Although my desk was incredibly accessorized, it really meant something to me. Having graduated alongside the recession’s kickoff in December 2007, my desk said “I made it.” Although I was only six weeks into my dream job as a commercial interior designer, I had this feeling of satisfaction. I proved to myself that four-and-a-half years at UW-Madison supplemented by nine months of interviews, rejections, and high hopes were not a waste.
After setting down my vanilla latte, Danielle tapped my shoulder. She wanted to privately meet. Danielle was great. She interviewed me for the job and was one of the firm’s senior designers. Although usually dressed in skinny jeans and sweaters, she was polished with her perfectly highlighted hair and linked jewelry from Tiffany & Co. Danielle certainly knew her stuff too. As a well-traveled and certified designer with over a decade of experience, she could give Frank Gehry a run for his money.
Despite my wool scarf still around my neck, I followed Danielle to the conference room. She is typically very friendly and it was odd she didn’t wait for me. Instead, Danielle feverishly departed from my desk with her head down as if she were on a mission.
To my surprise, already in the conference room was Dan, one of the “quiet and focused” owners from this morning. Danielle sat down next to him with me on the opposite side. Each uncomfortably stared at me with dropped eyes and frozen faces. My heart started to race with confusion and worry. Then Danielle started to talk.
“You must know that you are very talented,” she said. “This is what makes my next few words incredibly difficult to say.”
“We recently were notified that your project has been cancelled by the client. There was not enough funding considering the state of the economy. What this means is that we have to let you go.” Her voice started to quiver when she said “I am so sorry.”
My eyes started filling up with water while my face turned white as a ghost. Within seconds Dan handed me a severance check that would hardly pay my next month’s rent. Danielle handed me a list of references to contact for new employment.
Feeling like the rug was just pulled from under my feet, all I could fathom was “I understand.” As I walked back to my lovely desk, I wiped the first tear to roll down my face. Danielle followed me for a few steps. Then she briskly turned right toward the desk of another young, brunette designer. This was Claire. Occupied by a detailed email from a contractor, Claire was a little startled when Danielle tapped her on the shoulder. Claire started on the same day I did and was on the same project that got cancelled.
Within a block of my former employer’s office, my eyes were no longer full of water. Instead they were emptied as countless tears streamed down my fresh rosy cheeks after returning to the chilly November air.
“I just lost my first job."
My brain could not stop saying this. “I just lost my first job.” There was a silver lining, however. Not only did my Starbucks vanilla latte leave with me, but it was also still warm. Hardly enough time passed during my layoff for it to get cold.
Ugh, what a Monday.
I couldn’t bear getting back on bus #60 and hearing Lola’s voice to go home. It would just remind me of a trip I likely would never take again into the West Loop. Instead, I dragged my feet almost two miles to my studio apartment.