if yesterday hadn’t happened

If yesterday hadn’t happened, I’d be sitting down tonight to write about all the wonderful things that have happened in my life lately, all the positive news I’ve received and new information I’ve learned.

If yesterday hadn’t happened, I’d be excitedly sharing the recently confirmed date of my surgery – March 8th – exactly one week from today. I’d tell you that I learned a little bit of information about my recipient – that she is a 56-year-old woman from New Jersey, just like my mom, which makes this whole thing hit a bit closer to home. I’d write all about the ‘cluster’ that I’ve set off, the four surgeries including mine that will all occur next Tuesday, saving two lives in the process; how several more ‘clusters’ will occur throughout the chain I’ve started to save a still undetermined, but potentially infinite, number of lives, spanning months, even years.

If yesterday hadn’t happened, I’d gush about the exciting news that I was contacted by Marina Khidekel, articles editor at Glamour magazine, and Lexi Petronis, health blogger on Glamour.com, who reached out to me to conduct an interview before, and possibly after, my surgery to talk about my blog and, more importantly, the concept of living donor chains. I’d express how incredibly grateful I am to these two women for caring about my story and my blog, and for taking the time to shed light on such an amazing, but little-known cause. I’d also smile as I typed out the link for you to read this wonderful piece by Lexi at http://www.glamour.com/health-fitness/blogs/vitamin-g/2011/03/i-started-a-kidney-donation-ch.html.

But yesterday did happen. And yesterday rocked my world as I knew it. Yesterday, I was fired.

Though I’m still in shock and cannot yet entirely grasp what happened, I do know that the chain of events that transpired leading up to the termination of my employment did so because of my need for time off to go through with, and recover from, this kidney transplant surgery. Although, to my coworkers’ and one of my bosses’ testimonials, I had kept my entire office up to date along every step of this journey (beginning last March) and had, on several occasions, discussed and agreed upon the logistical details with my bosses months ahead of time, all of a sudden as the surgery date approached, one of my superiors decided that he felt my week-long absence for the surgery would pose a problem in the office. Just 8 days before my scheduled surgery, my boss sat me down and told me that despite my aptitude, despite my very recent promotion to Editorial Lead, and despite my exceptional feedback from coworkers and clients, this relationship was ‘no longer working out.’ Shock and confusion, a deep sense of betrayal, and a wave of panic flooded over me as I walked back to my desk, packed my belongings and, humiliated, left the midtown Manhattan office for the very last time. I cried the entire way home and didn’t stop until the wee hours of the morning.

I still don’t understand what happened yesterday. I can confidently say that in all my years of employment, in every job I’ve ever held, I’ve never had a boss who wasn’t thrilled with my work, my work ethic, and my passion for, and dedication to, my job. But I’ve learned that life isn’t fair; that sometimes even your best isn’t good enough for some people; that job security is a great idea, but a lousy thing to depend on; that being a good person doesn’t mean only good things will happen to you; and that sometimes even things done with the best intentions will go misunderstood by some.

As upset as I was, and still am, I know I will be ok. I know I’ll find another job, that my career will continue to blossom, and that I’ll end up in a place where my work and my values are respected and appreciated. I’m not the first, nor the last, person to be fired from their job – I’ve been through worse in my life and am better for it. And though my whole world was changed in the blink of an eye yesterday, one thing remained as unshakable as ever – my desire to go through with this surgery.

While I know things will be rough – financially, emotionally, mentally – until I find a new job, I’m confident that this, too, is only a temporary setback in my journey. And I will not let this deter me from doing what makes me happy, from what I feel is right. Because at the end of the day, no matter how devastating the loss of a job can be, it pales in comparison to what thousands are going through every day as they wait for the gift of life. I won’t lie and say that at no point did I feel bad for myself or that I was being targeted – I did. I won’t say that I never thought of myself and only myself over the last 24 hours – I did that too. And I won’t tell you that I wasn’t devastated, bewildered, and utterly indignant – I was. I still am. But my situation will improve. My life will get back on track. I have the power to change things. Dialysis patients do not. They cannot simply will themselves to health. They cannot wish their kidney function back to normal. They cannot send out applications and emails, set up interviews, and pound the pavement for a new kidney. Yet it is those very same people – those who are the most powerless over their situation – who have shown the most grace, the most bravery and determination, the most resilience. If they can courageously rise up after being so brutally knocked down, I can certainly recover from a small stumble. And I can lend them a hand on my way back up.

