I worked at the same company for almost three years. It started off as an internship and quickly evolved into a full-time gig, with steady promotions and even a major acquisition, until I found myself inching towards the three-year mark.
In so many ways, this was the perfect first job for someone brand new to the city. I collaborated with bright, creative people, familiarized myself with the blogging community (an incredibly rich and saturated community at that), and learned how to navigate the demanding and ever-changing digital advertising space. I’m a pretty shy, non-confrontational person, but I came out of my shell for this job and learned how to put my foot down and speak up a little more. But I also learned how incredibly challenging it can be to strike that work/life balance, often waking up in the middle of the night with a deadline or a missed e-mail on my mind.
This job often consumed so much of me that I forgot what it was like to be without it–until I was actually without it. Earlier this month, several colleagues and I lost our jobs due to mass layoffs. I wasn’t sure if I should write about it here since this is a travel blog and not a diary for vomiting emotions, plus it’s not always ideal to broadcast your sudden unemployment. But I don’t see it as anything to hide. Layoffs, hard as they may be, do happen, and we’re more malleable and tenacious than we give ourselves credit for.
Being laid off was a sobering and somewhat traumatic experience that has become a hopeful and exciting one. I woke up on Monday with the sinking realization that all the work I had done for the last three years was for naught (though that of course isn’t true, that is what Monday morning felt like!). By the end of the week, I was relishing all this downtime and feeling truly excited to explore my other interests.
It’s tempting to wrap up your identity with “what you do” rather than “who you are,” though, yes, our careers do significantly shape who we are. But there are other facets of our identity that often go neglected: our health (mental and physical), our relationships, our creative and intellectual pursuits, and our stake in our communities. So now that I’m not presently “doing” anything, who am I in the absence of a job? More importantly, who do I want to be?
I want to be the kind of person who embraces change, supports others in their own changes, and isn’t afraid to face-plant in the midst of change. Meaning, I don’t want to shrink back into my shell now that I’m not validated by employment. I want to be emboldened by this process and re-calibrate my strengths and weaknesses. I want to cheer people on as they do their own scary things and be an advocate for their success.
It’s pretty amazing how rejuvenating an abundance of free time can be. I’ve had time to read books from cover to cover (including Maphead, for all you geography nerds out there), practice yoga at any time of the day (including taking a private aerial yoga class), learn how to knit, cook, wile away afternoons at my favorite coffee shops, and, unsurprisingly, make travel plans. I’m not pretending that I’m never frazzled by the uncertainty, but there’s something really exciting about not knowing what’s next.
I’ll be sharing my travels with you all in my next few posts, so stay tuned!
– Valerie, a.k.a “Tenacious V”