In today's Covid-addled gig economy, it may sound like a rosy platitude to say that unexpected change can be good. Rosy platitude or not, my experience as a self-employed person has shown me this is often true. Case in point, getting fired, the ultimate unexpected change.
It hasn't happened to me that much (I know how to pick my gig fights), but for whatever reason, I have always loved getting fired. What I love most about getting fired is the elation. Nothing elates me more. Why? Getting fired expedites leaving what was probably never meant to be anyway. Getting fired fires me up for change. This fired-up feeling is built into the word, and I love change.
The first time I felt this rush of fired elation happened after I was fired by my employee. You read that right. See, I spent a few months, okay, a few weeks, calling myself a commercial actor. I had been doing some acting, and I met an agent who thought they could sell me as an edgier, less heart-throbbish 90s Johnny Depp. I lasted exactly one audition.
The firing in question occurred after I was sent out for a commercial for a beer I hated. Worse, said audition was set on a beach, supposedly in Florida, but actually in a dingy Midwestern conference room. The only instructions were that we arrive in beachwear (no Speedo's) with a sunny, fun-loving attitude. The instructions alone filled me with dread.
The grinning, mullet-headed casting director, call him Irvling—patchy, bleached blond hair, with a serious, almost debilitating lisp made more debilitating by a repaired split upper lip, a real carnie of a casting director—called his “talent” in from the hallway in groups of three. There was beefcake Barry and tanned Tad, both preppy, toned, and modelesque in their renditions of pastel muscle shirts under flamingo-print or palm-treed beach shirts, stylish swim trunks cut high on the leg, and the requisite flip-flops. Then there was me, the stockier, dark-souled sucker with no beach clothing to speak of, in black fatigue shorts, t-shirt, and black, laceless Converse, as I have always despised “flip-flops,” a term that still makes me shudder.
I preferred black shirts, but for this sunny day at the beach, I allowed myself a medium blue color, making for a black-and-blue living bruise on the “beach,” ready for the fun under the sun required to put beer in bellies. Real beachy.
Irvling the casting director flung a striped beach blanket on the carpeted floor in front of the camera, then took out a few half-filled beach balls—pied yellow, blue, white, and red, with the beer's logo—which he then threw at us like chum to sharks, or jellyfish to dolphins, depending on your perspective.
“Okay, guyths, imagine you are at the beach having fun under the thun with some cold onesth,” said Irvling. “Letsth thee those thmiles! Thun, fun, beer, beach bawlths! Toth the ballth around, and I don't mean whatths thwinging between your legth! Thircle around each other and big thmiles at the camera as you path the lenth for the money shot! Tad, Barry, and, uh, you, pretend you are thirthty on a thandy beach on a hot thummer's day! Thtay upbeat!”
I was already blushing, adding blood to my bruised appearance, and pulling everything (and I mean everything) inward like a scared sand tortoise. Hesitant, resentful, not playing ball. Out of frustration and projection, I said, “Who really tosses a beach ball around like this at the beach? Five year olds? And where's the beer? It would be easier to get into the mood if we actually had some beer for a beer commercial.”
“No alcohol at auditionth. Thag rulesth. You have to pretend. Thenth memory.”
Sense memory, my ass.
Things at the audition room beach did not go well. I could already see Irvling was itching with displeasure as I proceeded to frustrate my beach partners. Whichever sagging ball found its way into my hands, I quickly ejected it at the other guys just to get rid of it.
Despite my 'tude, Tad and Barry seemed to be enjoying themselves, flitting and floating their balls around and easily mugging and grinning into the camera, each time flashing perfectly timed, big drunken bad beer grins with teeth that would have been better off selling toothpaste, while managing to flirt with each other and Irvling, too, while playing around with the balls. I was in the presence of true professionals.
When I stomped around to the camera, snatching a deflated beach ball out of Tad's hands at the last minute, I couldn’t even muster a smirk. I leered, sneered, and cast death stares. My eyes sparkled not with sunshine, but malice. I couldn’t wait to get it over with.
“Okay guyth!” Irvling said. “I've theen what I need to thee. Thank you! Great job Tad and Barry! I thee call back in your thtarth!”
I didn't mind that Irvling didn't compliment me, or maybe I did, but I just wanted to get out of there.
The way it works in the audition world is if they—casting director, director, producer—want you, you get a callback via your agent for a second audition. Which means you still have a chance of booking the commercial. Later that day, I did get a call but not a callback.
“What's with the attitude you gave the casting director today?”
“If you want to work with our agency, you need to go out with a better attitude. You know, upbeat.”
“It wasn't the right role for me. I'm dark and edgy, not the beach ball type.”
“You have one more chance.”
That chance came one morning a few days later. I had an audition call for another beer commercial that I heard on voicemail two hours too late. I was out the night before and didn’t even hear the phone ring. In fact, I forgot I was even trying to be an actor. The phone rang again, and I meekly answered. “Hullo?”
“Where are you?” said a seething voice.
“In futon. I overslept.”
“You can't do that. I'm putting you in the back of the files. This agency will no longer represent you. You're fired!”
Anyone who has ever had an agent knows they are supposed to work for you, but it usually feels like the other way around. In any case, that day I dressed and ran out elated into the streets to get a cup of coffee from my local cafe and afterward triumphantly paced the sidewalk, greeting people and grinning elatedly enough that people noticed.
“Look at that guy! He's on top of the world!” said one passerby to his girlfriend. “I want some of what he's on!” Both returned my shit-eating grin.
“It's called being fired!” I said, jumping up and clicking my heels before skipping off down the street with my morning brew.
Times are tough right now, it's true. The point is that as much as you might feel that being fired is terrible, the ultimate humiliation, it's also a chance for change. Don't let getting fired get you down, let it fire you up.