It started out like any other day. Isn't that the way every "I got fired" story begins? Well, add me to the list.
It had been the usual tornado of a morning. I got up early, kissed my work-at-home husband and sleeping toddler goodbye, and picked up newspapers on the way to the radio station. I wrote newscasts for the AM and FM stations, delivered those, prepped the talk show, hosted the talk show, and flew out the door to fetch my toddler. She entertained the people at the police department and the sheriff's office while I looked at those reports -- and we gave my husband a chance to get some work done.
I rushed back to the station, wrote my noon newscast, and was still getting ready to deliver it when the receptionist told me the manager wanted to see me. "Now?" I asked. "As soon as you get a second," she said, something like that.
I didn't have much more than a second -- I was supposed to be on the air in a few minutes -- but I always dreaded talking with my manager and I wanted to get it over with. When the receptionist followed me into his office I thought, "Uh oh."
He said what I've come to recognize as a standard line: "We're moving the station in a new direction..." I don't remember much of what followed. I do remember him borrowing my pen. When he finished his quick little speech he asked me if I had any questions. "Yes," I said. Pause. "May I have my pen back?"
One benefit of getting older is being ready with the right line. I've always been so proud of my question about the pen. This manager and I had been at odds since he'd arrived at the station a couple of years earlier. When rumors swirled about heads rolling -- mine included -- I took them seriously. My husband and I got serious about what we were sure was my next move, what became The Career Clinic.
That was the first thing I'd done right when faced with the possibility of getting fired. I'd asked myself if I was proud of the job I was doing. I was. Had I learned pretty much everything I'd come there to learn? Definitely. Was it time to move on? Of course. I hadn't taken the initiative, but I'd found a way to be a full-time mom and a full-time radio journalist -- and I hadn't exactly been squandering my life.
I got my pen, I went home, and I cried. Off and on, for days. Knowing something really good had happened and feeling really good were two different things. For all my determination to make the best of it, getting fired stung. I had one of the most visible jobs in the community. People listened to my newscasts over breakfast, they told me, and looked forward to learning something -- and laughing a lot -- while they listened to my talk show.
Almost immediately, I lost my voice. Isn't that interesting? I'd never had laryngitis before. Now I did. The symbolism still haunts me.
If you're going to get fired I recommend you be married to someone like I was -- who was indignant on my behalf (furious would be more like it). Then have a 3-year-old who -- when asked how she was doing -- would tell anyone who'd listen, "Great! My mommy got fired!" The minute I'd arrived at home with the news, that's how we'd presented it to her. "Something really good has happened. Mommy got fired, Mommy and Daddy can be in business by themselves now, and you have us both all to yourselves."
But for the longest time it was as if I'd had a red "F" painted on my forehead. I knew better than to say much to anyone about what had happened, because no matter how careful I was it would still look like I was bitter. I was, but only a little.
Not saying anything meant leaving people to think what they would think -- for better or worse -- and not trying to change their minds.
That, more than anything, was the gift. My boss and I didn't gel, he decided to bring in someone he liked, so what? This was between him and me. The work I'd done almost around the clock for five years should speak for itself, I suddenly realized. If it didn't, what had I been playing at?
It did. It's been 15 years -- today! -- and people still tell me they miss hearing me on the station in town. They can hear me on the station about an hour away, though -- our flagship station for our nationally-syndicated talk show -- and hosting that program has been the highlight of my professional life.
Which was better? Having so many career dreams come true as a result of getting fired? Or not having to miss a minute with my daughter because I did?
It took a while not to be embarrassed when I'd get groceries and run into someone I used to work with. But a couple of years ago there was a big party to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of that station, and Darrell and I were invited. We had so much fun! Almost everyone we worked with made a beeline for us -- telling us how great we looked and how happy they were our radio careers continue to thrive.
Doing the work we love as a family is its own reward, but it was mighty nice to have this closure.
Owing the person I liked working with the least for all the fun I've had since? Priceless!