Pic of the Week.

Hoping to rise from the ashes... with my trusty notebook.
Hoping to rise from the ashes… with my trusty notebook.

In the first volume of The Lord of the Rings (The Fellowship of the Ring), J.R.R. Tolkein wrote a poem:

All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost; The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, A light from the shadows shall spring; Renewed shall be blade that was broken, The crownless again shall be king.

For the last month, I’ve mentioned that times for me have been tough, and I finally feel like I’m able to put some words together to share my story with you.

Five weeks ago, I lost my job. At the end of a Thursday, I went to a scheduled meeting, equipped with my iPad (to take notes), and upon sitting down, I was told that my services were no longer needed.

This was the job I took right after graduation, so I’ve worked there for nearly seven years. It’s the reason I stayed in Baton Rouge. Just four months prior to this meeting, I’d received the highest raise in the office, because I was told I’d gone above and beyond what I was asked to do — and I’d done so with (mostly) a smile on my face.

Quickly, I was told that I needed to turn all of my work belongings in, I was given papers to sign, and I was told that I should pack my things immediately, and would then be escorted out of the building. I was also told that I could never work there, or at any of their associated offices, and in return, my blog class was also taken away.

“Do you have any questions?” Someone asked.

“Yes,” I said. “Why is this happening to me? I’ve never even been in trouble.”

I was told it was an “at-will” termination, meaning they didn’t have to tell me a reason. With that, I was watched as I packed seven years’ worth of my crap into boxes (they even had those ready for me), and I carried them to my car (wearing my slacks and high heels) as my coworkers watched.

Losing my job is something I never expected to happen to me; and it’s been an incredible ebb and flow of emotions since that day.

Of course, I started applying for jobs immediately. So far, I’ve applied for 36 jobs that range from seasonal work, to part time and full time positions. I’ve learned that Baton Rouge isn’t really THE place for someone like me — a writer, editor, blogger, digital media awesome-sauce.

So, I’ve applied for a few jobs that fit my talents and degree-field, but most of the work has been retail just to get some work while I decide what’s next for me.

Around Thanksgiving, I accepted a part-time sales associate position at the mall. On my first day, I worked a shift from 9am-11:30 pm (14 hours). I cried on my short drive home.

I worked really hard to get a degree; and I (think) I worked hard at my job… but it was taken from me. And now, my punishment is a tunnel with no light at the end — long shifts at $8/hour, standing on my feet, smiling at hundreds of customers as they shop.

My first week in retail, I worked more than 40 hours. I also accepted two additional jobs, mainly because $8/hour is about 1/3 of what I made before, and I’ve got bills. So, I am currently juggling three part-time retail jobs.

In these last few weeks, I’ve learned so much information I never thought I’d need to know, and in a way, I’m sure that’s some sort of blessing. This entire journey has been a branch of soul-searching. I’ve really had to dig and figure out what I’ve got to offer an employer, aside from my obvious strengths.

I now know that I can learn three different cash register systems, often working two of them in one day. I am really good at bagging trash and mopping floors. I can memorize shoe style numbers and organize towers of candles. I can also tell the difference between a matte finish and a shiny finish on red, vintage Christmas ornaments packed in dusty boxes. My coworkers also tell me I “don’t look old” — most of them are 19 — and that I’m “silly.”

Above all: I know I will do anything to keep my head above water; will only take what I deserve; and will never, ever accept a handout (or pity, so please, no).

I was out Christmas shopping last week, and I came across a sale bin of notebooks. I found the one in the picture, and I loved the quote so much, I bought it for myself. Ever since, I’ve been using it to keep notes for my various jobs, write to-do lists and grocery lists, and keep my schedule and hours-worked/money-earned. I usually use my iPad for such tasks, but on my first day of work, I caught someone going through my purse, so… notebook it is. And this trusty notebook has been my LIFE, and has given me a little motivation as I go through my day.

The parting with my old job is like a messy breakup; it’s got no closure. I am constantly wondering what I did to piss someone off enough to kick me out. I know I had the Twitter issue, but as far as I know, it was resolved. Some of my coworkers have speculated that it was things I said in my column.

And I know, that this blog and the column can be viewed as a gamble to an employer. I also delayed posting this, because I’m terrified that saying all of this will keep me from getting a job. Of course, I don’t want that. I don’t want someone to ever think that I’m not a professional, or more importantly, that I’m not a hard worker. I am. I am not a liability.

