Why Losing My Job Was The Answer to a Prayer + The Art of Zen

IMAGE CREDIT: Shutterstock

Journal Entry: August 8, 2019

I woke up this morning screaming.

That's never happened to me before.

I had a dream about work. Ok, a nightmare.

I don't remember what happened, just that I was totally overtaken by the deep sense of anger and frustration that I'm experiencing at Company X. It permeated my entire being to such an extent that all I could do is scream in soul-writhing agony.

Everyday the bullshit mounts. And my frustrations grow. And I try to talk to people, to reason, to use logic. And no one listens. Few people care. Nothing changes.

Hell is not fire and brimstone... Hell is wanting to be somewhere other than where you are.
- Stephen Levine

I am in hell.

But...I only have three weeks left in the inferno. August 30th is my last day.

I've imagined that last day, repeatedly. What will that moment feel like, when I hand over my security badge, and walk out the door knowing I never have to go back again?

I imagine crying. Tears of joy of course. A bit of sadness for some of the people I will leave behind. But mostly joy.

Because FREEDOM.

A lot of people think they want freedom but they don't. Not really, because the truth is they wouldn't know what to do with it.

But I know what I'm going to do with my freedom. And that is why I AM ELATED.

Losing my job was an answer to a prayer.

In the last two years, I've written half a dozen resignation letters, but I never did anything with them.

But last year when things got really bad, I prayed.

"God, if I'm meant to leave this job, I need you to decide for me. You know I've had the courage to do this before. You know I've quit so many jobs, walked out on many things that could have been FOREVER gigs, but where I didn't stay because it didn't feel right and because I knew I had a greater calling. But this time, if you want me to go, I just can't make that decision, I need you to make it for me. Let THEM make it for me."

And they did.



Until February, I had a permanent job at Company X. And then they restructured. And I was 'downsized.'

(That's total bullshit by the way - the people who had managers in their corner kept their jobs. But in the year and a half that I had worked for my manager, he had repeatedly told me to my face that I was basically a useless drama-queen - "Let's be honest, you're not really doing anything here" "You have to admit you're being overly dramatic...You're being overly dramatic...You're being overly dramatic..." - and he would say these things behind my back to anyone who would listen. More than once I wanted to slap that ridiculous mustache off of his face. I did not do this, and instead secretly nicknamed him "Porn-Stache" because his mustache was so thick and hairy that he looked like a 1970's porn star. When I shared this nickname with Mr. New York, he couldn't stop laughing, and added "He wouldn't even have been a porn star, he would have been a fluffer..." My turn to laugh.)

After my 'downsizing' (which, lest we forget, happened WHILE I WAS ON VACATION), I was given the option to take a 6-week severance package, or a 6-month contract in a different department.

I took the 6-month contract.

Both sides were hoping that things might work out, and that once the contract was over, we might want to commit to one another.

It became clear halfway through my contract that neither side wanted that. They didn't want me to stay, and I wanted to go. In my last three months in that job, I truly began to hate it there. I know that hate is a strong word. But that's the only word that can accurately describe my feelings. White-hot seething rage.

And that is a very good thing.

If there had been any redeeming qualities, then I would have had my doubts about the fact that during this contract, I did not do my utmost to find another position within the company while I was there. Because I could have done that. Because aside from Porn-Stache and a few others, most people who knew me, knew that I did excellent work and that I kept my nose clean and never got involved in any company drama. Reputations matter.

But the anger, frustration, disgust, and outright RAGE and HATE that I felt towards Company X told me that finishing my contract and walking out the door was my only option.

I made you uncomfortable so that you would move.
- The Universe

And that's why the prayer.

I felt as though I had earned the right not to do the heavy lifting this time. Listen, we all need to toughen up, and take it upon ourselves to make difficult decisions sometimes in our lives. But most people don't, which is why they stay where they are: they're too afraid of taking chances. But I never have been; I've quit countless "good" jobs to pursue other things.

But this time, I needed God to do the heavy lifting for me. I needed a freebie. I needed it to be easy.

It was NOT EASY. It was emotional and spiritual torture.

And that was a gift. The process to get to the decision wasn't easy which made the decision easy, which was the answer to the prayer. Because the prayer was about making the decision, not about how I was going to get there.

We have to remember that answers to prayers don't always come floating in on fluffy pink clouds accompanied by a choir of chubby baby angels.


Sometimes it's the Devil himself come up from Hades with a burning hot pitchfork, stabbing our souls repeatedly to the tune of Paralyzed. (I often blasted this song in my car as I drove home and screamed - LITERALLY SCREAMED AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS - to let out the anger and frustration I was feeling.)

