I’ve been having a hard time figuring out how to describe what happened to me at work last week. I don’t like the phrase “I lost my job” because it sounds so passive and makes me out to be a downtrodden victim, all shuffling out of the West Virginia coal mine with my pink slip in one hand and my lunch pail in the other, Bruce Springsteen watching from his car and writing a powerful, heart rending rock ballad about my struggle.
I don’t sound like a victim when I say “I got fired”, but then it gives the impression that I’m an unemployable lout who was smoking crack in the bathroom and had to be escorted out by security, which isn’t really accurate – both because my ad agency lacked a bathroom large enough to discreetly smoke crack in as well as security guards to escort me out.
Maybe “laid off” is the right phrase. After all, my entire department got the sack on the same day, which sounds an awful lot like a layoff until you remember that I was the only person in my department.
Look, hows about I just explain what happened and you can decide for yourself how to describe it:
Last Wednesday morning my boss had me stay in the conference room after dismissing all the other creatives from the morning meeting. A moment later our company HR rep stepped into the room, and I realized that my schedule for the rest of the week was about to get significantly less complicated.
My boss apologetically explained what we both had known for some time: Over the past couple of months, which are usually our busiest, he’s been struggling to find work for me to do* because fewer and fewer of our clients need copy written, and what little there is can usually be done by him. It didn’t make sense for them to pay me to sit around the office waiting to do whatever piecemeal work came down the pipeline, so they wanted to stop.
*This is most likely why he told me to download and play Bejeweled last week.
This was a good business decision on his part, because there really wasn’t any work for me to do for the past few months. I chipped in on some scripts and wrote up some copy lines, but the fact is that for the past year our clients have been asking for less and less copy. When I started at the agency there were three other copywriters and we kept pretty busy – we even had our own office! At the end it was just me sharing an desk with one of our media planners, scrounging for work to do and reading up on my Congressman's recent misdeeds.
I’ve got nothing but respect and gratitude for my old boss and everybody at the agency. There was absolutely no logical reason for them to hire a 23 year old kid with no prior ad experience to write copy for them, but they did it, and as a result I’ve now got a big portfolio and over a year’s agency experience on my resume. If not for this job I’d either be a production assistant on America’s Next Top Anorexic or back in Portland begging my Mom to stop using my old room as her home office so I could sleep there again.
The second I moved to LA my only concern was financial stability – I was burning through my savings and I needed to set myself up with a steady paycheck as fast as possible before I could really focus on my writing. I would’ve been content to answer phones or walk dogs, but instead I wound up with a job where I had to write creatively every day. This was one of those rare situations the Rolling Stones don’t talk about where not only do you get what you want, but also what you need.
Now, though, I no longer have a job, just like pretty much everybody else in my generation. I put a lot of money into savings over the past 16 months, so I’ve got a long time until anybody tries to kick me out of my apartment. The agency is still going to use me on a freelance basis in the future when they need scripts written, and my boss is setting up an interview for me with one of our clients, so there are prospects on the horizon.
In the meantime, though, I – the most boundlessly lazy person I’ve ever met – have got absolutely nothing to do.
Yes, I know you should only say ‘amazing’ when you’re amazed by something, which is why I’m saying it now. After being either unemployed and nearly broke or fully employed and constantly exhausted for just shy of two years, being able to spend a couple of weeks doing nothing productive, without fear of eviction or starvation, is amazing.
I’ve been able to not only meticulously clean and organize my room but also maintain it for the past week, which is amazing.
I’ve been able to stay up until 3 or 4 AM every night and still catch up on lost sleep, which is amazing.
I’ve put a further 20-odd hours into Fallout: New Vegas, which is amazing.
I’ve discovered that my apartment has rooftop access, and have spent a couple of afternoons sitting up there on a lawn chair watching the world go by, which is amazing.
I’ve been able to wake up every morning knowing that I have no immediate or pressing responsibilities to worry about for the day, which is amazing.
This is not a sustainable lifestyle, even for someone as committed to sloth as I am. I know for a fact that sooner or later doing nothing every day is going to drive me stir crazy. Fortunately, I’ve got two pilots and a webseries that I’ve been working on, and now that I’m unemployed I can make those three projects my full time job. That, too, will be amazing, because for the first time since moving here I’ll be financially stable enough to dedicate myself completely to the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do with my life.
So whether I lost my job, or got fired, or was laid off, just know that I’m okay. I’ll miss my old coworkers and I’m excited to see where my career takes me next, but right now I’m doing nothing, and I couldn’t be happier.
Truman Capps can no longer play the ‘busy’ card to get out of writing a blog update.