Instead, I hope my future employer can look at it differently. That I’m brave for putting myself out there. That I’ve managed to find a way to turn my passions into a salary, and that I’m disciplined enough to stay on deadline, keep people interested, and manage a blog and all of its corresponding marketing and social media, all on my own!

Someone asked me why I didn’t just write with a pen name from now on? My heart sank. Because that isn’t honest. And honesty has always been my biggest promise. I shouldn’t have to be ashamed that I write about dating, and drinking, and sometimes (very rarely, might I add) sex. Those are all things most people do, they just don’t publicize it. Why should I have to hide it?

Working three jobs, plus hunting for one full-time job that I will actually kind-of like, has taken up so much of my time, I haven’t been able to do the things I enjoy, like go to the gym, hit up the spa, or even sit down with a book. I spend a lot of time in bed, with my feet on a heating pad, working on my laptop (my “vintage” one, I had to give my swanky one back to work) between shifts. I have also come to enjoy eating a peanut butter sandwich in my car as I drive from one job to the next.

And then there’s this blog. Like a best friend, it’s always there. I wanted to make CERTAIN that this blog did not waiver during my time of distress, so I made sure to never miss a post, and hopefully, keep things interesting. I hope I’ve done that for you. This blog, along with my cat Blanche, are often the only things that keep me smiling lately — and they’re not going anywhere. Well, unless Blanche decides to hightail it out the window.

I know these next few months are going to have ups and downs. I really have NO idea what’s on the horizon — aside from the certainty of filling out unemployment every Sunday. I do know that this happened to me for some reason. Something great is out there, I just have to find it. And I might not find it without tears and confusion, but if I stay true to myself, good things are going to come.

I’m waiting on the day.
When my life on the run
Bleaches out in the sun
And shows my age.

—John Mayer, Waiting on the Day


  1. Ashhhlleeyyyyy

    I don’t think words can describe the fortitude you have. It’s inspired me just from the conversations we have. I know their is something great for you out there and I cant wait to rejoice for and with you!

  2. Kittu Pannu

    As always, you are showing the world just how resilient you are. I mean, you’re working three jobs and still managing to make sense of everything around you. I know, no matter what, you’re going to get through this time even stronger than before. Love you and let me know if there is anything I can do to help.

  3. jeffleeismyhero

    This place just isn’t what it used to be. It’s not that change has made the “place” worse; it’s that change has forced all of the best people out. In their place, you have mediocre middle managers that define their jobs by “making changes.” Usually, that means putting more work on already overwhelmed staff until the point that they just leave or their work product suffers and they get fired. Meanwhile, the people they report to only see “things happening.”

    The fact that they did not give you a reason leads me to believe that the reason was petty or wouldn’t hold up under scrutiny. I’ve felt pressude to leave, but have a unique set of skills that cannot be replaced. At this point the Place needs me, but they won’t soon. They won’t because I’m doing my job well; I’m removing all of the instances of complexity and wholly owned knowledge. Once that’s done, the people I’ve pissed off can see me out the door for some petty reason – if I’m not already gone. I’m saying this because I’m happy about it. I’m happy that I’m pissing people off. It means that I’m doing something of value. It means that I’m taking their spotlight. The mediocre manager doesn’t like change that they do not make or can’t take credit for.

    You may have been fired, but I know of several key people that were marginalized to the point that they could not do the work they wanted to do. They usually ended up quitting, feeling the same way that you undoubtedly did on that day.

    I’ve spent most of the day thinking of things that I wanted to say about this and how I wanted to put it together. Instead, my comments are hurried. Hurried because I have a lot of contract work to get done. I don’t mean to make a jab with that; I do hope you find a new job, but want to leave you with some advice: Diversify. Diversify your sources of income as you would your stock portfolio. Today’s companies are not dependable. You cannot spend 30 years at one company anymore. They are not there to help you; they are there to exploit you until you’re no longer valuable to them. “At will” employment is another way of saying that the company is not interested in your well being. So take that to mean that you should, first and foremost, be interested in your well being. Always ensure that you can walk away knowing that they are at the disadvantage.

    I know the work you do and its value. You will persevere.

    1. thebitterlemon

      Wow, thank you so much for all of your words. It really means a lot coming from someone familiar with my situation. It wasn’t fun, and it’s certainly been a large slice of humble pie, working retail and looking for as much work as possible. Though it was probably a slice I didn’t need, I suppose it’s there for a reason. I really do appreciate your advice… it’s going to keep me smiling when these days are long. Thank you again… and thanks for reading! Holly

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