew something was off. But that feeling quickly fizzled as I realized this wasn’t looking good for me.
Why would my CEO want to talk to me? Why would she lie that she was to be meeting with the whole team when that clearly wasn’t true? Why did it have to be in person? And again, so short notice???? That’s honestly just rude.
“Melanie?” my wife said, pulling me from my thoughts.
I filled her in. I told her I knew I was being dramatic, but there was something weird going on.
Unprompted and without any more information than I had, she says “Do you think they’re doing layoffs?”
There it was.
Unfortunately. But there it was. A puzzle piece clicked into place in my mind. And I knew she was right. I was being fired.
Rage took the place of uncertainty that had filled my body. And now I was fire hot with anger.
Not even two weeks ago that heat had been the actual fire that blazed in the building before Sabeen and me. The fire whose flames licked the hallway where we stood, me calling 911, her entering the door code, and then the both of us grabbing hold of our ashened guest and pulling them the blackened building.
You’re heroes! they said as smoke was still clearing from the building.
And now? And now I was about to be fired? How could they? What right did they have firing me?
Sure, I’d been extremely vocal about how I felt that we could do better as a team, how we could stand to be treated better and with more respect by management, how our ideas were condescended and then subsequently gaslit.
But they had told me to be honest. That we were mutuals. That there was no hierarchy.
They told me they valued my honesty and thoughts and opinions. I trusted them.
And now they were firing me for being outspoken.
I was spinning again.
“Melanie, you don’t know for sure that they’re gonna fire you. Just try to calm down. Maybe do something to channel your feelings. Paint?”
She wasn’t wrong, my wife. She was right, as always. Unfortunately, as I reminded her, she was also probably right when she brought up lay offs.
“I don’t think that’s enough information to assume you’re being fired…”
The responses from my trusted colleagues were of no help. They didn’t get the email. I was in this alone.
Knowing and doing what’s best for me has always been two different things. I knew everyone was right about needing to breathe. To not let myself go down a rabbit hole of terrible What Ifs. To calm down.
So I begrudgingly made some lavender tea. Freshly ground lavender from my garden with a spoonful of local honey. It was delicious, it was. But it did not help.
The feeling in my stomach, in my body, was still present.
I sucked down the first cup of tea. And then another.
Good. Would have to remember this for another time. But currently, it wasn’t helping.
I grabbed my phone from the counter. I have to text her now or I’m going to lose my nerve.
Hey, I can still make the 1:00 slot work tomorrow. But. I started to spin out a little because I hate the unknown. Am I being laid off? I’ll be okay if I am it’s just not knowing is making me spiral into all the worst possibilities. I don’t mind being told over text and that way I can come in less nervous tomorrow and have some peace of mind tonight. I would really appreciate just ripping off the bandaid. Thanks.
I held my breath as I sent the text to my CEO.
I stared at my blue text message on the screen. I stared as it confirmed delivery. I stared, knowing I couldn’t undo it. I stared willing her to text me back.
Nothing. Minutes went by like hours. I knew I needed to distract myself. So I put my phone on the highest volume and went to the bedroom to keep myself busy.
Nearly two hours went by where I didn’t very successfully distract myself. But here it was, finally. The *ding* that was the incoming text from my CEO. Here was my answer:
I appreciate your candor, and since you requested info by text I can do that. The good news is you’ll receive your vacation payout, the bad news is that it’s due to lay-offs, I’m sad to say.
Humph. She didn’t even have the guts to say it. To tell me I was actually being laid off.
A wave of feelings rushed over me.
In a way, again, I was proud of myself for trusting my body and the weird feeling I had even though everyone was telling me it was gonna be okay.
But the rage was also present. She appreciates my candor?!?! She does NOT! That’s why they’re firing me!
For an hour I huffed and puffed and stomped around and pointed fingers and called them names and said how much I hated them all and listed every stupid thing they’d ever said and done.
But after all that, my body was beginning to tire. All that energy and frustration and emotion that was all wound up in my body began to release. And as I started to finally calm down and accept my fate, my wife reminded me gently “Melanie, you did say you wanted to leave by your birthday…”
Today was the day after I turned 27. I sighed. She wasn’t wrong.
She never is.
And with that, I knew it was all going to be okay. Because the truth is, I did say that I wanted to be gone by my birthday. I had been frustrated with them for far too long, and now, yet again, they were showing their true selves to me and it was nothing that served me.
So. Here I was. Unemployed. But also at the beginning of the first day of the rest of my life.
And in that moment, a new feeling entered my body. And that feeling was hope. Hope and excitement for the future I’d work hard to create for myself. One that made me happy and fulfilled and surrounded by people who truly valued me.
So there it is, I journaled before bed that night, I got laid off, but I feel in my gut that it’s an opportunity for something even better – it’s swings and roundabouts.