When things aren't working out in our lives, we need to ask ourselves "Is this the answer to a prayer?"

And we need to remember that prayers are made both consciously and unconsciously.



People tell us what they think of us by the way that they treat us.

That's not a point that anyone can argue (I dare you to try.)

My last month at Company X, I organized a product launch event here in Ottawa.

I arrived on site at 6:45 AM, and by the time my Manager (aka Tweedle Dumber) rolled in at 8:30, everything was set-up.

He proceeded to nit-pick and give orders.

"That should be 2-feet to the right. And move it forward a bit. And that sign should be outside. And you should lower it a bit."

I gave him my best Medusa "I want to turn you to stone right now" look and I told him "Go right ahead Tweedle Dumber, I set things up knowing you would want to move them."

My answer irritated him.

Good.

(He's one of those managers who is totally ineffective but regularly steps in with micro-management instructions to make himself feel as though he's contributed something. Which is basically what every manager at Company X does "Look at me! Look at the amazing value I added by throwing my completely irrelevant opinion into the mix! Aren't I brilliant??" I often had to hide in the bathroom to take phone calls because he had a bad habit of listening to my conversations and then questioning me about them after the fact. "Did I hear you say...? Because we don't want that, we want this..." Thank you, you completely useless ass-hat, I know that. Now step out of the way and let me do my fucking job.)


When we were finished tweaking the setup, I asked "Is there anything else? We're in good shape at this point, so I think we're done."

He pointed to a pile of garbage (that he had produced) and said "That needs to be thrown out."

*PAUSE FOR DEEP CALMING BREATH.*

I wanted to hurt him. Physically. I wanted to take that pile of trash and shove it down his throat until his eyes bulged.

I wanted to tell him to go FUCK HIMSELF.

I didn't.

Not because I wasn't brave enough. (Evidence of Bravery here.)

But because this was an opportunity for Real-Life Zen training.

Learning the Art of Zen, of centredness, of inner peace is not about sitting alone in a secluded cabin in the woods.

It's about staying calm when we want to do everything but. It means not screaming and doing physical damage to people who probably deserve it.

It means assessing our long-term goals in the moment and deciding that they are more important than our impulsive reactions.

That is the meaning of ZEN: self-mastery.

I wanted to hit Tweedle Dumber and tell him what an insignificant asshole he was.

But I also had one month left in my contract, and I wanted to leave with my reputation intact and a clean exit.

I wanted my record of employment to state "End of Contract" and not "Fired for Kicking Manager's Ass."


All of that processing of possible reactions and outcomes happened in about one second in my mind. (I've been practicing Zen for a long time, and Company X had been an excellent place to further develop this practice.)

Between the event and our reaction, there is a space. Who we become is determined by the decisions we make in that space.

So I bit my lip (literally bit it) picked up his garbage and threw it out.

Tweedle Dumber would never have asked his manager, Tweedle Dumb, to throw out his trash.


People tell us what they think of us by the way they treat us.

If I had stayed at Company X, I would always have been the person who got to throw out other people's trash.

And I am better than that. So, so much better than that.

May I always stay humble enough to throw out my own garbage.

And if I am ever in a situation where I cannot throw out my own trash, and need to ask someone to do it for me, may I always remember my manners "Would you mind throwing this out for me please? Thanks so much."

May I always make people feel worthy, and that I sincerely appreciate the efforts they make on my behalf.

Thank you Tweedle Dumber for being my teacher. Thank you for showing me who I wanted to be because of who you weren't.

Everyone and everything is here to teach us something.

The Art of Zen is about recognizing that.

Zen is not about not getting angry, it's about controlling that anger.

It's about hearing the destructive siren-song of our emotions and not answering that call.

That is the meaning of ZEN: self-mastery.

The difficult times we go through are either opportunities to grow, or they are opportunities to become victims.

I do not believe that in the history of mankind, any human being has ever been empowered or changed their lives for the better by taking on the role of victim.

If we cannot master ourselves, then we will never master anything in this life.



It is relatively easy to feel grateful when good things are happening, and life is going the way we want it to. A much greater challenge is to be grateful when things are not going so well, and are not going the way we think they should. Anger, bitterness, and resentment seem to be so much easier, so much more a natural reaction in times like these...

The religious traditions encourage us to do more than react with passivity and resignation to loss and crisis; they advise us to change our perspective, so that our suffering is transformed into an opportunity for growth. Not only does the experience of tragedy give us an exceptional opportunity for growth, but some sort of suffering is also necessary for a person to achieve maximal psychological growth. In his study of self-actualizers, the paragons of mental wellness, the famed humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow noted that “the most important learning lessons... were tragedies, deaths, and trauma... which forced change in the life-outlook of the person and consequently in everything that he did.”


