I’m going to be flat-out honest with you. I was fired once from a position I had always wanted. I had no one else to blame, though goodness knows I tried. With this firing, I entered the Hall of Shame, where you get to ponder your failures for the rest of your life
Being fired hasn’t been my only failure of course. Being divorced suggests some kind of loser behavior, but I jointly own that one with my ex, Mr. Wrong, and as you would probably guess, I believe he owns the bigger share of the blame. Well, that’s my story anyway, and I’m sticking to it.
When I first got the f-word from the boss, I was stunned. I was actually dismissed in front of my peers. I sobbed. It was my dream job because it had fame, glory and prestige. I loved the position, though in retrospect I was wholly unprepared for the responsibility and the spotlight it put me in.
I remember f-day like it was yesterday. My brown hair was cut in a bob, with bangs that were one inch long on the left side and three inches long on the right side. “Lordy, did that girl get her haircut cut at the hairdresser’s or the dog groomers?” the neighbors whispered. Even I knew I looked weird – and I was only four years old. Yup, four.
The nightmare happened when I was in the kindergarten rhythm band. I was usually relegated to banging two sticks together or clanging the triangle with the other 20 rhythm band losers. I didn’t like playing the sticks . . . I wanted to be the lone glorious drum pounder or the tambourine shaker, not a crummy twig tapper.
Then one day, the teacher, Miss Coyle, asked me if I would like to be the band conductor. You know, like Ricky Ricardo or Mitch Miller. My flat chest puffed up, my shoulders went back. I was handed the baton, led up to the platform and turned around to face my band – a sea of faces staring at me.
Now this is the point at which it all started to go wrong. I had no idea what I was supposed to do with that flipping baton. I had seen Ricky and Mitch on TV, but with severe performance anxiety, I couldn’t recall if they twirled it, tossed it or drew circles with it.
Miss Coyle grabbed the baton and started waving it wildly, while the no-name stick girls began banging their wooden instruments of musical torture. The tune ended and I slipped away to my seat on the floor, head down and in pain.
Then the final insult. The teacher called upon Raymond, who hadn’t even figured out how to tie his shoes yet, to take over my job. No warning, no probation. She just passed him my baton and he started waving it just like I had seen the conductors do on TV.
Please, Miss Coyle, I‘ve got it now! I desperately tried to catch the teacher’s eye to show her the lights had finally come on. But she only had eyes for Raymond. I was in the corner with my stupid sticks. I was yesterday’s news.
For 50 years I have been swinging that baton in my dreams to see if I could get it right. I can’t read a musical note or carry a tune and my pitch has been off since the birth of my first child, and no, I don’t see the connection between birth and pitch either, but I swear it’s true. But music was never going to be my career, so my baton failure was probably inconsequential in the scheme of things.
But here’s the important stuff that I did learn in Miss Coyle’s class:
• I learned that firing is just the umpire telling you that you lost the game when all along you were playing badly and probably knew how it would end anyway.
• I learned that career success is possible when your career goals fit your strengths. Don’t try to swim upriver- that’s for fish.
• I learned that pain dulls over time and humor carries the day.
• I learned that people should play to their passions and stay tuned to themselves.
• I learned that failures are where life’s lessons are learned, so celebrate failure as a character builder.
See, I really did get it, Miss Coyle.