Most of the time, a broken heart is associated with a tough breakup. But for me, no relationship I’ve ever had was as hard to lose as my relationship with my job. I was a proud (but incredibly stressed) employee at my former workplace for years, but that all changed when I was fired one day. Even though I’ve since moved on to bigger and better things, I’ll never forget just how much it hurt to lose a job I’d loved so much.
I’d given it everything I had.
I’m not a workaholic, but I do pour myself into everything I do. My job was a huge part of my life. I took pride in what I did, and I had big goals planned for my future with the company. When I got fired, it felt like everything I’d done had just gone to waste, like years of throwing my heart and soul into my workplace had been flushed down the drain.
It felt like getting out of an abusive relationship.
I would never claim the be the perfect employee, but I know that my lackluster performance towards the end of my employment was a direct result of the toxic environment my coworkers and I were subjected to. We were all working insane hours for a boss who really took advantage of us and only gave negative feedback. After I was “let go”, I knew that I was better off away from that place, but I also experienced a lot of the lasting effects I’d felt when I’d gotten out of an emotionally abusive relationship years prior… and it wasn’t a good feeling.
I couldn’t stop freaking out about what I did wrong.
When I was given the reasons for why I was fired, I couldn’t get them out of my head. My brain wouldn’t focus on all the great things I’d done for my (former) place of employment — it just repeated all the negative feedback I’d ever received over and over and over again. It’s no wonder I had such a hard time picking myself back up.
I didn’t know what to do with myself.
For years, I’d spent my mornings, afternoons, and nights completely focused on my work. When I woke up the day after being fired, I felt lost. I didn’t know what to do. I applied for new jobs, obviously, but just like you miss texting your partner after you break up, I found myself missing the little everyday things I’d grown so accustomed to doing at work.
I felt like a failure.
It’s one thing when you don’t try and then things inevitably fall apart, but it hurts on a whole other level when you do everything you can and you still get knocked down. After I got the boot, I couldn’t help but wonder that if I’d given my all and it still wasn’t good enough, was I just destined to fail for the rest of my life? I should’ve known that better things were on the horizon, but in the moment, all I could think about was how unworthy I was as an employee.
I felt like there was a hole in my life.
After I’d broken up with past boyfriends, I always felt a void that they’d left behind. The same was true when I lost my job. There was a gigantic emotional space that my job had once filled. It just the work itself, but the goofy conversations I’d shared with my coworkers and the satisfaction I got out of knowing I’d successfully completed a project. With all of that gone, I felt as though a part of me had been ripped out.
I was humiliated.
This was the first time I’d ever been fired, and for a perfectionist like me, it was super embarrassing. I didn’t want to tell anyone what had happened because it meant admitting that I’d messed up so badly that my boss thought I wasn’t even worth trying to “fix.” I’d never experienced something like this before, and it was undoubtedly the most gutting part of the whole process.
I became paranoid.
It’s weird that a place of employment could give you trust issues, but that’s exactly what happened to me. Because I’d never gotten any warning that I’d messed up enough to put my job on the line, getting fired came as a complete surprise to me. Even as I moved on and found other jobs, I always wanted to check in with my new bosses to make sure that I was doing a good job, that I wasn’t going to be dealing with the blow of being fired all over again on any given day. I began to feel crazy, like a girl who constantly goes through her boyfriend’s phone because her ex cheated on her. Even when I had no reason to be worried about my employment status, I still steeled myself every day for the possibility that every day might be my last day at work.
I lost so much more than just a job.
Even when the work was unbearable at my ex-job, I still felt fulfilled by it. When I got fired, I didn’t just lose my source of income — I lost the coworkers who had become my friends and the sense of accomplishment I received after hours and hours of hard work. When all of that was stripped away, I felt like a shadow of my former, employed self.
I had to start from scratch.
When I’d left previous jobs before, I always had something else lined up. I was never left treading water in the middle of the ocean. It was different when I got fired, though. Suddenly, I had to scramble to apply for any job that might take me, and I really had to pay attention to how much I was spending. Feeling like I had no foundation to build from was terrifying and horrible, and I never want to be in that position again.
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