- Robert Emmons from Thanks!



By the time I left Company X, I was convinced that I was either a Sherlock Holmes-level investigative genius with logic so grounded that it escapes most people, or that I was the biggest shit-disturber on the planet.

You, dear reader, are free to take your pick.

Company X had questionable business practices. Not anything that was overtly criminal (?), but things that make you go..."Hmmm..." Systems and ways of doing things that just didn't make sense which the company made me feel crazy for pointing out.


In one such situation, after having a heated debate with the Director of Company X's Treasury Department, I called one of my friends, the Queen of Details. (I am incredibly detail oriented, however the Queen of Details trumps even me. I've told her this, and she doesn't agree, but I know she's like a human computer.)

What I asked her was how I could find out if something that Company X was asking me to do was illegal or not. I had spent a considerable amount of time on Google with no results, and I wasn't sure what to do.

She told me about a service we have in Ontario that provides a free 30-minute consultation with a lawyer, the Law Society Referral Service. The purpose of the service is to help you decide whether or not the situation you are calling about does in fact require a lawyer. They cannot provide any legal advice, but the Queen of Details said that when she'd spoken to them, she'd always underlined that fact, and that she only wanted to know if laws were being broken, and if so, which laws.

She advised me to do the same, and to make sure I asked no questions which directly asked for advice, and she suggested I come up with a script because some of the lawyers she's spoken to had been very impatient.

So that's what I did.

And when I got on the phone with a lawyer, here's what I said:

"Hypothetically speaking, I work for a well known Canadian company which holds international trade shows where the company sells goods.

The company does not have an international bank account or any secure way to deposit and transfer the money from cash sales, and instead asks its employees to travel back to Canada with this cash.

The money is split amongst  employees so that no employee is traveling with more than the 10K personal non-declaration limit, but the total amount if tallied amongst all the employees is more than that 10K.

What I want to know: is there a law being broken by the company through the non-declaration of that money since the total is greater than 10K, and also is there a law being broken by the company for asking and expecting its employees to be liable for this money by bringing it across international borders?"

When I had outlined this situation to the Queen of Details, she said "Isn't there a dance mom who just got arrested for the same thing?"

She was talking about Abby Lee Miller, who "became a federal felon...when she pleaded guilty to concealing assets...from federal bankruptcy court in Pittsburgh. She also admitted that she sneaked cash into the country in plastic bags stuffed into luggage after returning from dance trips in Australia. She and her entourage brought back about $120,000 in cash tucked into Ziploc bags in amounts less than $10,000 and hidden in their luggage."

Ok, so this situation was a bit different in that employees weren't entering the US, they were entering Canada...? And as far as I know, the people who carried cash did not use Ziploc bags...? (I'm pretty sure that the Ziploc bags is what differentiates legal business matters from non-legal business matters.)

I want to make it clear that I flat-out refused to do this. In my discussion with the Director of our Treasury Department I said "Unless you sign a waiver that absolves me of any liability should that money be stolen, lost, or confiscated at the border, then I refuse to travel with Company X's money. Besides, what would it look like, even if I did get legitimately mugged, to lose X amount of dollars three weeks before the end of my employment with this company?"

The Director's solution? "We will ask other employees to travel with the money."

See?! Questionable business practices. And the fact that the people running the company either didn't think it was questionable or were ok with it made me feel like I was CRAZY.

And the thing that bothers me about this - that is still nagging at the back of my mind - is that the 10K non-declaration limit - as far as I understand it - is for our own PERSONAL money. A traveler is allowed to travel with that much of their money. But taking the income from cash sales made abroad by a company, then splitting it amongst employees to be below that limit, and then asking those employees to potentially lie about it should they get caught (because they either need to say "this is my money" - a lie - or they need to admit that "this is cash from the sale of goods by Company X" and if that's the case and the traveler gets caught, it's not Company X that gets into hot legal waters, it's the traveler) well, isn't that illegal?

I wasn't willing to lie on behalf of this company. I wasn't willing to be liable for this money. And because of that, I was a nuisance. (See?!! This is fucked up shit. Am I crazy for questioning this or just far too sane for the environment I was in?)

I talked to one of the Sales Managers about it. I asked him "Who do you think is responsible for that money if it gets lost?"

"Well I figured Company X would have my back."

"Think again my friend....think again."

"Oh...well screw that! I'm not traveling with the money."

(UNREAL: Why was I the only one pointing this out?! Why did it seem that I was the only employee in the history of the company who questioned and refused to do this?! WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE?!)

