“Your position is being eliminated.”
My boss’ words seemed to hover in the air of our conference room for a few seconds before finally setting in. I had just returned from a business trip in Vegas. I walked into work expecting to carry on the usual day-to-day grind, but instead walked out with a tote bag full of my desk supplies and the reality that my job of only five months was being snatched from underneath me. Without even an inkling of what to do next, I was being shoved back into wilderness, officially jobless.
I felt as though my intuition had failed me. How could I not see this coming? I worked 10-, sometimes 12-hour days for a merciless boss who was notorious for being tough on new employees. I got along with all of my coworkers and always raised my hand for more responsibility. For all intents and purposes, I had proved myself. What had I done wrong? The initial sting of being let go is never easy to stomach, but after a few yoga sessions, a bottle of wine and some much-needed mornings sleeping in, being unemployed started to feel more like I had been gifted with an extended mental health break and less like some practical joke the universe was playing on me. I started jokingly calling myself FUN-employed to friends and family who tried to shower me with sympathy while not fully grasping how I could be taking it so well.
Fast forward six months later… I am STILL unemployed (I know, not the twist you were expecting). Most people who hear that assume that I’ve either had an uphill battle finding work or I’ve been dragging my feet to get a real job. The truth is somewhere in the middle. Getting laid off was the perfectly timed roadblock that appeared right when I needed to start asking myself the tough questions. I had a career, but was I happy? I had a way to pay my bills, but did it excite me to get out of bed each morning? Would I return to my old profession for financial security or finally take a leap of faith and delve into my passion for writing?
After sifting through advice from tons of friends, old colleagues and my parents (who, as you can imagine, pushed the idea of me getting a stable 9-to-5) I felt more confused than ever. I was looking outwardly for the answer that only I could provide. I finally decided there was no better time to start activating my passion and letting hard work and relentlessness cultivate it into something more. During the last six months, I’ve laughed, cried, gone to museums, devoted at least one hour a day to my writing, bartended, worked on my blog, watched tons of new shows, networked, tried new recipes, spent random Tuesday mornings watching the sun come up on my roof, spent time with distant family and lived. Yes, truly LIVED without full-time responsibilities to lean on as excuses. I can honestly say the past six months I’ve had to mentally de-clutter have been the most fulfilling of my life. And I would be remiss if I didn’t share with you what these last unpredictable yet thrilling six months have taught me.
Money Isn’t Everything
As cliché as that statement is, I’d like to think that my joy is proof of its validity. When I was working, I could afford to shop and go out to eat much more frequently. But in retrospect my frivolous spending was a Band-Aid to cope with being verbally abused and sabotaged at work with few days off. Now, when I meet up with old friends and family, they smile and say, “You look good.” No, I haven’t lost weight or done anything different with my hair. I am smiling, my personality is vibrant and upbeat, and for once it isn’t a front. It comes from a genuine place of happiness within. You simply can’t buy that.
Time Is The Only Luxury
Though his self-obsessed antics can be eye-roll inducing, Kanye West said it best when he said that time is our only luxury. Having no job and no place to be, it was tempting to sleep until 1pm and lounge around in my PJs while surfing the Internet all day (granted, there were days when I did). But I decided to create a schedule for myself. I would get out of bed at a decent time, flip through my Rolodex of contacts and network. I sent emails to editors I used to freelance for. I’d pitch editors I didn’t know to introduce myself. I wanted to do something each day that would move me closer to my dream and I realized that in doing so, I would gradually see a return on the time I invested.
The More Seeds You Plant, The More Abundant Your Garden
Many people, including myself, never see their goals through to completion because we get so impatient with the process. Unless results appear right now, we quit. Unemployment awakened a beast in me that learned to be persistent without being annoying, that learned to pry open a window when one door closed. Every time I asked for what I wanted, whether a job or freelance assignment, I received it or was redirected to someone that could help. I applied to tons of jobs that I truly wanted and would keep applying even when I heard nothing back or knew that I wasn’t fully qualified. Now, each time I open my inbox, I receive a reply that I never thought I’d get. Can you imagine getting an email months after you thought you’d been rejected saying, “We reviewed your application and want to speak with you further?” The seeds that I planted have finally sprouted. The lesson here is, the more you try, the better your chances are of winning. In a sea of “no’s” there could be one “yes” waiting on you. You just have to keep swimming.