I was a solid performer—great at pitching and securing media coverage for NBC in the biggest newspapers, magazines and TV programs in the country. I loved what I did and where I did it— iconic 30 Rock—and I couldn't envision working anywhere else. NBC was home.
Then it all came apart. The newly appointed head of NBC News called me into his office. Sitting back in his big leather chair, hands clasped behind his balding head, he matter-of-factly explained that anytime someone takes over, change is inevitable. New protocols, new processes, new people…
It took me a few moments to catch on. I stammered, "Are you ?ring me?" His response was cold, bloodless: "You have thirty minutes to leave the building." I wasn't ready to be fired without a fight. As a Florida state debate champ in high school, I had always been quick on my feet. I began rattling off my accomplishments, as well as a list of colleagues internally and externally who would vouch for me. His response was a dull, blank stare.
I regrouped and suggested that he let me prove myself. "Give me three things to accomplish in three weeks, three months— whatever time frame you want."
He glanced at his watch.
It became clear there was no way I was going to change his mind. As I got up to walk out of his office, struggling not to lose it, he offered a parting thought.
"Tory, it's a big world out there, and I suggest you go explore it." I didn't know it at the time, but that was some of the best advice I ever got professionally and personally. Yet in the moment, I was very tempted to tell him where he could take his exploration.
I spent months hiding in my apartment, shades closed. I hunkered down with Häagen-Dazs and daytime TV, filling my days and nights with self-doubt and panic. Venturing outside and meeting old friends or new people meant explaining my status. I knew how I had cringed when people said, "I'm in transition," or "I'm looking for my next opportunity." Losers. I didn't want any- one to think about me that way. My pity party turned into a misery marathon, financed by my severance pay, unemployment benefits and the 401(k) I stupidly cashed out because I figured it was easier than finding another job.
Between rent, ordering takeout and retail-clothing therapy, my cash vanished quickly—and I faced two choices: return home to Miami Beach, or snap out of it and find another job. Nothing wrong with Florida, but I wasn't going back. So I got out of my pajamas, picked up the phone, and eventually landed in corporate communications at Nickelodeon, the kids' cable network. I worked with fun people in a beautiful skyscraper overlooking Times Square. I had a nice office with a view, a six-figure salary, and I was all of twenty-three.
But that panicky feeling stuck with me—the one that comes from having been canned without warning.
I was still angry and hurt. I resented the notion that, despite my hard work, an arrogant man in a suit could take away my paycheck and, in the process, rob me of my dignity and self-worth. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't shake it.