Last night the first woman was supposed to be elected as the 45th President of the United States of America. I went to bed shocked as maps on the 24-hour news station’s green screens became increasingly red. I woke up the next morning with an election hang over after learning that our country favored the misogynistic, racist, homophopic and all around unqualified asshole Donald Trump. It felt like America had shouted “FUCK YOU” to me and every other woman, minority, Muslim, LGBTQ, and disabled person.
I’ve actually been in a state of shock for over a week now. I was just beginning to emerge from this cocoon when the results of the 2016 Presidential election violently shoved me back down into the numbness. Last week, I was laid off from my job, a job that I loved and was really good at. The nonprofit organization I worked for needed to restructure in order to make up for fundraising deficits and my position was eliminated. The night before I had been celebrating with members of my team for receiving two local awards for projects I had led for the organization. The next morning, I was reduced to being a number on a spreadsheet. None of my accomplishments and hard work were taken into consideration when letting me go. Or at least it felt that way.
While I know departments like mine, communications and marketing, are typically among the first to go when a restructuring occurs, and I had sensed it might be coming, learning that I was soon to be unemployed still hit me like a ton of bricks. I’ve stumbled through the past week moving between being ultra productive keeping myself busy by applying for jobs, following up on potential leads, filing for unemployment, etc. and forming different variations of a blob wrapped in blankets on my couch. I needed to get away.
I decided to embrace my introvertedness and booked myself a ME-cation. The night after the United States’ historic 2016 Presidential election I was tucked away in a cozy lake front hotel room three hours north in Big Bear Lake, CA polishing off a bottle of $10 Pinot Noir while Anderson Cooper’s voice softly recapped the unprecedented election results and resulting protests springing up across the country in the background. I had ugly sobbed a few hours earlier watching Hillary Clinton give her concession speech.
These lines particularly resonated with me –
“I have had successes and I have had setbacks. Sometimes really painful ones. Many of you are at the beginning of your professional public and political careers. You will have successes and setbacks, too. This loss hurts but please never stop fighting for what’s right is worth it.”
What I realized was that I was suffering a setback of my own that was beyond my control. I had been trying to find the emergency brake on a rollercoaster of emotions when what I actually needed to do was give in and enjoy the ride.
I don’t have children. I’m a 31 year old, happily married, and until recently a successful young professional. I’m not sure if I even want kids. When I lost my job I realized that the way I demonstrate my value is through my career. I have always thrown myself into my job and taken pride it in because I have chosen not to take on other responsibilities like raising children (much respect to all the mamas out there, especially those who balance a career and children every day!) Doing a good job for my employer makes me feel good. I believe the quality of my work not only reflects who I work for, but also reflects my abilities and validates my self-worth.
Being laid off feels like being punished for something you didn’t do. You feel shocked, sad, angry, confused, and bitter. It’s a grieving process. Right now, I take a little comfort in knowing that one of the most qualified and powerful women in the world is also having employment issues. I’ve also come to realize that grieving doesn’t have to be lonely or sad. Giving in to this new found freedom is the perfect opportunity to get in touch with ME. Who do I want to be? Where do I want to go from here? Being laid off has helped me realize how much I have let my job define me. Being a bad ass communications and public relations pro is a big part of me, but I never want it to be all of me. So I headed to the mountains to spend a few days of solitude in nature hoping to be inspired, seeking a new passion, and finding ways to challenge myself.
I decided to start this blog because I felt like others could relate with my experience. As of October 2016 the U.S. was boasting about low unemployment rates hovering around 5%. While unemployment trends may be heading in the right direction, that’ still approximately 7.8 million individuals out of work. In a society where we are told that if we work hard we will be rewarded and hard work is necessary component to achieving the American dream, losing your job not only affects a person’s financial stability it can take an emotional toll. We all too often disguise this as failure and embarrassment instead of what it really is – opportunity and optimistic uncertainty. Losing my job is helping me find myself and I’m excited for that journey.