box of belongings


No, I’m not going to be that employee who bad mouths her employer for laying her off. It’s really not my style. Because you know something? Shit seriously happens.

I was somehow sane enough to wait to write anything. Last week I was pretty blue, and I didn’t trust the words that would pour out of my weakened spirit. Then I performed the classic “should I or shouldn’t I” blogging dance. Should I write about losing my job?

Even though I wasn’t at fault, I felt ashamed when I set my sad little box of desk belongings on the kitchen floor. Over and over again, I replayed any possible missteps I might have taken at my job over the past two years that led me here—to being let go.

I remembered how hard it was for me to find an empty box through my blurred, tear-soaked vision on my last day. I looked all over the damn office and I couldn’t even find one. So I dumped some random files out of the closest box on the counter and made a run for it.

All of last week I was trapped in the unforgiving fog of failure. As it lifted, I realized I needed to write about my experience. Because writing is my free therapy, and also, I know a lot of you out there can relate to losing a job.

I don’t believe writing about a layoff should be taboo. This post isn’t about blame or injustice, or any other negativity that is a waste of energy—it’s about living and learning.

Again…shit happens.

box of belongings

I have only lost one other job in my life. It was just after 9/11 and I was slaving away at the front desk of one of those big, boring chain hotels. The hospitality and tourism industry was hit pretty hard. Instead of layoffs, they trimmed the fat by finding excuses to fire their part-time staff.

That was me. And that was when I first learned how wonderful being fired can be.

Don’t get me wrong. I was 19, up shit creek with no savings, a full-time college student living at home but making just enough for my car payment, cellphone, and some junk food.

Like an unstoppable avalanche, that sudden life change prompted several more life changes. I packed up my stuff and moved to Texas to reconnect with my family and get the hell out of dodge.

I left behind a no-good, abusive boyfriend who was on his way to prison and never looked in the rearview mirror as my self-destructive self became smaller and smaller, until it finally faded in the distance.

About a year after living in Texas, I met Mr. H. And, this all happened because I got fired after a terrorist attack.

playa del carmen

That was fifteen years ago.

This job was the first time I knew stability. For going on two years, I kicked ass every day. I really enjoyed what I was doing and I loved my team to pieces—so much that I truly felt like they were my second family. Believe it or not, this was my first salaried job in life.

So, yeah. I had finally found my place, a career path, and I felt pretty damn secure.

I certainly had no idea that Monday was going to be the last time I would laugh with my team. We were on an office scavenger hunt, as a reward for our awesomeness in Q1.

The next day I heard a word I had never heard before…severance. Because it was so foreign to me, I didn’t understand what he meant when my boss said it.

On Wednesday the news was shared with the whole team. I tried to wrap things up in between depressive fits. It was pretty impossible.

Thursday I packed up my things into the sad box I stole.

On Friday I was hungover from booze and emotions, sitting in my living room without knowing what to do with myself. You think you should be doing what you normally do on Fridays—attending end of the week meetings, powering through your to-do list to make Monday more palatable, planning the fun weekend ahead. I was lost.

That weekend I made a choice. I needed to bounce back—the pity party was SO over.

Even though I felt like I had been hit by a bus, I started updating my LinkedIn profile. With Mr. H’s incredible support, I finally decided to take the plunge and pursue a freelancing career.

Yep, I hired myself.

linkedin profile

I picked up the healthy habits I had shoved aside during my emotional rollercoaster ride. I meditated, practiced Yoga, ate a big ass salad, drank lots of tea and water, and cooled it on the self-medication masquerading as indulgence.

Slowly, but surely I’m climbing out of a very unexpected dark hole.

It was challenging to get a Life Enthusiast post out—it took me longer than usual to format it, and I smiled big when I hit that publish button. I’m behind on reading my people’s blogs and I miss my third draft very badly.

But, I’m coming back…not as the person you all knew before. I’ve seen and felt too much this past week to go back. And, I don’t want to anyway. I want to look forward—I want to absorb the sunlight and deflect the darkness.

“Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.”   – Thich Nhat Hanh

pixie cut

The weekend before I got let go, I let go of all of my hair.

