During my last breakup, they said all the things you’re supposed to say. Most of it is still a blur, but I do remember them saying, “It’s not you, it’s us.” And I think there was some utterance of appreciating the time we’d spent together. But when they tossed out, “Let’s stay in touch” — without a doubt the worst breakup line known to any person on the face of the earth — I nearly said f&%* you over the phone. Yep, they did it over the phone. They couldn’t even take me to coffee! I was speechless. I was enraged. I thought everything was going so well. But then, just like that, it was over.
We’d been together for over a year, and I thought there was a real connection. But out of the blue I was dumped by my tech start-up — or rather, they broke up with me and my entire team.
I guess I always knew it was possible. I realize no relationship lasts forever, so I should have managed my expectations: Dating a tech start-up can feel like dating in San Francisco. Don’t be surprised by the noncommittal relationship.
After we split, though, I found myself falling into the seven stages of start-up grief that one suffers through after your tech company gives you the boot.
1. Shock: "What the hell just happened?"
After the boss informed me it was over, the voice on the phone started to sound like the teacher in Charlie Brown. What was going on? I spent the remainder of the phone call Yelping where to get a Bloody Mary in the Lower Haight. Surely there would be a rowdy crew of international soccer fans watching a game at Mad Dog or Danny Coyle’s, right? When the call was over, I realized I might’ve missed some important information on severance payments, but I wasn’t going to miss getting hammered. Unfortunately, I discovered that you can’t find a Bloody Mary in the Lower Haight at 9:30 a.m. on a Friday. How was that even possible? I got laid off, at least I deserved a drink.
2. Denial: "This is not happening ... is it?"
My tech start-up didn’t have a ping-pong kegerator or even a San Francisco location to call an office. Supposedly they had some arcade games at the HQ (which I only spotted on Instagram). As such, I regularly found myself café hopping. During the weeks that followed our breakup, I found myself falling into old habits. This usually included breakfast, lunch, and occasionally even dinner and drinks at Vinyl Wine Bar, none of which I could afford anymore.
There I was, pretending nothing was wrong and continuing my coffee squats. I worked on my computer all day, fooling myself into thinking I was a productive member of society. But who was I kidding? Other than cleaning out upwards of 22k unread emails in my Gmail account, I was just reading blogs all day.
3. Isolation: "Leave me alone"
It was around a month later when it all set in. That nice paycheck didn’t appear in my bank account and no amount of café visits could help me avoid the glaring reality staring me in the face: I was unemployed. If the paycheck didn’t solidify this fact, dealing with the Employment Development Department certainly did. (Pro-tip: If you ever find yourself on unemployment, the only way to talk to a human is to call the Vietnamese line. You can google the prompts.)
San Francisco thrives on socializing, but socializing becomes stressful when you’re unemployed. Whenever you meet new people, you’re inevitably asked, “So what do you do for a living?” I used to like that question, because I liked my job. Unfortunately, I didn’t have anything on my plate – other than the pastries I bought to go along with the latte habit I could no longer afford. Hulu became my new best friend.
4. Sadness/Anger: "I hate you/I hope you fail"
When you’re feeling shitty, you certainly don’t want your ex to feel better. I asked myself, “Are they doing better than me?” and “Have they moved on?” I couldn’t help but watch them from afar. I’d casually peruse their Facebook page and see what was going on with them through Instagram. I checked out photos from their staff retreat and I wanted to vomit. They were having so much fun without me. Glad they were able to move on so quickly! I started to despise them. If I was going to be miserable, they should be too. It’s only fair, right?
5. Depression: "I will never find a job or a company as good as you. Am I worth anything?"
Despite my anger, I still really cared about them. I thought we had something good. Looking to move on, I started browsing LinkedIn as if it were OkCupid. But scoping out suggested job matches made me worry I would never find something as good again. Sure, some of the jobs seemed all right, and let’s be honest, a few were just out of my league. Long story short, nobody was offering everything I wanted. What’s worse, I started to question myself. I know tech start-ups rise and fall, but I couldn’t help but wonder if I could have done more to keep my job afloat. Was it my fault we broke up?
6. Upward Turn: “Things might be OK after all”
The calls began coming in after word spread that I was back on the job market. Friends set me up with a few different folks and it felt good to play the field. I started to regain confidence that I could have what I wanted. So I vowed to be picky. I knew what I was and wasn’t willing to compromise. I knew how to identify deal-breakers early on (ahem, buy me breakfast at least). I wasn’t going to have someone pick me, I was going to pick them – you know, and all that jazz you’re supposed to say when you’re moving on from a breakup.
7. Rebuilding/Acceptance: "Finally”
As soon as that old relationship was over, friends told me they thought I was better off without them. Why don’t people tell you this stuff when you’re still attached? In retrospect, there were a lot of things I didn’t love about my old job, and I guess I always knew there was something better out there, and if something better came my way, I wouldn’t turn it down. Nonetheless, I realized that after all of that, I had in fact learned a lot about myself. And I had them to thank for it.
Now, while I’m occasionally caught off guard when I receive a random notification from their app or one of their sporadic emails, it’s like a ghost from the past. And at this point, I ignore them. I wish them well, even though they ended up packing up shop and leaving town – which certainly didn’t hurt the moving-on process.
As for me, playing the field didn’t last long – which is great because neither do monthly unemployment benefits in a city that’s as expensive as San Francisco.