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Illustration by Marley Allen-Ash

I had a distinct feeling in my stomach – the kind that tells you the honest-to-goodness truth, the feeling that’s beyond blood and guts, beyond last night’s black bean soup. It was the instinct of all instincts – something told me that I was going to get fired that day.

After exchanging texts and calls with a friend in a similar situation, my web meeting arrived.

I sat at the head of my dining room table. I was well dressed. I was used to working in the public eye and thought I might as well look the part.

When my manager’s face appeared on the screen, I continued to feel uneasy. She began by saying this was to be a different type of meeting, and I began to accept my fate. Soon enough the screen split and a young woman from the human-resources department appeared, too.

“Are you letting me go?”

This is when I started to cry – even though I’d expected what was happening. My emotions followed the path that they were supposed to under the circumstances and the tears rolled down my cheeks. Thank goodness for my long sleeves.

As I sat through the meeting, big globules of salty water fell down my face uncontrollably. The paper in front of me began to speckle with my own private ocean of failure. What was happening to me and how would I tell my family?

The young pleasant woman took over the screen and began a long lecture of words and numbers, everything I was entitled to.

Honestly, I don’t think I heard much as I was in a weird world of disbelief. I have read so much about positive affirmations – making things happen in your life. Can this work in reverse? How come I’d felt this in my gut long before it happened?

At the end of the pleasant young woman’s speech, I told her that I wasn’t sure how much I had taken in and that I would have to review the information later. Something happened on her face – a reckoning of sorts. She leaned into the screen and said, “I watch you all the time. You’re really good. You are going to be fine.”

Fine is probably one of my least favourite words in the English language. It implies mediocre acceptance – a passing grade or a lackadaisical acknowledgment of one’s attributes. Whenever I asked my mom how I looked growing up and she said “fine,” I knew that meant strip down and start over. Over the next few days I did not feel fine. Don’t get me wrong. I was extremely lucky to have support from my family and friends. Yet through it all, I still felt alone and as if my head was stuck in a fishbowl of disbelief.

The following days were a time for social grieving – endless phone calls, visits, a kindness overload from family, friends and work colleagues. It felt like someone very close to me had died. My body woke up and went to sleep with a strange feeling of loss.

Lying on the sofa one night I heard a knock at the door. My teenage son who had just been out walking our dogs went to the door and reported that someone had sent me a big gift. He brought a large brown box over to me eager to see what it might contain. I slowly opened the big brown box thinking to myself how light it was for such a good size.

The big brown box turned out to be empty – void, barren, unoccupied. I vaguely began to recall that the pleasant young woman from HR had mentioned something about returning my computer and any company items. This big brown box was waiting for me to fill it with what was never mine in the first place.

My son watched this whole scene unfold. I tried to not let him see my hurt feelings and made every effort to lighten up the mood by giggling about how it was for company stuff that needed to be returned. No biggie.

Taking the whole scene in, my son then offered to get a bag of dog poo and place it in the box. I laughed and said that wasn’t fair to the poor person who’d have to unpack the equipment.

Besides, I realized now, I was the lucky one. I got to work at a job I loved for 20 years. And this change would lead to other new beginnings.

Tanya Yanaky lives in Toronto.

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