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EVERYONE HAS A STORY TO TELL

THE BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO GETTING FIRED: SARAH McLEAN

Samantha Wills

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We learn from failure, not from success
— Bram Stoker

After landing an amazing job in my chosen industry earlier this year, I thought I had the world at my feet. I had big plans, as per usual, and had moved from Sydney to Melbourne to pursue what I thought would be my last stepping stone before taking myself overseas to explore my career internationally.

I was a proud person, who at a young age, had achieved a considerable amount without possessing a University degree or a private school education. I knew what I wanted in life, and for the last two years, I had conquered a lot. I worked hard and won races and got jobs and gained praise in an industry that I cared about. To an extent, I thought that I had "made it" professionally, and in some cases I had. I was well on my way to world domination.

Or so I thought.

Much to my dismay I lost said job recently, which came as a huge shock to my determined and career-orientated self. You see, I very much believed that my job defined me as a person, which I now understand is not necessarily the case. I am now learning to identify without a career - which has been one of my biggest struggles yet.

I spent the first week on the couch, cuddled up in a blanket staring out the window, sporting hair that hadn’t been washed in 5 days and an empty tummy pierced with an ache for self-loathing and no energy or desire to eat. Most of my mornings were spent nursing hangover after hangover as I embarrassingly let my friends witness a very emotionally unstable version of myself; the one who enjoyed sculling drinks, crying into the arms of strangers and kicking things over in public.  

I knew it was serious when I realised that these things really didn’t bother me. My pre-job loss self cared about her image and strove for perfection. In an industry that is so heavily based on what one “has” as opposed to who they are as a person, I was at a loss. All I wanted to do was to let loose and get drunk. I wanted to angry dance and kiss boys and get high and pretend that I was an ok person. It became a survival tactic for me in social situations. "Anything to put a smile on my face" I would tell myself, as I drank far beyond my capacity. I had such a desire to feel “ok” that it almost took over and I began to forget what that even felt like.

As far as I knew my career that I had cherished so much was over before it really began. I cried myself to sleep, and cried in the shower, and cried on the phone to my parents and friends – in the hope that someone would tell me what I should do with my life. My sense of direction was well and truly gone.

I found putting a smile on my face to be the worst part of the whole process because I was faking it. Every darn time. I didn’t want to be around people, and I certainly didn't want the chatting and laughing and hugging my friends, all the while biting back tears every second that I was around someone. Or answering questions about whether I was ok because let’s be real, who the hell answers truthfully when asked that question? I certainly don’t, and didn’t, which I’m sure made everything worse.

I felt such utter humiliation, and couldn’t bare asking for help or guidance from anyone. I believed that it was truly my fault and that I alone had the responsibility to get myself back up and running – so that’s what I did, for a short time only.

Two weeks afterwards, I was on the rebound and interviewing again for jobs, and for a little while, I began to feel hopeful again. I was meeting nice people and interviewing for good jobs. It wasn’t until I was asked that hefty question -  “so why did you leave your previous job?” that everything began to tumble back down again.

Before I knew it, I had untangled all of the momentary good that I had achieved for myself and was facing knock back after knock back, on top of being fired in the first place. No one wanted me to work for them, and to be honest I probably wouldn’t have employed me either. I wasn’t my usual talkative self in job interviews and began forgetting how to answer their questions, which I soon found to be impossible to answer. The panic for my future started to set in once again.

It made me feel unworthy and miserable and what followed was a domino effect of a terribly low point in my professional and emotional state. I soon had to apply for financial assistance from Centrelink, which I felt to be a total kick in the guts. You know that winded feeling of sickness that builds up in your tummy and feels as though it might just start to fizzle out like a volcanic eruption? Well, that was me.

I started to auction off my shoes and clothes on Facebook Buy, Swap and Sell groups just to buy dinner and pay my bills. Many of which had sentimental value and held a certain fascination with who I was before being fired. I took so much pride in what hung in my wardrobe, and for some reason, the aching feeling in my stomach didn’t care for them anymore. I hated looking at them. Hundreds of dollars made up of different fabrics just hanging there, while I dug around each handbag searching for change. It made me sick.

I worried about everything. Would I get another job? Would I have to pursue an alternate career path? Had I shot myself in the foot by taking this particular job in the first place? So many worries. So many questions. And, so few answers.

It’s so instrumentally hard for me to write these things down. I’ve kept this journey so close to my chest. So close in fact, that it embarrasses me to know that there are friends and family members of mine who probably have no idea that this even happened.

I’d lied about how my work is going to numerous people for weeks on end. There was a constant loop of false and evasive answers for whenever I was asked about my job - “It’s been busy” – I’d say – “This time of year is particularly hectic.” Or I’d just ignore their question altogether so I wouldn't have to rehash what had happened.

For some reason, there’s so much social shame when it comes to telling people how you feel. And for that I am sorry, however, I hope that sharing this will help me to gain some closure and more importantly help someone else who may be going through something similar.

You see my friends, the thing is – we are not defined by what we have or what we do but merely who we are. I only hope that other young people learn this or have already done so. I’ve been weighing up so much regret in regards to this situation. Do I regret moving to Melbourne for the job? Do I regret leaving my stable lifestyle that I had built in Sydney for something that had instrumentally fucked me over in the end?

Well, the answer is and remains no. No, I don’t regret taking a risk and uprooting my life for my career. I don’t regret being fired and I certainly don’t regret the choices I’ve made thus far. I’ve learnt that life doesn’t revolve around a job or what you have, whether it be money or clothing. I’m glad I understand this now and I’ve promised myself that I won’t lose sight of this realisation.

I sit here now finishing this piece, almost two months on from being fired from my last job. I’m standing tall and have well and truly garnered my passion for my career back. My goals are set and I’m learning not to put pressure on myself for anything. I’m going with the flow and seeing what happens. For the first time in my entire life, I feel carefree and somewhat proud of how I have resurrected myself. Although, it was total touch and go for a while there.

I’m young and I’m going to be ok.