I had sat in that chair many times before, but this time it was different. Sitting across from him, I slowly breathed and learned of my fate. His anxious demeanor was enough for me. As he chose his words carefully, I nervously played with the pen in my hand. It was a new kind of torture. It’s a torture that happens in slow motion. I looked out the window knowing I’d quietly leave soon. I patiently waited for those words. He took a deep breath and politely said, “I’m sorry, but I have to let you go.”
He continued to talk, but I only saw his lips moving. The room was bright with the wafting smell of his cologne. His muffled voice took me to a quiet place in my mind. I took slow breaths holding back any emotion. Profanities, questions and prayers began to take over my thoughts. I wasn’t listening to him anymore. I wanted to get up and run away. I wanted this embarrassing moment to be over.
I knew I wasn’t being fired. I had given him no reason to fire me. I was a loyal employee who truly did care about making a difference within the company. It was a business decision. It was a financial decision. I didn’t make the cut.
He paused for a moment. I came back to reality. I realized I was simply staring around the room without saying a word. I remember asking him a question about the future of the department. He was getting rid of it and there wasn’t a place for me anymore.
I told him I would drop off my key at the front and quietly leave. Before I knew it my legs were carrying me out of the office and to my desk that was no longer mine. I sat down and told myself to get out of the office and then react. Don’t cry. Don’t talk. Don’t breakdown. Just leave. I picked up the one photo I had on my desk, Joe and I at my college graduation. It seems like ages ago. My college graduate self was so naive. So clueless.
I made my rounds to a few co-workers desks to announce my demise. I couldn’t leave without telling them in person. Jaws dropped as I quietly told them to make their way to the parking lot, so I could briefly explain myself. These people were happy hour buddies, confidants and friends. It pained me to think I wouldn’t see them everyday anymore.
I made my way outside toward my car. I faced my co-workers and made my speech. Once again, I was talking, but everything seemed muffled and far away. When I finished, I listened to their reactions and advice.
I could feel it coming on. The knot in my throat. The choking of my words. The breakdown was about to make its appearance. I began my goodbyes in the hopes of holding it off until I got in the car. By the first hug, I was done. The rough breathing took over and tears were filling my eyes. I finished my goodbyes with tears running down my face. I got in the car and heaved a sigh of anguish.