I wanted to make space for new things in my life. I didn’t know one of those new things was going to be severance. All I knew is that changes were coming.

I’m not exactly ready to say I’m happy this layoff happened. I am absolutely thankful for the experience and education I gained at my job, which are allowing me to go after a career as a freelance writer and content strategist. My boss took a chance on me and gave me an incredible opportunity. I’ll never forget that.

I’ll also never forget all of the beautiful people I worked with. I learned so much from them, enjoyed many awesome times, and they will always be a second family to me.

In the end, I learned that the modern-day human quest for stability and security can’t be found in a job. We can’t expect someone else to provide those qualities in our lives, and we can’t wait for them to come along and land right in our laps. They have to be found within us.

Have you ever gone through a drastic change that led to a whole new life?

P.S. Shameless plug…have some freelance work? Check out what I do on LinkedIn and talk to me!

indie books

56 thoughts on “Severance

  1. Pamela says:

    Oh Britt you are an inspiration!! I LOVE that you hired yourself …. I may want to steal that … I wish for all good things and an abundance of abundance to flow your way. xoxo

  2. Stan R. Mitchell says:

    I’m so sorry you lost your job, love, but I’m inspired by how you’ve responded to it. That’s what badasses do. I feel sorry for the company that lost your energy and talent.

  3. diannegray says:

    I live by the old Taoist story about the ‘farmer who said, maybe’. Check it out on Google because i’m sure it will be there somewhere, Britt.

    I remember being very nastily ‘fired’ one day when I was temping, it was horrible and I sobbed all night. The next day I went in to pack my stuff and the boss apologized and said she thought I was another employee when she fired me and it was all a huge mistake. Naturally, I told her to shove her job, I wasn’t coming back and she needed to learn more about her temps to know who was who (um, yeah – I was mad) 😉 Anyhoo – if I hadn’t been accidentally fired from that job I wouldn’t have landed the best job of my career – strange how these things happen 😉

    Hiring yourself is a great idea! Being your own boss is the best thing in the world. Best of luck with your new venture! 😀

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      DUDE! What? That is SO freaking crazy. Oopsy…not you, you can stay. LOL!

      I’m excited to be my own boss. I like to work hard, but I know that having fun is vital for survival. 😉

  4. Minuscule Moments says:

    You are AWESOME Britt! Sharing the down is so therapeutic for you and everyone who reads this. Things happen for a reason, as they say that door closes and another one opens. YOU WILL THRIVE. I have no doubt bigger things are coming your way, you have so much to give, get ready for life changing moments. I had a chat to my sister the other day who is in a sales job where they told her she might have to be let go because she is not earning enough. I see her as an amazing asset to any company and tried to tell her it just means something better is about to happen. Good luck with your new business.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      You are AWESOME, Kath doll! Thank you for the amazing pep talk…for real. Totally agree about your sister. I’ve gone through that same fear-based conversation before when I was in sales. And, I ended up quitting and finding something better. Not into that!

  5. joey says:

    Dang. But then, much along the lines of what you wrote, the best things often come out of the worst things. I didn’t get fired, per se, but I had a long-term gig I truly wanted to get salaried for, and when I didn’t get it, I was so disappointed. But then, had I gotten it, it would’ve been in the way of some very important changes, so I see it differently now.
    Good luck in your new endeavors! 🙂

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Indeed, Miss Joey! Indeed.

      I’m sure I’ll look back on this experience in a couple of years and smile. Right now it’s a little scary, but I’m going to trust the blaring message the universe just sent me. 😉

  6. T. W. Dittmer says:

    It’s a hell of a thing, getting cut. Sounds like you’re getting your feet back under you, though. If you feel shaky and need to dump on someone, give me a holler.

    The bumps, bruises and gashes have an effect on us, no way around it. We can grow from it, though.

    Head up, Britt. You’re doing well.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Awww…thanks, Tim! It was very hard for everyone (not just me) and I felt nothing but love and respect from my team as I left.

      Growing from these types of things is where it’s at. As always, your support absolutely rocks!

