On December 22, 2018 I woke up later than normal. I looked at my phone to see it was already 9:45 am. I could hear my family in the other room, laughing and playing a game. My husband had let me sleep in. The second thing I noticed, however, was a text message from my boss. Timestamped at 7:45 am, it read: “Cristee, I’d like to meet with you today at the school. Please let me know when you’re available.”
Alarm bells went off in my head. I knew something was wrong. This was supposed to be the first morning of my holiday break from my job at a private preschool, and the day before I had delivered ‘The Nutcracker’ performance, which I had directed with 65 preschool-aged children. I didn’t know exactly why my boss wanted to speak with me in person, but I knew it wasn’t good.
I’ve gone over this moment many times. In hindsight, I think I should have told her that I was already gone for my holiday and asked if we could speak on the phone. But, I didn’t. I answered her text message saying I could meet anytime. Then I went out into the living room and got a cup of coffee. My husband greeted me: “Good Morning. Did you sleep well?” My children gave me hugs and showed me the game they were playing. My husband asked me how I was doing and I answered, “I think I’m going to get fired today.”
And that’s exactly what happened. When I went in to meet with my boss a few hours later, she told me I wasn’t a good fit at their school. That she was terminating my contract halfway through the school year. “It’s never a good time to have this conversation, so I just wanted to let you know as early as possible,” she said. I asked her for specific feedback as to how we got to this point. I asked her why we hadn’t had a conversation about this possibility before now. She wasn’t interested in the conversation, so I got my things from my classroom and drove home.
I did my best not to let getting fired ruin my Christmas. I used the holiday break as an escape though, and when back to school time came in January, I started to feel the reality sinking in. It took me a few months of shock and depression to understand how I found myself in this situation. Looking back, I can connect the dots more clearly, but right after it happened I was only able to see myself as a victim in the situation.
It’s taken a lot of work on my part, but I’ve come to see that getting fired 3 days before Christmas was one of the best things to ever happen to me. Why?
Because my boss was right. I wasn’t happy there. I took the job because I was worried about money, but deep down I knew that it wasn’t a good fit. I ignored my gut intuition and told myself the paycheck would make it worth it. But, I was complaining a lot about the job. I felt exhausted by my daily routine there, and I was starting to feel resentful. At the time I thought that if I just kept pushing and trying really hard, I would eventually feel like I fit in there. Clearly, that was not what happened.
After I got fired, I felt humbled and a little embarrassed. I also felt gratitude though. I felt appreciative for the lesson the experience contained: my gut is never wrong, and even though I don’t always know how something is going to work out, when I listen to my gut feeling I’m always safe. The universe always takes care of me and I don’t always have to know the “how.”
I won’t lie. Losing the paycheck has been a set back financially, but we’ve managed. We took a hard look at our finances and have made some changes that probably needed to happen well before now. We also took a good look at our priorities and goals, and from those conversations it became clear that my husband and I have big dreams we still haven’t achieved. We decided together that we’re going to do whatever it takes to put effort into those dreams manifesting. I don’t know that I would have had the motivation and desire for that if I were still working full-time as a teacher.
This experience has forced me to be crystal clear on what I’m asking for, what I’m trying to create in my life, and the boundaries I need to set in order for that to happen. I’m spending all of my work time writing now. I’ve been able to build up my blog, I published a poetry book in April, and I’m re-igniting a project that I’ve allowed to sit on the back burner for too long. I’ve even landed some freelance writing gigs, which have been priceless learning experiences. I’m getting closer to my dreams every day.
It isn’t a logical or linear process, but I know I’m heading in a direction that’s right for me. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process, and I am inspired to move forward and create more from what at the time was a big disappointment.
This year, our Christmas will have a very different story.