I’ve encountered a setback in my career. Following the Brexit vote the future financial situation of the small architecture firm that recently hired me has become unstable, and as a result they terminated my probationary contract. This isn’t normally the kind of thing that I would write publicly about, so before I expand on this experience I want to write a little bit about my decision for writing in the first place.
Recently there was a suicide in my hometown. A 23-year old man who was friends with my brother and dating one of my friends from high school was battling depression, and all that I saw on Facebook was photos of him smiling as a groomsmen, or dancing with his girlfriend. This reminded me of an article I read last year by ESPN on the suicide of 19 year-old University of Pennsylvania Runner Madison Hollerin. The article was called Split Image, with the subtitle “On Instagram, Madison Hollerin’s life looked ideal: Star athlete, bright student, beloved friend. But the photos hid the reality of someone struggling to go on.” The article details how Madison’s instagram feed portrayed her as nothing but happy, even in her last post an hour before her death. One powerful section of the article reads:
She seemed acutely aware that the life she was curating online was distinctly different from the one she was actually living. Yet she could not apply that same logic when she looked at the projected lives of others. Before going home for winter break, she asked Ingrid, who was also struggling at Penn, “What are you going to say when you go home to all your friends? I feel like all my friends are having so much fun at school.”
Since her suicide, Madison’s family and friends have tried to deliver a message that it’s OK not to be OK, and it’s OK to show people that you’re not OK. They started the hashtag #LifeUnfiltered and shared photos of themselves looking happy, but explained how they were really feeling inside at the time.
When I hear other peoples stories about battling depression, I can feel my heart sink. As many of my friends know, I fell into a severe depression in 2011. In the first week of my depression I lost 15 lbs., and after 6 months I had alienated most of my friends. It was another year before I began to feel comfortable with myself again. Hearing about other people’s sadness scares me, and breaks my heart, but it also makes me feel less alone. If all that I have to do to help other people feel less alone is tell them about my bad day in order to deconstruct the exaggerated happiness I project on Facebook, then that’s something I would like to be a part of. While I’m no longer suffering from depression, I feel like it’s important to be more open about all of the parts of my life.
My Bad Day:
Thursday, 6:20PM: I left work and got on the tube, “Are you coming to dance?” I texted my husband. It was the last day of the dance course we had signed up for, Jon had been working late recently so I needed to know if I should go to dance or just go home if he wasn’t coming. No response. I got off the train for dance, walked 10 min. to the building, and sat in a park and read while I waited for Jon to arrive
Thursday, 7:15PM: Jon texted me and told me he had to work late and wasn’t coming. Class was supposed to start in 15 min. I was more than a little angry that Jon had wasted so much of my time waiting for him with no response when I could have gone straight home from work. You don’t expect to be stood up by your own husband.
Thursday, 10:00PM: I returned to the apartment from the gym and Jon was finally home, in the kitchen, making himself dinner. I shouted at him about having no respect for my time, and he profusely apologized. I told him how I was already having a bad day before that, because at the team meeting at work the partner had explained how dire the financial projections were while he avoided eye contact with me. I told Jon how I didn’t think they would renew my probationary contract at the end of the three months.
Friday, 8:00AM: I left for work on time, giving myself an hour to make a 45 min. trip across London, as usual. I was annoyed because Jon had told me he was staying out after work to watch the soccer game, even though he’d been too busy to come to dance. After 10 minutes at the tube station an announcement was made saying it would be 60 minutes before the next train I needed. I got on a different train and changed onto an alternate line at the next station. Halfway through the trip the driver announced there was signal failure ahead and the train had to turn around at the next station. The train stopped between stations to wait for trains ahead of it to turn around, and sat underground, with no cell signal, for 30 minutes. By the time it had reached the turn-around station, the signals had been fixed and it was able to continue to the original destination. However, because of backed up trains, it again sat between stations for another 15 minutes.
Friday, 9:50AM: When I arrived at work almost an hour late, everyone was already there. No one else took the same train line as me and consequently I was the only one late. My excuses came out lame and unconvincing. I had only been working here for 4 weeks and was still getting to know my coworkers, so I still felt a little insecure around them.
Friday, 4:30PM: Two of the three partners called me into the office/print room to talk. They bounced back and forth with a long-winded explanation of the position of the firm, how they had to let me go, how they would write me a recommendation, how they knew what it was like to be made redundant, how they were sorry. It didn’t feel personal because it wasn’t, they hadn’t gotten to know me in the short amount of time I had spent there. At first I didn’t feel emotional and it made me uncomfortable how long they spoke. My mind started to wonder and I thought about all of the people who I had just told about getting this job that I would now have to tell that I lost it. I felt a lump in my throat but I didn’t want to cry in front of these strangers. I tried to think about gross things to keep the tears from my eyes. Were they really still talking? What more could they possibly have to say? I thought about the job that I had left to come work here, I thought about how many times I’ve had to start over since I’d moved to England, meet new people, adjust to new settings, how hard it was. Finally they had said everything they could think to say. I thanked them and told them that I understood and that I would go finish my work. I just wanted to not talk about it and disappear. I thought maybe I could finish the day without telling anybody, quietly leave, and sneak back to the safety of my bed and be alone.
Friday, 5:00PM: Unbeknownst to me, while I was in the meeting being let go, the third partner pulled everyone else in the office into a meeting to tell them all I was being let go. This was completely humiliating and ruined my plan to turn invisible. When I came out of the office/print room, my desk-mate looked at me with eyes full of pity and asked if I was okay. Does he know? Has he known all day? I wondered. I said I was okay and sat at my desk, finished my work, and packed up my things. The third partner came up to say goodbye and apologize, and told me that everyone knew already so I didn’t have to tip-toe around. Little did he know that’s all I wanted to do.
Friday, 6:00PM: I had to walk by everyone on my way out. I gave an awkward wave to all the people I hardly knew and tried to keep my brain from conjecturing what they must me thinking about me. My face dropped as soon as I was out of the door, and I was finally home-free.
In an effort not to sulk, Jon and I went to the London Zoo today. I’m going to have to start looking for another job, but it might have to wait until after my trip to America in August, which I may extend thanks for my newfound time off. My mom is very happy about this, and isn’t worried because she “really believes the universe knows what its doing.” Normally I would wait to share bad news like this with the world until I had good news to go along with it. There’s no good news yet, but I’ll let you know.