Losing my job wasn’t part of my plan for 2020. But, yesterday, I got a call from my boss. She tried to tell me, in tears, that my contract wasn’t being renewed because of COVID-19.
The worst thing about losing a job that you love isn’t the loss itself. So many people have been fired from their jobs during the COVID crisis – no matter how unjustly, how good they were at what they did – that I was already half-expecting to lose mine. But you want to know what I hate the most, right now?
Everyone around me telling me things like “don’t be sad, this will bring about great things!”
We have this saying in Italian – and I swear I’ve heard it at least twenty times since yesterday – that I would translate quite literally into ‘a door closes, a gate opens.’ It’s basically the standard phrase you say to someone who just lost their job, closed an important chapter in their lives, or missed a big opportunity.
So many people have absent-mindedly told me that today. I get that they are trying to cheer me up, but I should be allowed to just… grieve in peace for a day. My real friends know that. They’re the ones who were on the phone with me for hours as I tried to hold it together and then ended up weeping on my kitchen floor. The ones who would’ve run here to hold me in their arms for hours if not for these damned social distancing measures brought about by Coronavirus.
“You’re brilliant, you’ll find another job in no time!” Oh, really? The situation in our country is so dire that a place where I’ve been for 5 years literally couldn’t afford to pay me. The news talks about how our economy may never recover from this. And you think a better place is going to hire me in two days? I get that you’re trying to help, but it’s not working.
Right now, I don’t want to hear about how I can “do better than this.” I don’t care if the people who love me thought this wasn’t the best place for me. I don’t care if they perceived I was being treated unfairly and worked too much and got too little in return. I don’t care if it would stress me out to the point that my physical (and mental, of course) health was being affected.
I loved my job. I loved my colleagues, I loved the people I interacted with every day. And – not to be overly dramatic – I know that I will miss it for the rest of my life.
The worst thing is that they downplay what this experience meant for me. Because my company and job were something foreign to them, something they simply don’t understand, they deliberately ignore that this was serious. They knew that I gave it my heart and soul, and they didn’t like that. I feel like they were just praying and hoping I would lose the job, simply because it’s not what they wanted for me. Not what they expected me to do.
“You were made for greater things.” How do you define great? And by what parameter my position apparently wasn’t good enough for them? Shouldn’t I choose what great is for me? All they did the entire time I worked there was how much better I could do. How much more I could earn and how much more respect and recognition I would get elsewhere.
I started this full-time job exactly 8 days after graduating from college. My supervisor saw my potential and decided to invest in me. I started out as an assistant – not an intern – and less than a year later I was promoted to coordinator. In one year, I became my starting position’s supervisor. I had people who reported to me and immense responsibilities. The people above me didn’t just do that randomly. They saw how much I was worth and they made decisions based on my value.
I became a real professional, respected by my peers and superiors in my company, and still, my family couldn’t see that. To this day, they still don’t understand what it is that I did every day. Some of them never bothered to ask. They just knew that I was at work for too many hours of the day and worked overtime every week and wasn’t getting paid enough. They didn’t care that the job fulfilled me and that it made me a real functioning adult.
They just saw how tired I was, and how my health wasn’t improving – not that I ever complained – but they disregarded how happy I was, no matter how many times expressed it. I was content. I told them a million times that I wanted to continue down this path, and all I got in response was this haunting litany: “you can do better than that.”
Losing my job broke my heart. I knew it could happen with COVID and, of course, it sent me down a spiraling vortex of anxiety: what will I do now? How can I find another job in this crisis? Should I apply for state aid, since I’m unemployed?
I am fortunate enough to have a roof over my head, savings, and parents who will always support me economically no matter what. That is a privilege I do not take for granted. But I just wish they gave me compassion. I don’t want to hear about how I was meant to do greater things. I don’t want to hear about all the companies I should apply for and how much they would pay me right now.
For one day, one day only, I want to be left alone and allowed to grieve. Mourn what I lost. The everyday routine, my colleagues whom I love dearly and consider some of my closest friends. I spent five years of my life at this institution. It’s only fair to request one day to cry.