Dear All,

I trust you are all well in both mind and body, and welcome to yet another edition of our long running weekly newsletter.

Have you ever been fired from a job or as an employer had to fire somebody? Well I have experienced both, the former, I’m happy to say only once, and that was from a tomato growing company way back when I was 17 years old. Myself and 4 of my mates were looking for some seasonal work to make some money to go on holiday with and through the local job center, or the labour exchange as it was called back then, we managed to secure ourselves a job picking tomatoes for a couple of months. Looking back, the pay was pretty pitiful, it was piece-work and you got paid for however many trays or bags of tomatoes you were able to pick by the end of the day. All the work was done inside greenhouses so it was very hot and humid work; walking up and down row after row of tomato vines trying to pick tomatoes as quickly and as selectively as possible. Anyway, my mates and I lasted about a week before we were all fired for throwing tomatoes at each other, not ones we pulled from the vines, but ones that had fallen on the floor and become bruised and over ripe. I can remember all 5 of us clearly standing in front of the personnel manager’s desk covered from head to toe with bits of tomato flesh and seeds and stinking to high heaven of tomatoes and the fertilizer that they were grown in: “You’re all fired”, this is what you’re all owed (as he passed us all our wage packets), now get the hell out of my sight”, said the personnel manager, and then we all left, one or two of us feeling somewhat surprised that we’d been fired without receiving a warning first. Of course we all reflected afterwards on what soft lads we’d been, we’d all deserved to get fired for what we’d done and no matter how much we tried to excuse the fact by making comments like “Anyway, the money was no good”, “It was pure exploitation” ; “the working conditions were unbearable”; “the tea breaks and lunch times were too short”, the plain and simple fact was that we’d lost our jobs, summertime jobs or no summertime jobs, they’d gone and with them out hope to make money for our holidays.

Since those so-called salad days at the tomato picking company, definitely pun intended, I’ve always been very mindful of working hard, and to the best of my ability, in all the jobs I’ve done, but I have had times in my life when personal issues have arisen that have put terrific strains and stress on my ability to work effectively. However, no matter how impossible it seems to do, we always have to separate terrible things that happen on a personal level or in our personal lives from company work related duties: the two must never cross over the line together, that is unless a physical and mental breakdown occurs that makes it impossible for a person to carry out their professional working duties to the extent required, which is what this week’s poem is about. This week I had to dismiss an employee for not performing her duties to the level expected by her workplace, it wasn’t that she was incapable of doing the job per se, it was, as it finally turned out, that she was suffering from mental and emotional stress from having recently lost two of her very close relatives. I don’t like having to tell someone that they have to leave their position, no matter what the situation, but on occasions we are left with very little choice, and in this case I had no choice at all. Granted, the person I had to dismiss was incapable of doing her job, period; but only because she was/is mentally and emotionally disturbed through having had two deaths in her family to deal with. The conversation I had with the person in question moved me enough to want to write about it, and what better way to do it than to throw down one or two lines of prose to reflect how I saw the situation, both leading up to the dismissal, and after it. Until next week, remain positive in mind and body, and when making decisions, whether of great importance or not so great importance, make sure they are well informed ones because it’s next to impossible to rectify situations in which poor decisions are made.


A blessing in disguise

This was the second time for me to be called into the office of the company I worked for and I knew it would be my last.
I’d been called in the previous week, but on a different day, and told that I was not meeting the expectations of my workplace.
In that same week, based on a request from my workplace, I had been observed by my employer teaching a class.
After reports had been written and conversations had taken place about my performance I was now back in the same place: as oblivious of being fired as I had been on the day of being hired.
Now functioning on anxiety fueled reserves of energy and desperately wanting to be put out of my misery, although still conflicted inside because of pride.
I was told by my employer that due to my inability to perform my working duties to an expected level the school in which I worked had finally decided that they did not want me to continue working there.
It was explained to me by my manager that in the letter of reflection that I had written based on the previous meeting I‘d had with him I had inadvertently admitted my inability to perform one or two of my duties.
In my letter I’d mentioned weaknesses with English grammar and pronunciation, which based on the fact that I was hired to teach both skills, the ridiculousness of the situation spoke for itself.
It was then that I explained that the death of two very close family members, whom I was still mourning, was the reason for my plight.
In desperation, I believe I honestly lied, I tried to blame the 2 deaths of my relatives for my lack luster performance thinking it would garner me sympathy, allowing me a further chance to redeem myself.
I knew it was just a matter of time as I was clearly not in a normal state of mental health, but such a state of mind allowed me to continue on defending myself against all the accusations that had been brought against me.
A long list of claims made against my professional conduct, typed down and read out one–by-one, each one of them ringing as true as the last one read.
However, the attempts I made to defend myself were all to no avail.
I felt compelled to explain that I would return at the end of every working day to my empty and pokey little 1 DK, questioning whether I’d given enough of myself to earn my pay, trying to convince myself I was okay, when actually I was in breaking up into pieces with some of them already lost.
Knowing that in order to find the missing pieces I would have to return back to a place that I had vowed I would never return to.
I went on to say that I occasionally call one of my friends for a chat, but talking on the phone, feeling as I do, makes me feel more alone.
I go to church every week, but in my present state of mind I am finding that that is getting harder to do.
I spoke with my mother last night and she advised me to go home.
I’m out of my depth because of ill health, I’m just not able to get through to myself.
I’m presently unable to reach high enough up to take back what I feel has been taken away from me and put up on the top shelf of my own personal cupboard of hopes and dreams.
No more can I talk of redemption, not here, not in my present state, it’s way too late for that, even if it were possible, I’ve already cashed in my lot.
I’ve finally been relieved of duties from the job of work I should never have applied for or been hired to do.
Released from living with the lies that I had disguised as truths hoping that they would provide armor to protect me from my shortcomings.
To have continued on living such a life of denial, feeling permanently on trial for my life, I fear would have left my family mourning another death.
My getting fired was a blessing in disguise.
A poem by Stephen Austwick