The World of “Lost” Jobs

A friend of mine lost his job a few days ago.  He’s not a close friend, more of an acquaintance, but my heart aches for him anyway.  I lost my job once, almost four years ago.  It still hurts to think about it, although not as much and I don’t think of it as often.

I was working as a teacher.  It was my very first classroom all to myself; I’d been working as an assistant teacher or support staff until then.  Three days before the first day of school, I was hired to teach first grade.  I was ecstatic, and terrified, and I dove in head first and began my “real” teaching career.

There were lots of factors involved in losing that job, and as I look back they swirl in my mind, like the snowflakes in a snow globe that’s just been shaken, and then set right side up.  I remember a poor evaluation by my principal that felt as if it came out of nowhere.  I remember talking with my union rep and deciding to fight the evaluation.  I remember a horrible meeting with the school principal and her accusations of excessive computer use during school hours.  I remember the Friday afternoon when I was called into the principal’s office and told that my contract was not being renewed for the next school year.  I remember coming to school every day after that, determined to finish the year.  I remember my last day, packing up my things and saying goodbye.

The feelings swirl as well, less like a snow globe and more like a hurricane.  Shame.  Fear.  Grief.  Regret.  Questions.  Why did I spend so much time on the computer instead of engaged with the students?  Why wasn’t I any good at the one career I’d chosen and trained for all my adult life?  I had brought my partner and her son to a school event several weeks earlier; was I fired because I was gay?  What was I going to do now?  Why? Why? Why?

I look back today and let everything swirl and rage, then settle again.  I could argue that the loss was the best thing that could have happened to me, because I was able to consider and pursue a career that is a much better fit for me.  I’m a librarian, and I still get to work with kids, but I’m focused on my passion for reading and literature.  All that computer time is now an asset, because I am a research machine.  I am out to my coworkers and work in an inclusive environment, which is more valuable than I could have fully understood or expressed four years ago.

But I also wonder: what would have happened if the principal had decided to renew my contract and give me another shot?  What would have happened if I had been mentored and guided and encouraged for another year?  How would it have impacted how I saw myself as a person, and as a professional, after making a mistake, after failing at something?

I’m sure my friend finds himself in a swirl of emotions and questions at times, and I’m sorry he has to go through that.  I find myself wishing that his employer had taken more time to focus on his strengths and abilities, and then encouraged him to bring even more of himself to his job.  I wish that we as employees were seen less like recyclable plastic water bottles and more like cut crystal, valuable and beautiful and worth the effort.  As someone who now manages other colleagues, I try to remember that a mistake does not mean someone is necessarily in the wrong job, or is “wrong” as a person.  People need encouragement and guidance and support in order to thrive.

But I also believe that a job is part of a path that unfurls slowly and with intention, although it may not be illuminated and clear every step of the way.  Jobs are not “lost,” like car keys or a favorite pen; they are opportunities, offering not just material wealth but also lessons for personal growth, if we choose to learn them.  Every job I’ve ever had has taught me something about myself and the world around me, and I believe that by trusting the path, I will continue to grow.

Welcome back to the world of “lost” jobs, my friend.  I believe in you, and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

1 Comment
  1. Jayne Reply

    I have chosen to believe that everything happens for a reason, Casey. I remember one job at an agency that served people with disabilities. I worked very hard to get better services for the Deaf clients. However, the agency’s understanding of how being deaf affected people was lacking. All disabled people were offered the same services and all were expected to fit the mold. While they provided staff who could sign, but that was as far as they wanted to go. The signing staff did our best to provide more, but without agency support we couldn’t fund the programs that were really needed. I finally walked into my boss’ office and quit. The response was, ” Good, I was getting ready to fire you anyway.” Ouch. Doing what I knew was right upset the administration. So be it. We weren’t a good match and I moved on.

    The last two years I have been threatened by a corporate employer to be fired for not doing part of the job I was hired to do. Being a very good interpreter was only a part of the job. Customer service, which is not my thing, was really the priority. I signed several contracts agreeing to additional training, and doing better. My immediate supervisor and her boss trusted that I had the ability to do the job, and could fix the one issue that was causing problems. They gave me additional training, and gave me time to do better. Last year they even gave me two weeks without pay to get my act together. I really had to spend time with myself to see what I was capable of changing to make the problem go away. That was a very revealing opportunity. The job required top notch customer service: being polite and kind and smiling to every customer regardless of what was happening. And, sometimes what was happening were customers telling me how to do my job, or criticizing my signing skills, or blaming me for miscommunication when they really didn’t provide full information in the first place. I was being asked to ignore all the pain inside when someone “hurt” me. I finally realized all those events were triggering old wounds from childhood when I couldn’t do anything right. Being wrong meant going to my room for extended periods of time, or worse, being whipped with a switch from the lilac bush or a belt. Now, as an adult being told I was wrong brought up all that fear and mental pain. I had to get this under control or loose a full time job and benefits. I got better but not fast enough and earned another complaint and earlier this year was told I either had to leave or only work part-time. Fear this time was loss of insurance, income, respect on the job, and other things I can’t remember right now. AND, the good news is that, God knew best. I can handle the requirements of good customer service in short periods. I am learning to smile all the time (something I discovered I just didn’t do because I never felt there was much to smile about on the job or off), I have enough income, and now I have more time for the other things God would have me do. I still get to do what I do well – interpret – and this particular situation helped me release the fear that the universe didn’t care about me. I was cared for every step of the way.
    As you found an new career path, your true gifts are now available and being shared with others in ways you’d never have found in a classroom. God found a way for you to have what you truly deserve through the loss of one job and stepping into another. I know that your friend has great talents and gifts and in being released from a job that required more that just those gifts there will opportunities to truly share more and more without the stress of other issues. I would assume that the opportunity was there to make changes, just as my supervisor gave me support. Perhaps your friend was like me – simply unable to do all parts of the job full-time. Something had to change. When we are in the wrong place to grow, thrive and bring the world that which we were born to bring, God will find a way to move us into that which is more loving, healthy and beneficial to all. Sometimes the transition is messy and painful. With time the blessing will be evident to all.

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