From Fired to Fired Up
By Breanna Camarillo
I recently got fired from an awesome job.
Yeah, I just put that front and center, but you have to do that when it’s the most important part of the story. I ask you though to stick around for the rest of the journey, because getting the axe is turning out to be one of the best things to ever stomp on my ego.
So at this point, particularly for those of you who have found yourself “let go,” you are assuredly feeling that bit of nausea at the positive spin you know I am placing on what can easily be one of the worst things to happen in a person’s adult life. Fret not, I haven’t forgotten the day I heard the F-word. I handled myself with the opposite of optimism (and grace, to be honest). I sobbed uncontrollably in front of my boss (oh, and the owner of the company) upon receiving the sucker-punch news. I cried walking past Senators who I have interviewed throughout my six years as a political reporter, and sniffled miserably as I moped toward baristas who have taken dozen of my coffee orders. No one was spared in my moment of mass humiliation.
But no matter how much it hurts in that moment, a person can’t cry forever. I made it home, swapped work gear for sweats, and collapsed onto the bed. I took the time to allow myself to wrap my head around what just happened. I took solace in that inevitable fact that despite the trauma of it all, a person can’t cry forever.
When I was in journalism school at MSU almost a decade ago, my solid self-esteem stemmed directly from my personal achievements. I followed the rules, worked hard, and emerged on graduation day a respected student with honors. I had the support of professors and peers to help me continue forward in this competitive field, but those hammer-dropping nay-sayers were always in the backdrop. It’s a tough time, and we all feel the strain; many attempted to convince me that, despite a clear talent, I could never deal with the hours or the workload or the stress (I’m not sure where the jobs are that don’t harbor such risks). But at the time, negativity pushed me to work harder, it made me stronger. As my career ambitions settled into a steady job, I somehow lost track of that tenacity. It wasn’t until I received the verbal pink slip that I was reminded of the negative energy – and the fight it can light in us.
Don’t get me wrong, there were other times where I’ve had search for that spark. Several jobs since graduation have been left behind for one reason or another. Maybe the hours were too long after having a baby or the pay was a bit too meager…but I always worked hard to find the next steps. There were times when those moves felt like failure – maybe everyone who warned me about this career was right? (They weren’t.) But what made that “failure” easier to handle than my current downward spiral was choice; I chose to leave. I had the luxury of soul searching, talking through it, and leaving only when I felt ready.
Being booted from this job had left me unaware of what the next step was. I didn’t know what I was looking for because I believed I had already found it. This “lost in space” phase gave me a new strain of hard work running through my veins. I found solutions in unexpected places and improved my “hustle” (a.k.a. my willingness to do just about anything legal for money).
When my boss sat me down across from him at his desk a few weeks ago and said “we’re going to have to let you go” it was a complete shock. I was good at my job. At times, I was fantastic. Not perfect, I’ve had bouts with medical issues and taken a few days off for the kid-issues and vacations, but I felt my job security was, in fact, secure. It’s a hard lesson to learn when you realize no one has their permanent place carved in stone (well, not before it’s too late to appreciate it).
So am I angry still? Do I feel a twinge of insecurity following my first firing? Yes and yes. But I had to revert back to those insights, that fighter’s confidence, and the do-whatever-it-takes hustle. Life isn’t as linear as we would always prefer, but that may be the best part for those of us feeling this way. It’s all a detour; moments like these are a fork in the road that didn’t appear on the map. We don’t need to throw our inner guidance to the wind, but we have to be resilient in moments like these. It’s a sign of our character, and digging deep to find the next step when the road seems to end is crucial.
While it’s a bit trite, the first step of clarity focused on looking at what I actually wanted from my career, examining the question of this vile day being a part of my “meant to be.” It sank in during the following few weeks: I was burning out at my job. Admittedly, I often felt I wasn’t giving my kids the support they needed. I could finally see that the management structure drove me insane as the years went on. Frankly, the job was dreadfully boring at times. I realized I would have left eventually, just not at the time it happened. (The truth is that I probably never would have had the guts to leave on my own.) I was attached to the status, to telling people my job title, and to the perks that came with it. That’s not a reason to stay at a job.
That leads me to the “insight and confidence” portion of my agenda. I reevaluated who I am, and how I see things, to realize that I have been defining myself solely by my accomplishments and titles for too long. I am neither the sum of my grades nor the political stories I write. I needed to step back and find confidence in who I am (a constant work in progress for most of us, I believe).
Lately, I’m volunteering more, investing time with my children, and working hard to keep my marriage strong. I’ve restructured my life around itself for once, not around my career. Working toward a career in freelancing shines new light through a whole new lens. I am able to work on the writing pieces that “speak” to me, and even to write just for the joy of writing! It’s a new opportunity to enjoy everything I write as well as to work for those who appreciate my work. I set my schedule. I can still live my life doing what I love to do. I’m working completely for myself, and I must say, the stellar management is a fine change of pace.
Breanna Camarillo is a bleeding-green Spartan, a journalist, freelance writer, and a “political junkie” with an eye for style and an ear for good music. However, she is most proud of being a mom to some very awesome kids, and a wife to an incredible man. She is also pretty fond of her big brother, Dave Isbell, who thinks she is one of the most intelligent, funny, and curious people he has ever met. You can’t pick your family, but you can pick your friends and Dave is glad to call his baby sister one of his best friends!