I am Thankful for Being Fired

May 8, 2014

I am Thankful for Being Fired

by Sue Chehrenegar

I believe that just about anyone who is working for someone else would say that a firing represents one of the harshest forms of criticism. I have faced that type of criticism; in fact, I was once given a two week notice on my birthday. For a few days, I felt that I had failed to be a useful worker. Then, someone made a request, and got put me in a more positive frame of mind.

The place where I was working housed a series of laboratories. The laboratory technicians often had to experiment with mice and rats. One day, one of the male workers had trouble removing a mouse from its cage, once the experiment had been completed. His hand was too large, and it would not fit into the animal’s tiny cage.

Now, I happen to have unusually small hands. In fact, I can recall a time when a friend of my college roommate was fascinated by a pair of gloves that she found on my bed in our dorm room. She could not believe how small it was.

Well, my tiny hand proved to be just what that one technician needed on that particular day. I was the only person in our lab who could reach in there at remove that mouse. That incident helped to make me more aware of the ways that I can be useful, and can be certain of having a meaningful life.

In that situation, I had failed to meet the goals established by my superiors. Those goals had required excellent performance of required experiments. I had been expected to act assertively, as I sought to carry-out such experiments. Unfortunately, the level of assertiveness that I had been able to muster-up was equal in size to my tiny hands. That is why I had failed to hold-down that particular job.

Fortunately, I had learned something much earlier that would help me to think more positively about my ability to have a useful and a meaningful life. A biochemist at the company that was unhappy with my performance had spoken with me about the nature of his investigations. He had told me that he wanted to find a way for isolating a certain type of lung cell. Naturally, he had approached that task by trying all the techniques that are familiar to the typical biochemist.

At that point, I had struggled with a graduate biochemistry course, and I found that I enjoyed growing cells much more than doing any sort of biochemical experiment. In fact, before I was fired,  I did obtain some cells  from a laboratory at the local University, and I had tried working with those, rather than using live animals.  Later, when I had to find a new job, a friend suggested that I visit the Human Relations Department at that same University.

During that visit, I made a discovery that helped to put me in an even more positive frame of mind. I found that the head of one of the University’s research departments had the same goal as the biochemist that I had talked to earlier. He wanted to isolate the same type of lung cell. However, he also wanted to keep the isolated cells growing and making more cells.

With that goal in mind, he had ordered a special machine, one called an elutriator. Now, I had once worked with an elutriator. While in graduate school, I had taken a three month course that focused on that instrument. After heeding the urging of a friend, I scheduled a visit with the man who had once agreed to give me some cells, and I explained to him the nature of my experience with the machine that he had ordered.

Not long after that meeting, a friend (another person who loved biology) and I were given permission to see what we could do, working on the mice that were made available to us. We also learned as much as we could about the elutriator, which had yet to be fully assembled. Eventually, I was present when a man came and assembled it for us.

I found that my ability to grow cells was quite valuable. Even the short experience that I had once had while in graduate school had allowed me to stand-out as a job candidate. Ultimately, I got the job that I had hoped to get, the one that allowed me to work in that University laboratory. I saw my life taking-on far more meaning.

Now, my life could not be described as smooth-sailing from that point in time. I encountered plenty of other obstacles. Yet, my skills and readiness to work hard on those skills helped me to overcome each obstacle that I encountered. By managing to think positively, I kept myself from feeling that I would be unable to have a meaningful life.

Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/12004898@N06/4642070007