I'd spoken to Human Resources who had said "Well if it's proven that you were robbed, if there's a police report, then you wouldn't be liable."

Proven. That was the word that bothered me.

Proven. That sounds like...an investigation would need to occur. Lawyers would need to be hired. I would need to defend myself, because it would be assumed that I was guilty.

Why would I put myself through that? What do I have to gain here? Because like a fool, I did something potentially illegal on the company's behalf only to have the company turn around and force me to defend myself should something happen to the money that they had made me responsible for?!

(THIS IS WHY I FELT LIKE I WAS LOSING MY MIND.)

IMAGE CREDIT: John Van Hamersveld

Why would anyone do that?! And why would any company ask its employees to do that?! We're not talking about Farmer Bob's produce stand here, we're talking about a big, well known, thought to be reputable Canadian company. What a joke!

(Ok, I know I'm angry ranting at this point, but this is part of my closure process, and if you don't wanna read it, skip to the next section.)

Shit like this made me angry and frustrated. I questioned these business practices, and no one said anything, and no one within the company was willing to acknowledge that this was shady business. (!!!!)

The lawyer I spoke to thought it sounded sketchy though. He didn't know if a law was being broken or not, but he suggested that I call Canadian Border Services. I called them, and they agreed it sounded very sketchy, and told me to call Canadian Anti-Fraud.

I couldn't get through to anyone at Canadian Anti-Fraud, I tried until my very last day of work.

And then, I decided to let that shit go. Once I walked out of there, I didn't want to have anything to do with this company and all of their questionable business practices.

I wanted to be free. And I trust that eventually, the truth will come out.

Sometimes, we don't need to actively do anything, we just need to sit back and watch Karma do its job.


All I knew was that I had to get out before I was converted to the dark side; before I started thinking that shady business like the above mentioned was perfectly normal and ok. Because that's how we end up compromising ourselves you know...just a little bit at a time.



I saw my therapist the week after I left Company X.

I seemed so ok, so calm, so ZEN, that he asked "Do we need to talk about this? Do you need some kind of closure?"

I told him I had already gotten it. On my last day there, I wrote an email and sent it to a few people within the company who I thought might want to hear what I had to say.

I said what I had to say, and then later when I walked out of the building and the door closed behind me, it was truly over.

From: Wolf, Jasmin
Sent: August 30, 2019
Subject: It's the final countdown....!!!

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

So begins the Dickens novel A Tale of Two Cities and so begins my goodbye email on my last day of work, because my time at Company X truly was both.

I got my first job when I was 15 years old and I’ve been working ever since. In my entire working career (24 years now), I’ve never stayed in any job as long as I’ve stayed at Company X (4 years). And when I reflect on the reasons why I stayed so long, there is one benefit that stands out above all the others (and no it’s not the dental, although that is pretty damn good): it’s the PEOPLE.

I’ve never worked in any organization where there were so many people that I genuinely liked as here at Company X. Why am I telling you this? Because if you got this email, you’re one of the amazing people that at one point or another, put a smile on my face and helped make the other more difficult parts of the day-to-day better. Thanks for that you wonderful human. :)

I also wanted to highlight this because people are the most important aspect of EVERYTHING, but it seems that people are the most quickly forgotten in the pursuit of success, achievement, and the bottom line. But at the end of the day, when we walk out of any situation (as I am about to do) the people are the only thing we really remember. If we take care of the people, then everything else will take care of itself.

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
- Maya Angelou

I am so incredibly grateful for my time at the Company X. I needed this, all of it. I needed to learn and grow in the ways that I did. Every situation teaches us what we need to learn in order to move onto the next thing, and thanks to my time at Company X, I am better equipped to handle wherever my life will take me.

I say this and mean it, about both the good and the bad. And bad is the wrong word really, I think lessons is a better word. I received many lessons in my time here, and it has made me wiser. But, if I can be honest, there have been a few years of lessons now and because of that, I’ve been drafting and editing my resignation letter since the summer of 2017. But… I couldn’t bring myself to pull the plug.

See, when I was in my late 20’s, I had a permanent job with the Government. After 3.5 years there, I had to leave because – without trying to be dramatic – my soul was dying. So I quit, and I cashed out my pension, sold everything I owned, packed two suitcases and moved to France. And from there, I ended up in Egypt and I became a professional Scuba Diver. And until I landed at Company X, I had been moving and traveling, starting jobs, leaving jobs, and leading the life of a gypsy.

