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Getting fired never felt so good

June 15, 2011

With only a week to go, I sneak off to the toilet. Sitting on the seat with iPhone in hand, I begin to write a letter to my boss. He’ll never read it. It’s vicious, a little exaggerated and kind of funny. Getting fired never felt so good.

Is it a poem? Or is it just a rant? I’m not sure. It’s kind of a spoken word piece and I think it’s kind of funny. I get up at The Brunswick Hotel in front of the crowd of other poets and read it fresh off the screen, so raw that if I was reading it centuries ago, it would still be dripping ink. It sends the crowd into a fit of laughter and applause. Getting fired never felt so good.

For those who’ve been following me over the years, either on my blog or Twitter, you might have gotten the hint that I hated my job. For years, most of my life consisted of turning up to an office and working on boring spread sheets and sneaking in the occasional writing. But now it’s the end of an era and I’m writing this article from the comfort of my own home.

Getting fired does suck. It’s really scary actually. I was walked by my manager into the HR manager’s office and the both of them told me I wasn’t needed anymore. What would I do now? Why did I care so much? I wanted out for ages after all. I did like being able to pay rent though.

But for writing, catastrophic events, massive changes in your life can be mined for ideas and writing. Writers must sound like sadists when we go on about how great it was to have something terrible happen to us because we got some good stories out of it.

My whole job was kind of like that. There are a heap of stories, flash fiction pieces and poems that I wrote based on my own experiences as an office worker. And think of all the other great books and movies that feature the drab and boring office: The Office, Office Space, IT Crowd, Max Barry’s Company, Dilbert etc.

And then in the three weeks of notice I got, waiting out until I got to leave, I channelled the topsy-turvy emotions of fear and jubilation into poetry. I lost count of how many poems I wrote about all the aspects of being fired, and they sparked other pieces too.

Out of it, I got something I’ve been wanting for the last year, a feature spot at a poetry gig. All around Melbourne, the spoken word gigs feature open mics and feature poets, kind of like headliners, I guess.

And out of being fired, and writing the poems, I came up with the idea of ‘Farewell to the Cubicle,’ a spoken word show of all my boss, job and office poems, all pulled together by those pieces I wrote in the last three weeks and the idea that it was the end of an era. Reading these poems won’t have the same bite anymore as I no longer work anymore. I’m an unemployed writer for now.

So out of the most tumultuous situations, writers get a lot of it, like the sadists we are.

I think it’s all about conflict. Stories are boring without conflict. If it wasn’t for the villains, the chaos, and the problems we throw at our characters, there would be no story. Now I’m not advocating for destroying your lives for something to write about, but when life gives you lemons, write a story about turning lemons into grenades and blowing up your office.

This brings me to now. To be clear, I wasn’t fired, but made redundant. I got a little payout that means I can avoid looking for another one of those dreaded jobs for the next few months. I have a bit of time to do some writing, prepare that spoken word show, work on my zine and other things. It’s kind of nice.

But I think I’ll be looking for a job when I get back from Turkey at the end of August. After my little holiday, which I’m sure will give me more to write about, I’ll probably have to get a job for financial reasons, but I’m guessing I’m not going to like it. Which will be ok, because writing at home is a bit too freeing for now, I get to sleep in and can sometimes sit at home and just play games instead of work. And my life doesn’t throw up enough crap for me to write stories out of it. I guess this really does make me a sadist.

Benjamin Solah is a spoken word artist as well an ‘on-the-page’ writer. He’ll be performing his spoken word show ‘Farewell to the Cubicle’ at the poetry night, Passionate Tongues at The Brunswick Hotel in Melbourne on the 4th of July, now dubbed Employee Independence Day.

One Comment
  1. June 15, 2011 8:15 pm

    It is refreshing to see this topic from a side where it’s not a horrifyingly bad thing all around. You’ve seemed to be reinvigorated by it and I’m happy for you!

    I got fired on November 9, 2009 from a job I’d had for over 14 years. There was no 3-week notice… I got a call on my cell phone, while driving on a vacation day, told to dial into a conference line on which I got an HR rep and a manager I’d never spoken to (several layers above my pay grade) and they told me I was no longer needed (along with everyone on my team). It did inspire some writing, but the shock of it, the manner of it and the state of the economy all worked together to make this event a bad one for me. Now, 1.5 years later, I’m starting a business and making no money yet. Bills continue to get paid. I’d hoped writing would fill in some of the gaps but the need to focus on getting the business going has limited the writing time.

    I also didn’t realize how much writing I actually did at the office, before hours or during lunch — I’d get there about 2 hours before starting time and write. Now that I’m working at home, I’m not getting that two hour stretch. It’s something I need to fix.

    I hope the new energy, excitement and inspiration you’ve found from this event continues, now and even after you get the next day job. Good luck!

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