I got fired from the last newspaper job I’d ever held.
This isn’t earth-shattering or even surprising to those who knew me. I’d had moments of promise. I wrote better than my editors at most of the papers I worked for. I crafted compelling headlines. My ideas in budget meetings came to fruition and even became popular with readers.
The day I sat in HR, given a chance to explain away my latest photo caption error, the decision had been made. I was being fired — for the first time in my life. I’d managed to leave two weeks notice everywhere. Grocery stores. Pizza joints. A party warehouse. (Actually, I didn’t give notice from the shady gig selling impostor cologne out of my trunk. And I kept the remaining supply. I suspect this’ll resurface on Medium someday.)
Back to newspapers.
The lie began to keep a sunny disposition on my resume. Glow, glow, glow, glow. You’re fired. It’s hard to glow after that, especially from your career. Your dream job. At the paper where you busted a hump at afternoon rags and understaffed midsized newspapers. You reached your pinnacle — then got canned because you used the Iowa State mascot in a caption, not Iowa’s? It wasn’t as simple as that.
But I had to lie on my resume. Spin a tale of leaving of my own accord. Because what employer would ever hire someone who’d been fired? You’re marked as damaged.
To breathe life into the lie, I related a tale of quitting on a Thursday, believing the specificity would make this a story of empowerment. It wasn’t unlike the compulsive liar who adds in all the details they’ve concocted so that it feels like they’ve covered their bases — and their asses.
I pushed the daily story budget to the middle of the table and declared no mas. Cinematic. Untrue. I’d prattled on about moral decay and inflexibility and although those weren’t completely fabricated, they were not any of the reasons my employment ended that day.
I got fired because I was no longer good at what I did.
And it was my career. It was the baker fowling up the cupcakes. So as I had to patchwork the gaping hole in my writing career and resume, I took myself down a road of fight-the-power righteousness that contrasted heavily with the teary call to home as I drove home in the rain.
More firings to come
Ultimately, I found work writing again.
But also, many more instances of being fired. From jobs I hated. From the jobs I liked. All from jobs, I needed to support my family. That newspaper firing seemed to toss me. I careened into work I did just to work. To careers, I entered that weren’t careers. Call centers. Hotels. A writer who doesn’t write anymore can handle a few calls and check-in guests, but he’s so far out of his element it’s doomed from day 1. At least for me.
So, I still relate the story of the day I chose the moral high ground to evacuate a career because of the righteous inner compass that wouldn’t allow me to continue another day. Trust me — I’d have toiled many years in that condition had I any idea how long it would take to write for money again.
The twisted road I took to my present-day — freelancing, writing web copy and emails in a position I love — might not have been the moral overdrive I tell it to be. But it put me eventually in the best place I could imagine, even as print journalism flounders.
Kind of like the truth I tried to create.
And that feels sort of justified if I give it much thought.
I’m not going to lie.