And in the meantime… if anyone needs a writer, editor, or project manager, you know where to look.


It helps, I think, to consider ourselves on a very long journey: the main thing is to keep the faith, to endure, to help each other when we stumble or tire, to weep and press on.  [Mary Richards]


13 responses to “if yesterday hadn’t happened

  • Aryana

    I’m praying for you! You’ve inspired me beyond belief, and I want to start a kidney donation chain of my own once i’m old enough and have the resources. I’ve been sharing your story with everyone I know, and we’re all pulling for you. You’re on your way to amazing things, this setback will be nothing for the drive you have in you.

    • melissaarlio

      Aryana – thank you so much for your kind words, support, and enthusiasm – and of course for reading the blog and sharing my story!!! Having the support from wonderful people like you make this all that much more memorable, and it’s comments like yours that help me get through the tough times like this! If you ever want any kind of information about kidney donation, or just someone to talk to to figure out if it’s right for you, please do not hesitate to contact me!! I’d love to help you out!

  • Sassy Jeweler

    Wow…how unbelievably cruel they were to fire you so close to such an important event and not to mention how ballsy for them to tell you that one week away to um I don’t know, survive, was too much time off.

    Sorry to hear about this really crappy turn of events.


  • Bob

    I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your job. I know nothing about your line of work, but I cannot imagine how such a short time away could be such a big issue. If your decision to donate your kidney had any impact at all in their decision process, then shame on them!

    Thankfully, everyone I work for and work with has been nothing but supportive. Since I am the sole source of income for the five of us, it would be devastating to us if I were to receive such treatment.

    I cannot speak to your editorial skills or your project management skills, but after reading your blog from end to end, I can attest to the fact that you write beautifully!

    I wish you the best of luck in next week’s surgery. What I have found is that the pain has been much less than I expected. However, I am very surprised at how exhausted I feel all of the time. Plan on getting lots of rest!

    And, if you see Mary and/or Angel in the pre-surgery area, and Steve and/or Brenda in the recovery room, tell them Bob and Jeanne said “hi” and thanks for all of the great care! And, definitely say hello to Marian.

    • melissaarlio

      Hi Bob,
      I’m so happy to hear from you! That must mean your and Jeanne’s surgeries went well!!! CONGRATS!! How are you feeling, other than just totally run-down, which I hear is perfectly normal? How about Jeanne? I’m so glad that everyone is happy and on their way back to health!!!!

      Thank you, again, for your support of me, this blog, my story, all of it. You and your wife, your whole family, are such inspirations and your story keeps anything going on in my life in perspective. Ultimately, though incredibly important, our careers do not define us. They are part of us, a significant part, but not the only part. If at the end of the day we have the love of our friends, family, and significant others, and we’re still alive and breathing, we can truly say it was a good day.

      Again, thank you for the wonderful compliments and for being a faithful reader of my blog. I’m so happy you’re doing well – please keep in touch about your recovery!!!!! Thinking of you and your wife!!!

      All the best,

      P.S. I will tell the whole crew at Cornell that you both say hi and thanks!!!

  • Natalie

    Melissa, I just read this and realized what is going on in your life. You may not feel particularly brave right now, but you are. Your fortitude is an inspiration. As a former boss of yours, let me assure you–you WILL find a job very quickly. Perhaps the universe would like you to slow down, go through the kidney donor process with that being the ONLY thing that you need to do, and resume your job hunt when you are ready. Of course you can use me as a reference, and of course you and I should brainstorm about who to focus on for your next job (perhaps it’s Pearson again? We do have offices all over Manhattan!).

    I don’t ordinarily go posting my personal stuff all over the web, but given the amazing spirit of your blog, I will fill you in on what’s going on in my life. I’m 3 months in to a 4-month (paid) leave of absence. (Yes, there ARE compassionate companies out there.) At the start of December, I was totally burnt out, overweight, on high blood pressure meds, and feeling heartsick and numb. 3 years of dealing with my husband’s Muscular Dystrophy and 1 year of working on a mega-software project had totally depleted me.

