Working Life: Wash that job out of your hair

I GOT fired two weeks ago. It was great. The office had become increasingly unbearable. Six people had resigned from the law firm, one after the other, gritting their teeth and finding another job. I was dealing with daily rebukes from a new boss, a bad appraisal, no pay rise and a job description that changed weekly. The prospect of going into work each morning made me physically sick.

One Monday morning I snapped. I got into a grievance procedure and suddenly found myself involved in an uncomfortable and dangerous process. With only 20 months service in the company, my legal rights were nil. For some reason my boss asked me a bizarre question, "Are you 100 per cent loyal to me as head of the department?" I hesitated, sighed, and said no.

The meeting was adjourned, and after lunch I was summoned to a conference room. I was faced with three grave faces and my personnel file laid out on the table. "I've thought about what you said this morning and I have decided that our differences are irreconcilable. So we're terminating your contract." Gulp. I was handed an envelope, containing my P45 and a month's pay. It was all over.

I was allowed to go back to my desk to clear my things. First, there was the euphoria, I roared back into the department and punched the air; shook hands with my few remaining colleagues, and disappeared in the direction of Liverpool Street with two carrier bags. I'd never have to go back to that hell hole again.

Thirty-six hours later I woke up in the middle of the night and came to the painful realisation that I'm 29, I've got no career, and that payslip which I brought home every month was my dinner ticket, rent cheque and pocket money.Friends helped me find some perspective. For all my anxiety, I had dealt with a difficult problem. What do you do if your job becomes a daily misery? You can disappear for long lunchbreaks, and live for Friday afternoon, or you can get fired.

It's amazing how quickly five-thirty rushes round when you're not working, and it's disquieting that no money is on the clock. But Sundays are no longer spent dreading a pile of un-ironed shirts, and my pinstriped urban straitjacket is hanging in the wardrobe. My cousin got made redundant last week, with two kids, a wife and a mortgage. He still went on his holiday to Poole. And at least I don't have any dependents. Perhaps you can put your head above the parapet and not have it knocked off. Instead, you can contemplate life without a boss, and making your own way.

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