  7. Carrie Rubin says:

    What a punch in the gut that must have been. I’m so sorry that happened. But I’m also inspired by how you picked yourself up and went straight toward setting yourself up for freelance work. I sincerely hope it goes well for you. Knowing you, it will be a smashing success. Best of luck to you. (It’s almost like your fabulous haircut was foreshadowing of the changes to come.)

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Thanks, Carrie doll! I hope freelancing works out too. I wasn’t planning on going this route until next year, but we’ll see what happens—uh…right now, I guess! LOL.

      My hair knows stuff. She was peacing out. 😉

  8. Les Petits Pas de Juls says:

    huh… Britt, I’m so sorry to hear and realize that’s what it was all about last week… As I’ve always seen these things and other negative moments, they all usually happen for a reason. This was for you to see that today, you can do stuff on your own and hire your own self! Like Pamela, once again, I find you very inspiring and I know you’ll rock at this new unexpected adventure.
    Take time but enjoy it!
    We’re all here behind you.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Totally agree, hon. I’ll admit life was pretty peaceful for a while there, so much that it was flying by a bit too rapidly without much going on beyond the daily grind.

      Thank you, gorgeous. Your awesomeness always inspires me.

  9. Ally Bean says:

    What a week! I know that you’ll bounce back from this better than ever. Only someone with a clear mind and positive spirit could have written this account in such an empowering way. I like how you’ve hired yourself. Sounds to me like you’ve got yourself a good employee there.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Thanks, Ally love! My mind definitely did not feel clear the week it happened, but I did my best to pull out of the fog before it consumed me.

      Haha…I think I’m gonna be a shoo-in for employee of the month. I should make myself an award!

  10. Letizia says:

    You are so right, there is nothing taboo or shameful about losing a job. It’s normal to feel down, of course, as with any unexpected change. But with your cute new haircut, you are off on a new adventure! I love the phrase “I’ve hired myself’ and think everyone should think this way regardless of who they work for. I will keep an eye out for potential employment opportunities for you, my friend.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      As you know, I really don’t hold back on this blog and I didn’t want to start with this. I think we’ve all experienced something along these lines, so it felt right to share it.

      I love that, hon. We should totally treat our jobs as our own business. In a way, I’ve always done that. Now’s the time to make things happen! Thanks, sweet friend.

  11. Deb says:

    So very sorry Britt. You are an awesome survivor I think, and will undoubtedly make the best of this situation. I was fired once, and have always suspected, but could never prove that it had to do with my being pregnant at the time. Leaving that job ultimately led me to something I liked even better so in the end, while I would never say this to his pathetic face, that boss did me a favor 😉
    Best to you on this new path.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Thanks so much, Deb! That firing sounds terrible…so sorry to hear that. But as you said, onward to something awesome. It’s really the best way for us to look at these situations. We should thank our bosses for opening up our lives to new experiences. 😉

  12. lillianccc says:

    I saw the title of this post in my inbox and my heart just sank. I’m really sorry you had to go through this but the way you’ve bounced back so quickly, determined not to just sit around feeling sorry and bad about yourself is damn admirable. And it’s exactly like you said– shit happens, often without rhyme or reason but once you find your footing, you can look back and see exactly why it had to happen the way it did. And for what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure content marketing is where it’s at these days because I only stopped looking for a job 9 months ago and there were plenty of opportunities from what I could see. Things might kind of suck now but I know you’ll get through it like you always do. Chin up and good luck!

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      The title is pretty brutal…as is that terrible word. I mean, yay for severance and all! Could be worse, right?

      Content marketing is a good place to be, absolutely. I’m already rockin’ and rollin’ with some work, which is very awesome, as I had some peeps rallying for me right off the bat. Thanks for the kind words, hon!

  13. Audrey Kalman says:

    I’m so glad you were able to bounce back so fast, and good for you for hiring yourself! I got laid off from a high-tech marketing job one week after coming back from maternity leave–18 years ago. Best thing that ever happened to me! I haven’t worked for anyone but myself since then. I do miss the health insurance, but other than that, I haven’t looked back. I’m going to connect with you on LinkedIn, if that’s ok.

