I Came, I Saw, I Almost Conquered… And Then I Got Laid Off

I was 18 when I bought the entire pink, velvet covered series of “Sex & the City”. It was beautiful to the touch. I couldn’t wait to get home and start the binge fest that would unlock the secrets of womanhood, but ultimately end with the demise of my previously pre-planned life of becoming a writer/therapist/CEO/doctor/furniture designer who might like to dabble in law someday while living out the Nancy Meyers life I’d dreamed of since watching “Baby Boom” at 12. All it took was the last two behind-the-scenes DVDs in the “Sex & the City” series to show me that this was a thing.

Making film wasn’t some enchanting universal mystery — people actually made it happen. I wanted to be part of that magic; I wanted to make that magic, and I decided that I would do anything I could to make this my life. A production internship, seven months of depressed-Netflix-watching-and-almost-giving-up later, I found my way into an indie film company as an intern, who would unexpectedly rise to a management position that would slowly be taken away from me by a male colleague who didn’t want me telling him what to do.

I thought I had made it, that the universe was giving me some lucky in. I was interning as an assistant to a department head that emulated everything I wanted to be: a strong female making a name for herself in the industry by working hard and being a total BAMF. I threw myself into any and everything, received bigger tasks and eventually took on a project that ended up getting me hired. For pay. In film. People were emailing, texting, calling — I was that New York City career bitch that barely had time to talk or eat because I was too busy emailing and speaking to people, just like I’d always wanted to be. I was getting films that deserved to be seen out into the world in some small way, and eventually managing the operations half of the company with my own team of interns. Cut to two months later with me walking aimlessly through Union Square at one in the afternoon to meet my friend at a bar after I texted, “I just got laid off!”

A few months in, I was running my part of the company like a mini-BAMF when one morning during a meeting, actual BAMF announced that she’d be leaving the company for an offer at one of the mega companies in the industry. I was sad to see her go, but she deserved it. As the only female in the company, I became a little nervous. I didn’t want to get thrown to the side or boys’ clubbed. I experienced it in my previous internship, where I saw males get buddy-buddy with other males and get opportunities that weren’t even offered to the women. I didn’t want that to happen to me, and I was already feeling it. My (former) male colleague, who essentially orchestrated my collapse at the company, and for legal reasons we’ll name Dick Jones, was already starting to treat me like an intern. Yes, I had recently been one, but wasn’t for quite sometime. I had just studied under an artful master, and even though I knew I had a ton more to learn, I was so busy with my end. I was helping the department head phase out, and wound up somehow starting to morph into her position. It seemed that Dick either didn’t like, or quite understand what was going on, and what my place was. But first, let me explain Dick’s position at the company.

Dick was a subcontractor with his own company who was brought on to handle a particular zone. He had interns from our company who could help with his end, and all around, he seemed like a nice person. I wanted to work with him, mostly because I had to, but I also felt like I could learn a lot from him. He’d been in the industry way longer than me and really knew his shit. I know this because he made sure to tell me every few days. As I was managing, making sure everything was flowing correctly, making sure there were no visible errors to the face of the company and keeping up with the department head’s unfilled end, my boss gave me a film client to work with. Being riddled with overwhelming anxiety from feeling like I was biting off more than I could chew aside, this made me excited, and I was more than up for it. I emailed the team with the plan I executed after speaking with the client, asking them to keep it handy for our meeting next week.

It was a Monday. I couldn’t wait for Dick to come in because he would be helping with a large part of this, and due to my inexperience and over-excitement of wanting to get things going, I made the mistake of asking Dick when he’d be coming into the office. Twice. It didn’t seem like a big deal, but this somehow set off an explosion. My boss went downstairs and came back up to tell me that Dick wouldn’t be joining us for the meeting today because he was enraged over me asking where he was and emailing him about the plan. So enraged that he almost quit on the spot. My boss iterated all of the things he said about me during this rant, like that I was a, “nobody in the industry intern that didn’t even work hard, that he didn’t have to answer to.” The unprofessionalism of my boss telling me this aside, I was crushed. I hadn’t dealt with this before, and I wasn’t sure how to come back from it.

Over the next few weeks, it felt like I was walking on eggshells. My boss would tell me things Dick was saying about me here and there, and I slowly began to have my tasks and clients taken away from me. Insecurity set in, but I wasn’t going down without a fight. I just spent a million dollars on college (slight exaggeration) for a piece of paper that said I knew about some stuff, and I had a fiery passion for what I was doing. I was here to make a difference in this world by pushing art out in a real way, and I’d be damned if some men ganged up on me to take it away because of one minor misstep! But it didn’t matter. It happened anyway, kind of like how John Green said, “slowly, and then all at once.” I wasn’t even in control of my own job anymore. This person felt like he had the right to decide what my privileges were. That because I happened to be at a similar level in the company as him, despite knowing a lot less, I somehow didn’t have the right to go over work with him. Because I asserted some type of influence or ability to do my job, I somehow became a burden. In time, he took away my voice and my presence in the office.

I’m still confused that a grown ass man felt the need to knock me down. Maybe he wanted more. Maybe he wanted the place in the company that he saw me moving into. I admit, it was a little too easy for me to rise in the company so quickly, but I will never say that I didn’t deserve it. I put my all into that job, working day and night, letting it take over my life to a point that I actually began to feel a little suffocated — but I cared about the company, and above all, about what I was doing. That’s something that will never go away. I love this industry, and one guy thinking that he dominated me by bringing me down, artfully, and from the inside out, isn’t enough to stop me from pushing forward and doing what I love most. If Dick’s glory was taking over my position at a small indie company, then he can have it; my idea of glory looks a little different. After all, you really can’t stop a dreamer.

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