by Anna Cherry
1. When, around your birthday, you hear rumors of budget cuts and layoffs, do not be alarmed. Startups are always on the verge of shutting down — and anyway, you were told you’re up for a promotion next quarter. Besides, you’ve been unemployed before. You’d be fine!
2. Remember the beginning with this company? They all but promised that after your three-month trial period, you would win a coveted internal employee-with-benefits position. You were confused when, instead, you were given a five-dollar raise and seated near an expanded legion of interns and permalancers. But you were fine!
3. Recall another surprise, from a month after you started. You were already working overtime hours that you couldn’t bill and you learned that your boss also expected you to use your free time to take the online courses you would be writing reviews of. You wanted to know why research couldn’t be done on the clock. “I’ve always paid writers to write,” he explained. Totally fine!
4. Get a quick Friday-after-work drink with Such a Nice Guy. You’ve recently realized you should probably stop going on dates with him because you are indifferent about him, just like every other man you go on dates with, but you can’t afford therapy to figure out why. You told yourself that the third time you saw him should be the last time, but you’re supposed to have a drink when you’re about to be laid off even when you’re a hundred percent fine.
5. Break a six-month streak of celibacy by sleeping with Such a Nice Guy who you wish you felt anything for. Wake up around 4 A.M. and taxi home. Read an incredibly thoughtful text expressing his desire to do this again soon.
6. Text Such a Nice guy and tell him that you won’t be able to see each other anymore.
7. Relax when, the following Friday, the CEO comes into the office to make an upbeat announcement about the company’s change of direction.
8. Entertain the idea that the grim tone of office chatter in recent weeks has been part of an elaborate April Fool’s Day hoax.
9. Run into Such a Nice Guy on the subway, which has never happened before. Maybe even a year ago you would have assigned some significance to this, but the longer you live — especially in New York City — the more convinced you become that your existence is an accumulation of random events.
10. On Monday, when your bosses call you into a meeting and tell you to bring all of your things, open with “Lay it on me!” and the kind of smile that accompanies jazz hands.
11. Pretend not to be surprised when they tell you that you’re only paid through tomorrow.
12. Take your office keys off the ring.
13. Give the boss your office keys.
14. Go to the bar downstairs from your office and order “the cheapest scotch you have on the rocks,” as much for dramatic effect as anything else. It’s somewhere around the price of nine happy-hour beers in your hometown.
15. At the bar, finally write a rambling late birthday card to an old friend because you’ve been carrying it around in your backpack for almost a week and she always gives you shit about being late. You are always late. Maybe that, along with so many other things about you, will never change
16. Decide this is as good a time as any to splurge. Order some truffle mac and cheese balls.
17. When the bartender mentions a new drinks menu coming soon, ominously say, “I won’t be around here by then.”
18. Have your work friend (read: only friend in New York) meet you at the bar.
19. Listen as she lists the paid interns who will be kept on instead of you. They can still write “recent graduate” on their resumes and are doing the same job you were, though probably better, and definitely for less money.
20. Realize that this displacement by more accomplished twenty-two-year-olds is an emblem of your entire professional life.
21. Start crying at the bar downstairs from your office. Finish your scotch. Order two espresso martinis and a Nutella brownie with cream cheese ice cream that you suspect is actually just vanilla ice cream.
22. Go back to the office with your work friend, whose keys were not taken from her, and steal a senior editor’s leftover going-away cake
23. Go to the Midtown T.G.I. Friday’s, the chain where you used to wait tables, and which you claim to hate, and order a brunch cocktail.
24. When your best college friend texts you, “So what’s the plan?” send her a picture of your empty bloody mary as a response.
25. When she says, “Everybody get shit on & fails & life is weird & it sucks but getting wasted at a low end bar franchise is not going to accomplish anything, stop being a baby,” forgive her because she lives in the Midwest, but make it clear that you just got let go in the most expensive city in the country with one day’s notice and you are allowed to wallow in self-pity for one day because that’s all you can afford.
26. Try not to be offended when, while you’re still at Friday’s, you open an email from your former boss with a link to an intern position you should check out even though a couple of weeks ago you turned twenty-seven years old, which is almost thirty.
27. Return to the office later that evening and, after using a cake box to wipe out an existing game of chess, stuff your backpack with company-provided string cheese, yogurts, and cartons of blackberries while your work friend uses the bathroom.
28. Decide you’ll learn how to code.
29. Haha jk, you’ll never learn how to code. Not as long as your code turns into lines from Anne Sexton or The Bell Jar or T.S. Eliot.
30. Go home, have a conversation with your roommate about her brother who makes peanut butter in an Ozarks commune, imagine what life would be like making peanut butter in an Ozarks commune, and fall asleep.
31. When you wake up, eat that cake for breakfast and write an inspiring, shameful list that someone might pay you for so you can get a week’s worth of groceries.
32. Wrap the last piece of cake in foil and put it in the freezer to eat it in celebration of your next job.