  14. Gallivanta says:

    Hmmm……what a bummer. WHAT A STINKING BUMMER. But, you’ve hit the nail on the head with these lines “In the end, I learned that the modern-day human quest for stability and security can’t be found in a job. We can’t expect someone else to provide those qualities in our lives, and we can’t wait for them to come along and land right in our laps. They have to be found within us.” So, yes, hire yourself, love yourself, be kind to yourself ( and to others) and help make a world where the word severance becomes redundant. Hugs!

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Stinking bummer is right, Gallivanta doll! But, what can you do? We’ve gotta keep on keepin’ on.

      Hoping to never hear the word severance again. I like hugs much better! xo

      • Gallivanta says:

        Your situation, and that of quite a few in my own family, is why I am for a Basic Guaranteed Income policy. But very few Governments are likely to have the guts for such a radical shift in public policy thinking. Sigh.

  15. Roy McCarthy says:

    Ow Britt. Things seemed to be going so well for you. I’m pretty sure it was nothing to do with you and everything to do with the figures.

    But (cliche alert) out of darkness always comes light, and this might have done you a favour. There’s nothing more scary or rewarding than being your own boss. I really hope you smash it, you deserve to.

    Brave post young lady and the very best wishes for your new life.

  16. Jilanne Hoffmann says:

    Wow, talk about whiplash. Celebrating the 1Q goodness one minute and being let go the next. That company has some serious issues. Thankfully, they’re no longer your issues. You and gorgeous head of hair are on to new things! In the immortal words of Dr. Seuss, “Oh, the places you’ll go!” Best wishes on the freelancing. I think you’ll be awesome! Cheers!

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Whiplash, yes. It was like…wait, what’s going on? Can I just keep repeating the scavenger hunt day and pretend like this one never happened?

      Love that Dr. Seuss quote. It’s spot on. xo

  17. Casey Sheridan says:

    Wow. I’m speechless. I’m so sorry to read about your job, but at the same time, I want to rejoice with you on the new direction your taking your life.
    You’re an inspiration.
    I want to say “good luck”, but I don’t think you’ll need it. You’re quite savvy and already successful, so instead of good luck, I’m going to say this: Here’s to your current, and all of your future, success – Cheers!

  18. curtisbausse says:

    Oh, well, their loss, I reckon – some people never learn! Whatever new direction you head in, there’s bound to be lots of positives because it seems like you know where to find them. All the best.

  19. Clanmother says:

    A brilliant and profound post that reminds us that security is a false assumption. Helen Keller says it best: “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.” I am looking forward to the many adventures that await you…keep us posted. Whatever you do, I know you will be amazing.

      • Clanmother says:

        Here is the rest of it: “Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” I always get goosebumps when I read those words…

  20. danniehill says:

    It’s so hard when I hear a friend struggling with a setback and I can only offer her love and a hug. But the good news, as you’ve seen, is almost every time there’s a change in your life it leads to something better. That’s what will happen for you, dear Britt! Anyone would be profoundly lucky to get your help. Love you!

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      I love hugs, so thank you! I agree this is a good change for me. This past week I’ve really been able to see that as I’ve landed on my feet with the freelance biz. I’m able to focus more on what I enjoy doing, while being outside and snuggling with my cats. Can’t complain!

      Love you too, Dannie. Thank you!

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      LOL! Mr. H calls me taskmaster, so getting shit done is never a problem for me. But I do take cuddle breaks with the cats whenever I want now, because I CAN! Thanks, Mike! 🙂

  21. Russell Martin says:

    I’m really sorry to hear about this. I (and a few other Marketo employees) will miss reading your ResponseCapture blog posts. Everything happens for a reason and I wish you nothing but the best in whatever venture the future holds.

  22. Browsing the Atlas says:

    It’s wonderful that you wrote about it. Like you said, it’s free therapy, and hopefully it let you filter your thoughts about this ending and what it meant to you. But you’ll go on. With your enthusiasm for life, I have no doubt that the next chapter will be even more wonderful and this severance is actually leading you to fantastic opportunities. 🙂

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Blogging is definitely free therapy. I’m so happy you came back to it after going through some tough times. I’m sure it feels good for you to be writing and sharing with all of us again. (I’m behind on your blog, but I promise to visit soon!)

      Things are going well so far. I agree that it was a blessing in disguise. xo

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