Failure and Self Worth

I got fired last week.

I keep writing and saying that sentence, trying to make it feel more… something. Real, I guess? I’ve never been fired before, and I’ve certainly never felt less than extremely valued at a job that I was demonstrably (numbers don’t lie, y’all) good at. I guess I’m lucky that this is the first time? Either way, it sucks to be fired, and failure has its own special way of disposing of your self-worth one little grain of at a time.

I think I’m fortunate, in a way, that this happened AFTER I got published, and not– lest you be deluded by the media’s depiction of those of us with careers in writing– because of the money. I’m lucky that I have experienced SO DAMN MUCH rejection in the 4 years since I started seriously trying to publish THE DIMINISHED. When I first started, rejection from any avenue STUNG. But now? I have a voice in my head that pops up automatically, asking me to look at the facts. What’s true? What’s not true? What could I have done better or differently?

I did the same thing when I got fired. My immediate reaction was, of course, embarrassment. But then I looked at the facts, and I saw that I did good work for the organization, and I am proud of everything I accomplished there. I hope to be able to continue to bring the same attitude through to my writing career.

If there is one thing I’ve learned from writing, it is that we have to celebrate every tiny victory because there are so, so many things that go sideways or upside down in life. I also think, though, that we have to celebrate the life-altering failures. I didn’t anticipate writing full time for at least 4-5 more years, and I will (have to!) go back to work in the not too distant future, but for now, having the space and time to write while I look for work is exhilarating. (I think it’s important to note that I am VERY FUCKING LUCKY to have had the ability to build a savings account and to have a safety net in the form of both my family and my husband’s. I think about what would have happened to me in the same situation several years ago, and I am taken by a blind panic.)

The day that I got fired my husband pointed out the fact that failures and triumphs affect our lives in extremely similar ways: they open some doors and close others. How we react to that change is entirely up to us. So rather than mourning my lost job, my husband and I popped a bottle of champagne, sat on our patio, and celebrated the open doors ahead of us.

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Kaitlyn Sage Patterson

Kaitlyn Sage Patterson grew up with her nose in a book outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. After completing her M.F.A., she moved to South Korea, where she taught English and started writing her debut novel. THE DIMINISHED will be published by HarlequinTEEN in April 2018, followed by its sequel in 2019. When she's not staring off into space and trying to untangle some particularly troublesome plot point, she can be found in her kitchen, perfecting the most difficult recipe she can find; or at the barn, where she rides and trains dressage horses; or with her husband, spoiling their sweet rescue dogs.

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