It was a Thursday in January, and it was raining. Not that that’s particularly unusual because, hello, I live in Vancouver, but it hadn’t rained that hard in some time and I didn’t dress properly for it. Never mind the fact that I’ve got an umbrella and rainboots — essentials for Vancouver living — but I went without them this day. Instead, I wore a dress I hadn’t worn in awhile, orange with dark blue hearts scattered across it — a dress I had worn on the first day of my job little over a year ago — nylons that I despised because the second you put them on there’s a run in them, and a pair of black pointed shoes with gold buttons. (Later in the morning I’d take the nylons off and go bare-legged because I just couldn’t deal with it anymore, but that’s a minor detail.)
I had been feeling pretty good about work that week; I’d just come back from an almost two week break over the holidays and was looking forward to a new year and having a fresh outlook at my job and it seemed to be going pretty okay. Over my first days back, I’d been tackling things I’d been meaning to get done forever because I just hadn’t really had the time to get done prior, started getting my desk in order, and closed files out of the way. Maybe these things were foreshadowing what was to come, I don’t really know, but I felt accomplished and more confident in my position than I had since I’d started just a year before.
When lunch-time rolled around (as mentioned earlier, I’d taken my nylons off and went bare-legged. Also of note: it was still raining, a lot, but that wasn’t going to stop me), I had plans to meet with a friend at the Pacific Centre food court for lunch. I hadn’t been there in awhile and my friend was working close by; it was convenient and easy and I was looking forward to having a midday date with a good friend.
When I went to leave, bundled up as much as possible, a co-worker who shared the same cubicle space as me looked at me and said, “Take your whole lunch break,” and I replied without hesitation, “Oh, I am,” and smiled wryly. I was notorious for spending my lunches at my desk, working, and never taking the time to give myself a break. This was the first time I’d done that in a really long time; I felt I’d earned this one hour away from the office.
When I got back to the office roughly an hour later, I was in good spirits. The same friend and I had made plans with another friend to go for All-You-Can-Eat sushi that night and I was ecstatic for it. I’d just eaten lunch and there were just a few more hours until the day was over, and all I could think about was the sushi I’d be having later. I forced myself to regain focus in preparation for the afternoon because I had things to do, such as filing and serving documents before 4pm and I wanted to make sure they got done as soon as possible.
And then it happened. The person in charge of HR came to my desk and asked me to come into her office for a minute. I didn’t think much of the gesture, I thought it was to possibly just discuss a file or something that needed to be done. There’s no real way to prepare for something you’re not expecting and I wasn’t prepared, at all. She closed the door and I sat down. I pressed my lips into a forced smile and felt my heart beating rather quickly because no matter the circumstances, closed door meetings are always intimidating; some more than others. She sat at her desk, across from me and folded her hands together.
She began: “So, we’ve come to the decision that you working here just isn’t going to work out long term.”
I was being let go. I’d never had this happen to me before, not once in the six and a half years I’d worked in this field. Every time I’d left a job it was always on my own terms. I felt my eyes bugging and I opened my mouth. I didn’t know what to say, but I had to say something.
“Oh,” I started, “I thought things had been going well this week.”
I was confused and shocked as I played the last few days over in my mind, but I started piecing it all together. My boss had barely spoken to me since the Monday, not since I stepped into his office quickly to ask how the holidays treated him and then he stopped responding to my emails; I recalled closed door meetings when the associate I worked for got back from her holidays just the day before; the same associate had been over-the top-friendly in some of her emails about work I’d done that week. I didn’t think it strange at the time, but it sort of made sense in the end.
I tried making a strong case for myself and my determination to get things in order, but HR advised me that the decision had been made before the week had even begun and that it wasn’t personal or that I didn’t work hard enough. She told me I took it very well and, given the circumstances, I feel like it may have been the best discussion we ever had. I was assured that they’d give me a good reference to future employers and I extended my appreciation towards that. Then, I was handed my employment papers and I went back to my desk to collect my belongings, face flushed and teary-eyed. I knew it was for the best, I just had to keep telling myself that.
The first thing I went for was my iPhone. I had to tell someone, so I texted the same friend I’d had lunch with just a couple of hours before. She was on her way back downtown from North Van and said she could pick me up outside my work. I quickly told the girl who worked in the same cubicle as me what happened, said my goodbyes and left without saying a word to anyone else. I didn’t have anything I wanted to say and I wasn’t going to make a scene. Mostly, I just wanted to get out of there. The shock hadn’t worn off yet and I didn’t know when it would.
When I got downstairs, I noticed that it had been raining harder than it was earlier that afternoon, and even that morning. It felt fitting and I didn’t mind, but I was grateful my friend had offered to drive me home. When she texted me to tell me she had just pulled up, I darted out as quickly as possible and got in the car. She asked if I was okay and looked at me like she expected me to start crying, but I didn’t. I started laughing instead. The shock was still there, but in that moment I knew that it was for the best. I just had to keep telling myself that.