I got canned. I was told to “hit the road Jack, and don’t you come back no more, no more, no more, no more.” It was done via email and a letter that not only spelled my name wrong, but also stated the date incorrectly and had more typos than I ever could have imagined three sentences containing. I have now had this experience twice in two years, the being canned, not the unofficial, typo laden emails. I know I am not alone and this economy has hit everyone hard, especially those in health care, but it still leaves me a little raw and overflowing with emotions. I was brought up to believe that if I worked hard and gained the respect of my co-workers and bosses I would never have to worry about being fired. I am a hard worker, dependable, reliable, I get along well with others, I do not get fired…only I have…twice. Okay, I have not been fired so much as I have been laid off. I worked at a hospital that went bankrupt and closed and a day treatment program for chronically mentally ill and medically fragile geriatrics that is grossly underfunded.
While I have debts I am trying to pay down I do not have a family to provide for or a mortgage or car payments or any of the financial responsibilities so many laid off workers face. In many regards I am lucky. I am not however immune to the feelings that arise from losing a job. The loss of this last job stings more than the previous one partially because it is another job lost and partially because the program is still running, they are just cutting costs and paring down left and right. My feelings of inadequacy and self-blame are able to run wild with this lay off. Had I just worked harder, done better they would have cut another service and kept me for a little while longer. I saw the writing on the wall. I knew it was coming. My hours had already been cut. And still, the news stung…it still stings. I am sad. I am angry. I am confused. I am frustrated. I am angry. (I know I mentioned angry twice…I am angry…there, I said it three times.)
When I move past myself I feel angry and sad about the clients. For months the focal point of the dance/movement therapy groups I did with them was being ignored, tossed aside by society, and not getting their needs met at the program. Trips were being cut out of the program, staff was being laid off and shuffled around, they were getting less attention from the staff that was left, and that staff was unhappy and overworked. The program is part of a larger system that is truly failing those it was designed to help. The system is also failing those who want to help the people who are trapped within the system. Our country does not offer adequate health care to those in need. It doesn’t offer adequate health care to those not in need. We do not take care of our elderly, mentally or physically ill. We cast them aside. We cut the budgets of programs designed to help them. And in doing that, we eliminate the jobs of those striving to help them. I can’t help but wonder what that says about our society as a whole. We do not value all of our members. We do not feel that everyone has a right to be cared for.
I wish I was able to more articulately share my two year odyssey of working in the mental health field as a dance/movement therapist, but I don’t seem able to just yet. I know that there is a lot that is unfair in the world. I know I have born witness to more pain and suffering than I had imagined existed. I know that I bear some battle wounds from my time in the trenches of working with the mentally ill. I also know that while I have lost another job I have not yet lost hope. We cannot continue to cast aside and deny parts of the population without exacting lasting consequences on society as a whole. We cannot continue to cast aside those who care, those who want to help.
Losing this job reminded me of just how bad things are right now. Losing this job also meant letting go of a part of my identity, for now at least. At present I am not a working dance/movement therapist. I don’t quite know what that means for me. I don’t know that I want to look for another dance/movement therapy job right now. I’m not sure any exist in an environment I would want to work in during this time of scaling back on funding for the most fundamental needs of those with little or no money and deemed “useless” in this society. I feel a little worse for the wear right now, not quite ready to get back up on the horse. If there is one thing I have learned, there are no sunsets to ride off into. Sometimes pauses are necessary along this mapless journey of life.