Ahem. By Sarah Shanfield -Ed.
I moved to New York after a brief stint in LA working at a TV show. I always use the term “working at a TV show,” because that’s what I gathered people in LA say when their jobs are entirely unimpressive. After trying to write for the show, I was told I had potential (which means I’m lazy), but that my potential really was in creative services. After working in the green room and having an unpleasant experience with an unnamed Jurassic Park star, I was demoted and demoted again until I was finally asked to leave.
I came to New York with $1000 in the bank. I was told to buy catastrophe insurance in case I fell down a flight of subway stairs. I immediately found work as a bartender at a Carnival-themed bar. I wore a gold vest and suspenders, and was expert at selling a drink called “The Dunk Tank,” which was almost three gallons of liquid and called for a handle of Gin, a handle of Absolut, and a handle of Bacardi. I used a handful of novelty straws to stir the poison with a carton of pineapple guava juice. If someone you know is dead from consuming the aforementioned drink, I’m very sorry.
Eventually, I was fired from that job too. I volunteered to be in a few student films, held a mic for a YouTube video film shoot, and even worked a few days at a very famous iconic New York building as a person who assembled sandwiches for old people. At each of these stints, the conversation of “your last day will be tomorrow” was always a very normal point in the work process, and never very upsetting to me. I knew these jobs weren’t meant to be forever, so why waste time being sad about being let go?
When I finally got my current job, it felt so real and so permanent that I nearly tattooed my title of “Assistant” on my forehead. For a company to invest that kind of money and health care coverage in me, surely they wouldn’t put a sign on their door that said “Thanks for coming Sarah, we don’t need you anymore!” which had only happened twice.
So now, after two years of working at my current job, I have to tell them today that I’m quitting; that I am ready to move on. And I’ve never quit anything in my life.
I remember being on the swim team in high school and never really telling them that I was going to be in the school play; I simply stopped showing up to practice and they forgot about me. My picture was still in the swim team page in the yearbook. In college, every internship or work-study job would end with me going on summer vacation or winter break. I’m still technically in a relationship with David Ng, the boy who asked me to go steady in fifth grade, even though we held hands only once for twenty seconds. I wonder if I’m still on the volunteer list at my hometown’s Performance Theater Volunteer Usher roster, because I definitely never quit there either.
To my mother and my resumé, my indisputable track record of not being a quitter is impressive and precious. But my inability to instigate closure has me worried. Did I ever stop paying for Netflix, or did I simply keep that copy of The Reader forever? Am I still on Myspace? Am I still paying for that catastrophe insurance?
Some people hate goodbyes, but it’s rare that I let myself have one. The pain of letting a person know that your life will be taking a different direction seems so painful to me. When you’re fired, it doesn’t seem like the place you’re leaving is going to change much without you. Saying goodbye makes that loss very real for both parties.
So I won’t quit. I told my bosses that I am simply moving on, I am chugging forward in this thing called my career, and I will be at a safe distance for them to wave to me at my new job. I’ll allow that they stop paying me after two weeks, but I will continue to uphold their legacy and recognize myself as one of the products of their great company, and that they don’t have to give me any money for. I may not have the best professional record, but I know I worked hard at this job, and because I wasn’t lazy, I wasn’t fired. I will cherish the times we had together. I don’t know if this makes the separation easier, but it sure doesn’t feel like giving up.