    And then something AMAZING happened. I joined the local yoga studio. (Yoga on Chocolate–it’s on Chocolate Avenue in Hershey–isn’t that a great name?) Because I had the time, and because I was desperate to improve my health and my life, I started going a LOT. Then I heard that they were running a program right after New Year’s that’s called “40 Days to Personal Revolution.” For 40 days, I did yoga and meditated daily, cleaned up my diet, and cleaned up my negative energies and thought processes. I’m a new person, inside and out. I’m lighter (in spirit AND physically) and I’m off all medications. Most importantly, at my advanced age (haha), I’ve discovered that we all carry our own weather with us. Mine had gotten messed up and so I cleaned it up. How amazing that that’s possible!

    The weather YOU carry with you is exceptional. It’s so positive. Hang on to that. Know it. It’s who you are. And I’ll be thinking of you on the 8th.

    • melissaarlio

      Hi Natalie!!
      First of all, it is SO great to hear from you!!!! I’ve been following your journey a bit on Facebook but had no idea about the details. I’m so glad to hear that you were able to take a ‘time out’ from everything and work on YOU. If there’s something I’ve learned from all this it’s that at the end of the day, if you have your health, you have all you need. You can’t help others if you can’t help yourself, so it’s incredibly important to take care of yourself the way you take care of others. I’m so happy to hear that you are now off all medications and feeling lighter in every way! You’re such a wonderful person, one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met, and you deserve this time more than anyone.

      Thank you for contacting me and for all the wonderful compliments, the support, and the encouragement. I’ve been moved to tears a lot over the past few days, so many people have come forward with such wonderful things to say. I cannot tell you how much all of this means to me – it is because of people like you that I’m able to keep a (mostly) positive attitude about all that is going on, so THANK YOU, so very, very much!

      I’m going to be sending you an email very shortly – thank you again for reaching out!

  • Marilyn Matos

    Hey Melissa,

    I just want to say I applaud you on doing this amazing selfless act. I was literally moved to tears as I read each sentence of your blog/article on Glamour. I can’t express enough how much of an inspiration I think you are. Reading about your journey has completely moved me and changed my outlook on a lot of things in life. It took minutes for you to change a life. I am saddened by the news of your getting fired. I say their loss. They have no idea that they are losing such an incredibly creative, intelligent, selfless person. If I can say something I learned about you from the few years we worked together is that you are an incredibly passionate person with one of the biggest hearts I know. This is only a hiccup in your path to greatness and I know you will come out on top in the end. Like Nat said, this is the universe telling you to slow down. You will have the surgery, with no worry of rushing to get better and back to work, and soon after you will be back on the search for an incredible job. My job is hiring if you are interested. (carat.com) I can’t to read more about your journey and I wish you lots of luck with the surgery and the job hunt. If you ever need anything, leads, support, or a ear, I am here for you. I feel very honored to know someone like you and I know that you are going to get through this. You deserve it Melz.


    • melissaarlio

      Marilyn ya big jerk you made me cry!!! I know I already spoke with you but I wanted to thank you again for your incredibly heartfelt words, for reading my blog, and for your unending support. I feel so blessed to have such an amazing bunch of people behind me and it literally warms my heart to read what you’ve written. Although I don’t see you nearly enough (Burrito Loco soon!), you’re really a true friend and I know I can count you on no matter what. Thank you, SO MUCH, for everything!!!! xox Melissa

  • Jeff Champion

    I am Carol’s father, and also an employment attorney. when you are through your surgical ordeal, please send me an email to discuss your situation. I will not represent you (I work for a corporation), but I am more than willing to discuss whether or not you may have been illegally terminated. I will also see if I can refer you to someone who could represent you.

    There will be plenty of time for the conversation. In the meantime, take solace in the fact that you are doing something selfless and brave. I commend you, and will pray for your safe surgery and quick recovery.


    • melissaarlio

      Hi Jeff,

      Thank you so much for reaching out and tell Carol I said thank you for sharing my story with you! As you can imagine, this past week has been crazy and I have my surgery in less than 12 hours, but after that, I will absolutely be in touch. Thank you for your offer to help and more importantly, for your wonderful, kind words. I appreciate that more than you know!!!

      All the best,

  • what a long, strange trip it’s been « Consider the Stars

    […] that it was a direct result of my need for time off for this surgery (for more on that, please see this post). While I know that I was wronged in so many ways and completely undeserving of the treatment I […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: