When I was in my early 20’s I thought I was going to be doing amazing things that I could brag about, like being a New York Times best selling author, or a backpacker, or some type of humanitarian. I was full of hopes and dreams. So when I got fired from one of my first jobs out of college I literally thought the world was over.
My Eye Dr. was my first job after college. At that time I wanted to work in television production and become a writer. The previous year I interned at WETA a local television station in Virginia. This was after my internship at Disney which I write about here. This was also around the time when I met my ambitious friend from college who recruited me to join her with her start-up production company. It was the perfect opportunity for me because I genuinely loved working in production. We were focused on building our reputation so in other words weren’t making money. I needed to find a way to make a living.
Before I graduated I was so anxious about what I would do. I had friends who already had internships in their field and I was afraid because I didn’t have connections. I had extreme anxiety about applying to jobs and doing job interviews. So I applied to optometrist offices because I was confident in my abilities since that was one of my previous jobs. Also, I needed a job where I could move around and not be stuck at a desk. I had so many options outside of that field, but I wasn’t thinking outside the box. I was stuck in my dream of being a TV producer. Before I could do that I had to focus on making some steady income. A few months after I graduated from college I got hired at My Eye Doctor which was supposed to be temporary but got cut shorter than I thought.
My long term plan was to work there, keep working at the start-up, build my camera and video editing skills, and make the money I could until I could make money doing what I loved. I got hired at My Eye Doctor to do a simple job. The job I was actually doing was more than I expected and I couldn’t keep up. I had to answer the phone and talk to people- I’m not a people’s person. Not only were they expecting me to talk to people, but I also had to smile and be happy. At the same time I had to be organized while learning how to check insurance – it was all new to me. On top of that, some of my co-workers didn’t do their jobs fully putting more work on me. I remember a couple of weeks after the new manager was hired I was called into the office with the owner and the new manager to “lay me off”. They fired me and fronted.
Mind you when I was training they cut my it short. The most important part of my training was supposed to take at least two days I got a crash course in a couple of hours. My grandmother died during that time and I had to take bereavement which was part of the reason they cut my training short. In situations like these, you either rise to the occasion or fail. If my life depended on that job I would have succeeded, but I failed. I knew it was coming, I felt it in every fiber in my body. Or maybe it was the fact that the new manager was training someone to do my job while I was still there. How disrespectful is that? Besides that, something was off about that morning. I felt it in the air. They called me to the office. They gave me some type of speech and the whole time I was thinking cut to the chase. Don’t cry Jahmella. Don’t let them see how you are affected. Don’t be weak. After they finished holding me hostage with their lame words – I grab my stuff and walked out calmly. I hopped on a random metro train just to take a ride. Then came the tears. No matter how hard I tried to hold them back, I couldn’t control them.
This was not the year for my self-esteem. The situation that made me move to Texas (I wrote about it somewhat here) was about to come to head. I still had my locs down to my back and didn’t cut my hair yet. I took a hit to my self-esteem because my ability to do a good job was tied to who I thought I was. What they didn’t know was that if they gave me some more time I would have picked up the pieces. They also didn’t realize that I clocked out, but stayed late and got there early without clocking in to catch up. I was trying really hard but that still wasn’t enough. They needed a seasoned worker, not a 20 something fresh out of college. So I didn’t rise to the occasion like Andy did in The Devils wear Prada (the greatest movie of all time, let’s argue). I mean Andy killed it as far as dealing with intense situations goes. I was more like the other interns who Andy replaced – minus the “many girls would kill for that job”.
I spent a couple of months licking my wounds until my mom started pushing me to work again. I got hired at Target and even though they told me I moved slow, I didn’t care or take it personally because I knew I was thorough and reliable. I was going to get the job done, do it right, follow-through, and not only show up on time but actually show up. That’s what made me a valuable employee. I remember when I was coming up it was all about finding what you love. I wanted to work at a place I love working because I wanted to be enthusiastic about going to work. I went from that idea to just pick a job already. And that’s how I became a teacher. Don’t get me wrong I love teaching, it just wasn’t my first choice. It took working in retail for a few years that motivated me to get in education.
I was taught to do things that people will praise me for. Be a doctor or lawyer they said. Start a business they said. Be an engineer they said but nobody talks about the regular jobs. Most of us in the working class have very ordinary jobs. For the longest time I wanted to be extraordinary. I wanted praise from people. I wanted my family to brag about me. At that time getting fired was the worst thing that could happen to me. After it happened it took me some time to find confidence again, but I came to the point where I realized I still had breath in my body and I was still healthy. Even though I failed at that job I was still capable of doing a lot so I just focused on my strengths. Skip several years later and now I’m an international teacher reevaluating my life again, but this time from a good place.