Happy Sad Sacked

10 November 2016 Kate Tennenbaum

Happy Sad Sacked

My phone has been ringing off the hook the last few days. I’ve never felt more popular. I guess it’s because three days ago I got sacked. I guess a more accurate word for it is “made redundant”, with the comforting ka-ching of a cash safety net underneath me, but I am sacked nonetheless. Three days of no longer being immersed in the life I lived for more than 13 years. Three days with nothing to do. If I were on leave I would revel in that delicious – almost naughty – feeling of turning off your alarm and waking at your own pace, of stretching out into a day of endless self-indulgence. But that feeling has now turned into a grim, gut-twisting panic that my life will become endless days of nothing to do, with my lack of money reminding me that I am a failure.

Thirteen years ago I really was what some people would consider a failure: a recovering drug addict living with her parents, ashamed that I used to show my naked body for money and half sick, half defiant about anyone knowing.

So the dole office forced me to go to a job interview. It was a loud, dirty place and the staff were loud and dirty, too, with lives even more damaged than mine. I did not want to work there. But I got the job and started on the grim path of redemption, as some might say. My parents were so excited I had a job they ignored the fact that it was a minimum-wage factory job. Ten years later I was a department manager and those loud, dirty, damaged people were the people I loved like a family. We drove each other nuts, we had fights and we also had fun. I felt loved and supported.

It was a hard job, definitely not glamorous, and it was difficult to stomach that my shining career as an artist had gone as quickly down the toilet as all the money I’d spent on drugs way back when. My successful high-functioning friends never made me ashamed of my job and I was proud of my hard work. But suddenly something went wrong.

I went from Golden Child to Wednesday’s Child, full of woe. Work didn’t want me anymore. I got stressed. I got ill. I got demoted and finally I got moved to another warehouse, far away from my crazy little family and friends. Maybe they were trying to get me to quit – it sure felt like it – but maybe they didn’t realise how great I am at sticking it out. Bad relationships, bad jobs, bad choices; I’ve stuck them out like some sort of insane limpet. But in the end I won. I got away from a place that didn’t appreciate me and got the redundancy package they said they wouldn’t give me. I am a winner. So why does it hurt so much?

I guess it feels like the end of my last relationship: if they knew they weren’t committed they should have let go a long time ago. Now I’m too old for that metaphorical baby, or a new start. I left the factory for the final time in an Uber paid for by work. My former life was stuffed into a sports bag and I clutched my pot plants like a character in a bad sitcom. The radio was playing ABBA’s ‘The Winner Takes It All’. I had a feeling of triumph for about three lines, until I remembered how sad that song really is. I tried not to cry and came home to drink a bottle of champagne and have another heartbreaking fight with my ex.

So here I am, day three, trying to put into words the twin agony and ecstasy of losing everything. Deep down I’m truly happy to be gone, to have a new chance and a new opportunity to find a life. Getting kicked out of the nest will really be great. Everyone who has been in this position has said it was the most exhilarating yet terrifying time of their lives, and I now know what they mean. I might spend this week walking the streets feeling happy to have received the gift of being let go from a job, on nice terms, with a great reference, no hard feelings and cash in my pocket. I will walk with a swing in my step and smile brightly and tell everyone I am glad it has finally happened. But deep down I know what everyone else knows. I got sacked.

» Kate Tennenbaum (a pseudonym) is a Melbourne illustrator, writer and observational humorist.

This article first appeared in Ed#524 of The Big Issue