And that’s why I couldn’t pull the plug. Life had been so unstable for so many years that when my feet landed back in Ottawa and at Company X, it felt good to have the ground stop moving beneath my feet. That’s why I’m so grateful for my time here: it was exactly what I needed at the time when I needed it most.

But…nothing lasts forever which is the best and worst thing about life. It’s the best thing, because it means that when things aren’t going well we can say to ourselves “And this too shall pass” because hey, nothing lasts right? And it’s the worst because when things are going really well, we need to remind ourselves “Hey, nothing lasts” because it’s the only way we will fully appreciate those happy moments.

I always leave the building at lunch – it’s my cardinal rule – and I almost always end up taking a walk onto Majors Hill Park. When I’m there, I take a moment to appreciate this city, this country, and the opportunities that we all have here. I wasn’t born in Canada, I was born in Germany, and I became a Canadian citizen in 1989. I still have the letter and the little citizenship card (bearing a picture of my 9-year-old self with a toothy grin) that congratulates me on becoming one of the people who make up this great nation. So when I walk onto Majors Hill Park every lunch hour and see the Parliament building, I feel so lucky to have the opportunities I do living here.

I need to reminded myself of those opportunities because we are blessed to live in a country where if we’re not happy with where we’re at in life, we have the opportunity to change our circumstances. We can never, ever take this for granted because so many people in this world do not have this privilege. People die trying to get that privilege, and we get to have it just because it comes with the “Being a Canadian citizen” package.

And that’s why I couldn’t pull the plug, even though I wasn’t happy. Working here at Company X has in so many ways been a privilege that many people wouldn’t even allow themselves to dream of, and because I was aware of that, I thought “What right do I have to walk away from this?” (Especially since I’m now in my late 30’s, and not my late 20’s as I was when I left my Government job.)

So that’s why I’m incredibly grateful for the events of the last 6 months. On a professional level, it has been the worst, most difficult, most challenging, emotionally painful and frustrating time in my entire working career. But just like getting this job was a gift, so too was the abolishment of my position and the ensuing contract opportunity a gift. Because I couldn’t pull the plug, and I sent a prayer out to the Universe last year to say “If I’m meant to do something else with my life, I need your help, I cannot take it entirely upon myself to walk away.”

I’m grateful for how difficult things have been because it was the answer to my prayer. It’s the only way that, when I walk out the doors this afternoon, there won’t be an ounce of fear or regret in my soul. If there was even a little bit of hope in my heart about me having a future here, then I would be terrified of leaving this stability, but I know with absolute certainty that my wings are too big to fully expand here. (We are all capable of more than what our day-to-day says we are.)

It’s been an amazing ride. But it’s time to go now.

Every new beginning comes from some other beginnings’ end.
- Semisonic

Thank you for being a part of my journey. I wish you the absolute BEST, and I wish you as much joy and success as you can make space for in your life. We all deserve to be happy. Always remember that.

We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements in life, when all we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about.
- Charles Kingsley

JASMIN WOLF
CORPORATE EVENTS BADASS





If I was angry in any way at any of the people or any of the things that happened at Company X, then it would be like spitting in God's face. The Universe had answered the prayer that I had put out there with all of my heart. I begged for an answer and got it. I cannot be angry at the people and the situations that helped the Universe deliver the message I needed to hear.

On my last day of work, Tweedle Dumb had to escort me out because I had handed over my security badge and could no longer let myself out of the building.

She said to me "I hope you find what you're looking for."

I said "Thank you." Part of me thinks that was coming from a good place, and part of me thinks there was a lot she didn't say like "Because whatever it is you need, it's clearly not here and we are glad to see you go..." Which is fair because the extreme stress and utter ridiculousness that were my last 6-months at Company X turned me into a bit of a basket case. (I cried, A LOT.)

I will find what I'm looking for because I know that my purpose is looking for me as much as I am looking for it. And because now that my heart is as wild as it is, it can never be tamed again.

After the first time that you opt to brave the wilderness, when you pull away from what a group of people think...the first time you pull away and find power in standing on your own, I think your heart is marked by the wild. I think you belong into the wilderness in a different way. Because every time after that when you choose fitting in over belonging to yourself, it's painful.
 - Brene Brown

It's over now. The painful nightmare is over.

It's time to start dreaming new dreams.

(Cue fluffy pink clouds and chubby baby angels.)


Comments

  1. Company x was/is a nightmare. Freedom does feel amazing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So happy you got out! I wish you an amazing new journey where you will be valued for all that you are. :)

      Delete
  2. I'd argue that how people treat others is as much what they think of THEMSELVES than the other person and how the person reacts to that treatment is similar. The ego is a funny thing and it's hard to observe it when it floods us with feelings.

    ReplyDelete

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