I got fired. I’m my own boss, so it didn’t come as a total surprise. Still, it hurts. I get it though. I’m taking too many sick days and not producing well enough when I do show up. Plus, I’m critical of my only employee. Conundrum much? That’s our bumper sticker, but there’s no our in I. I spend hours, HOURS, inside my head and when that space is foggy, stuffy, clouded with the occasional hacking, it gets dark. I can’t work in the dark. In fact, I’ve always been a little afraid of the dark. I tried to work through it with my therapist, but I think we lost track of this particular fear and moved on before dissecting it much. It’s hard to balance the things that make me uniquely off. Anyway, I shouldn’t say I got fired. It’s more like a demotion. I got demoted and I agree with the decision. My new title is not writer, but person in the basement who writes. Picture George Costanza from Seinfeld in that episode where he refuses to leave his job, only without the yelling. I’m not about the yelling. Blow nose. Sneeze. Blow my nose again.
My boss walked in on me documenting “the boys’” behavior in between accounts of how I cut my fruits. The boys are what we call our two male cats, Andy (or Andrew) and Jackson (or Jackson Apple Bee). Anyway, I got written up for going off task.
“Why would anybody want to read about your cats?” Boss Lady asks.
“Good point,” I say before offering to write my own self up for wasting time. “Am I onto something with my fruit-slicing?” I ask only because she hasn’t mentioned it, but not because I honestly believe I am onto anything.
“Maybe with the mango cuts, but everything else is a no-brainer.”
Interesting. Proving my point that I can’t be one-hundred percent accurate when casting judgment. Oh, but judge on anyway! I always say.
My point is that I showed up sick for work and first I got written up and then I got demoted because it turns out, I don’t work well sick. That’s part of the reason I count on books that talk about writing to push me along, like Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. I keep my pocket-size copy within reaching distance and grab it when I’m stuck. I have an idea. I’ll open Writing Down the Bones and whatever I land on, I’ll quote: “It is very difficult for us to value and comprehend our own lives.” I mean value and comprehend are some pretty heavy words, Natalie. Also, my tummy is thinking about getting hungry. Plus, in five minutes, my Fitbit is going to jiggle letting me know that I haven’t put in 250 steps this hour and I only have ten minutes left if I’m gonna git-er-done.
Here’s the thing about demoting yourself, it decreases expectations. For example, I’m rolling out my next big project like a trainwreck.
When I sit to write, I like to think first about all the things I should be doing like watering houseplants or brushing the cats. I put a load of laundry in before I even sit down just to feel accomplished. Dishes get cleaned before seeing the bottom of my sink. When I actually sit to write, I tend to veer off into what’s happening around me. I can hear Jackson’s collar hitting the side of his ceramic food bowl in between crunches. He’s on the other side of the wall. These are the kinds of narrations I’ve been written up for, but now that I’m demoted, I feel less pressure to perform. Jackson saunters into the one patch of sunlight and is licking his face. I’m surprised how far his tongue can reach around his face and whiskers before he brings his paw up to lick and wipe. He’s very concerned with the area above his eyes. Paw lick, face swipe, over and over. Now, he’s stretching on his side to get the full effect of the sun’s rays. His eyes shut halfway like he’s drugged and the very tip of his grey and black striped tail flicks slowly. We have an off-beat rhythm going between my fingers and the keyboard and his tail on the floor. I’m losing my mind.
Boss Lady, you try living in your head, working from your head, feedback given in your head, and come out feeling somewhat normal. You try and feel sane when your employer is breathing down your neck and your office mate is covered in fur, licking his face for hours.
I don’t say those things out loud though. Imagine how loca en la cabasa that would be.
I’ve been told that I think too much in a variety of settings. Once, I asked a question in grad school and the professor responded: “We’ve got a thinker.” I still don’t know how to take that response. I mean, you’d think the one place to think is grad school, but who knows? Apparently, I think too much. I’m sure that’s how I got myself fired. I overanalyzed my behavior to the point where I was worthy of a write-up, a demotion, and finally a flat-out firing.
At my old job, I knew what to do. Cheering on students and helping them to overcome any obstacle was the best part of my workload. I can remember sitting across from a student so lost in despair, so heavy with adulting 101 that the world really did stop spinning to land smack on his back. I go around my desk, look right into his chocolate eyes and say the truth.
“You got this.”
“You think so?” He says trying to erase his snot with the back of his hand before I notice.
“I know so,” I say with such conviction he grins down at me and nods his head.
I got to these turning points with students because I did know it.
I never would have been fired if I had stuck with EOP. I can say that with extreme confidence, but then I wasn’t my own boss. I had a boss and a boss’s boss, and a boss’s boss’s boss, before the big boss.
Now that I’m considering my work history before this writing gig, I’m thinking about sticking up for myself. Maybe I can’t be the same vivacious cheerleader, but certainly I can claim some worth as a valuable employee. I mean, before I became my own boss, I never was denied sick days. In fact, I was never denied time-off for any reason. I wasn’t belittled for the work I completed, no matter how sloppy or better it could have been. I wasn’t dragged over the coals for stuttering through my words in meetings or taking long lunches. I wasn’t dragged over the coals for anything. I was praised. I was appreciated. I showed up and most days did more than enough. I still do, but here’s the thing. I am not praised or appreciated. My furry office mates don’t even look at me. The fact that I’ve documented this is probably proof that I think too much. So, I bring out the professor who made the class laugh at me with her statement, “We have a thinker.”
I’m starting to question my management style. I only have one employee and it turns out I’m not treating her well. I fired her twice in one week, but this time, when I was just about to overthink my writing, I cut myself short and overthought my managing. I think I fired the wrong employee. Sometimes it’s the Boss Lady who has to go, so the worker can get to work. Maybe nobody needs to get fired. Maybe I can return to the drawing board and accept the notion that “it is very difficult for us to value and comprehend our own lives.”