By Jesse Turner
For the first time in my life, I got “fired.” I put “fired” in quotation marks because it wasn’t an official firing. It was a volunteer practicum position and I was offered a different, more restricted position for this term but was told that I could no longer continue in the position I had been doing for the last ten weeks. I was told I was causing too many disruptions, enough that the practicum had to end immediately.
I don’t want to go into the details of the firing (maybe dismissal is a better word) but I will tell you that I cried on my drive home, barely restraining myself from crying in front of my supervisor. I felt as though I had lost part of myself in losing that position. I tie my work ethic so centrally to who I am. I take pride in the fact that I work two jobs while going to school full time. I take pride in my exhaustion. I brag about my transformation from a lazy, self-pitying person to someone who has tried her best to take control of my future. Getting fired does not fit into my personal narrative.
This was my first placement in the specific field of study I want to work in. What do I do now? This is the field I want to spend the rest of my life in. Sure, I can study it in a classroom, but maybe I’m truly not good enough. My supervisor told me that he understood my behavior did not come from a place of malicious intent and that with more experience, I would do much better. I cling to his statement because it feels like all I have. This position was so draining, it consumed my waking hours and still I loved it. I miss it.
Now I am in a new practicum position, in a different youth correctional facility. I had my period of mourning but then was forced to take my love for my previous position and work to get a new one. In this position I have met young, incarcerated men who face rejection every day, rejection that is often worse than my own, and yet they continue to persevere. One young man earned his high school diploma, associate’s degree, and two bachelor’s degrees in five years under incarceration. There is no better kick in the pants than seeing people accomplishing more in lockup than you are on the outs. So getting fired is not all bad. It was a hard experience and one I will feel the sting of for a while. But I have to take it as a bump in the road, a learning experience, and not the end. I love this field too much to be done with it now.