I was sitting at a coffee shop in downtown Berkeley reading a New York Times piece on globalization when I got a phone call telling me I was going to be fired. “The girls in sales got together to get me fired,” my beloved editor said as I sipped on my lukewarm medium mocha. “You’re next.”
After I received that phone call, I experienced the following realizations:
1. Everything is political.
The women who got together and started a coup against the editor and me should have been immediately shut down by our publisher. These women worked in a completely separate department from the editorial staff and had no right to go to the man in charge and try to get rid of us. They would not benefit from this firing. Honestly, no one would benefit from it. The editor and me were very overworked and very underpaid. However, given that these women had worked in the office much longer than us and were more in touch with the publisher as friends, their opinion significantly outweighed anything we could every come up with. It was a political fight we were never in the position to win—or even contend. Even in a very local lifestyle magazine with limited readership, the ugly game of politics reared its ugly head. It was on this metaphorical curb I knew this would not be the last time or place where I would be defenseless in the face of office politics.
2. Women can be mean at any age.
We’ve all experienced women who are absolutely hateful to their core, and it’s terrifying. I guess I would have never expected this kind of meanness to come from a ring of elderly women from the sales department whom I’ve shared many laughs with and for whom I’ve done many favors. It was these same senior citizens who took it upon themselves to betray my sweet, sweet editor and me. Don’t they have better things to be doing in their free time, like playing shuffleboard and Pinochle and attending to their grandchildren? Maybe it just goes to show that just because a woman is made to dye her roots every three weeks, she can still act like a total high-school twat. One should beware of these people more than anyone else. Girls will be girls. Assholes will be assholes.
3. Crying won’t get your job back.
After my editor told me my job was being threatened and I could expect a firing via telephone within the week, I cried. I was deeply sad that my time with a publication I love had come to a bitter, bitter end. It was in this sadness it occurred to me that I will never work with the same people in the same office doing the same things again. I will never see my name as a byline in this publication, and crying would not get these things back. Crying will only make people on the subway stare at me.
4. You can’t please them all.
Around the time I was fired, the editorial team had scored KISS for the cover. KISS. Like, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, “Rock and Roll all Nite”—that KISS. I had been handling people from Florida and Sweden and Iceland and everywhere in between via Facebook on how they could get a copy of our issue. We were the biggest we’ve ever been. We procured hundreds of likes on social media in result of landing such a huge musical presence as our cover. We’re used to community locals and small names, but we got KISS for the September/October Arts & Entertainment 2014 issue. Still, it was not enough. Half of the office loved our decisions and the other half hated them. The half that hated them had the ultimate say, and that is when I knew that whatever you do in life, not everyone is going to like it. In fact, they may hate it.
5. Not everything is fair.
When I worked as an intern at the publication where I was just fired, I poured every ounce of creativity and dedication into the job even when it wasn’t asked for. I stayed longer hours because my asked me to, and I skipped classes from community college to do certain things asked of me. I took my work home after 5 and drove through grueling LA traffic to get to and from work. All of this was done under a $25 a week stipend for an entire year until I was made assistant editor and still made embarrassing pay. The publisher recognized I was young and stupid enough to accept a paycheck less than half of what typical assistant editors would make. Still, I loved this job. I loved attending to the office’s needs and learning new things from everyone.
It’s a hard reality knowing you did everything for a job and was ultimately cut short. After four years of working with this company, the publisher still didn’t know my name. He often deferred to me as “honey” or “Melissa.” I hated that. I would have done anything for this place. I don’t think they will ever know how much I loved being in that tiny shithole of an office. Ultimately, that is how my employment ended. It wasn’t fair. Maybe it rarely is.