Is it just me, or do humans have the amazing capacity to disengage, reorient and start over, full speed ahead, with no strings attached?
You might not have discovered this capacity within yourself, if you’ve been living in the same place all your life or doing the same job for more than…oh, I dunno, 3/4 of a year…or if you’re the type of person who tends to form a lot of close, long-term relationships. But I suspect some of you understand what it’s like to look at your life as a series of books, rather than chapters, with quite a few common themes but not too many connected threads.
It’s a particular form of compartmentalization that’s both a product of circumstances and an evolutionary survival skill. I would liken it to a turtle’s protective shell, but (*checks Google*) apparently they’re all born with those. 🐢
Mine definitely was acquired in transit, formed while fighting off the Apex predator called emotional pain as I roamed from place to place. I have lived in three different states and worked in everything from newspaper writing to pop culture blogging (yes, I once was paid to blog) to video reporting to farm market clerking to SEO content development to social media marketing…and I did three of those jobs within the span of three years.
In my personal life, I was a rec softball enthusiast, then an avid runner, then a competitive CrossFitter repping three different gyms, and finally, an AA member and psychology grad student who’s standing, right now, at yet another crossroads.
Some of this has been my choice; some has been the hand life dealt me. The person who emerged from 20+ years of transition and reinvention more closely resembles a lone wolf than a turtle. I’m not the most warm, cuddly, socially-amenable creature, but I’m tough, resilient, resourceful and quite adept at finding my own way once I cut, or am cut, loose.
Earlier this week, I was laid off from a job for the first time in my life. Technically, this was a new experience — when I left the newspaper back in 2018, it was a “get them before they get me” situation; I took a buyout six months before they blew up my entire video department — but it feels so familiar as to be entirely habitual. There one day, fully immersed in emails, Asana tasks, social posts and case studies, and gone without a trace the next. Rinse, repeat, one foot in front of the other, cross the bridge and keep moving on.
Is it burning? Didn’t notice; don’t really care.
Lest you think I’m some kind of unemotional, Terminator-type machine who just plows through life, scorching the Earth wherever I go, I sobbed so hard on my way home from getting the axe that I nearly had to pull over. All the tension that had built up inside me over the past six months, as I poured myself into learning a(nother) bunch of new things and fitting into a(nother) new office culture and trying (again) to carve out my own niche and make positive contributions with virtually no guidance or leadership, AND THEN trying to manage a full-time work/grad school schedule….
Those floodgates had been waiting to open for a really long time, you guys. I’ve basically been running myself into the ground, trying to eke out a living and hold my personal shit together since I graduated from college the first time around. Until now, I was without a job for only a few weeks during that time.
What an amazing catharsis to finally let it all go!
No joke: That one bout of ugly/dangerous crying aside, the last few days since losing that job have been some of the most joyous of my adult life.
When I went to fill out the application for unemployment benefits, in the drop-down menu where it asks, “REASON FOR SEPARATION,” I wanted to write in “GIFT FROM UNIVERSE.”
For an “involuntary severance,” this feels like everything I ever wanted.
I mean, yes, losing some of your household’s income is a kick in the crotch. But when money is the only thing keeping you somewhere, and the people who run the place tell you to go pound sand…
What else can you do, but put on your running shoes and beat a path down the Delaware Canal on a beautiful fall morning, with a spring in your step? And then roll your yoga mat out on your back deck and really, for once, breathe deep and give thanks?
Maybe I’ve finally reached a point in life where I can separate what I do for money from my true self-worth. I know I’m intelligent. I know I’m talented. I know I’m versatile. I’m know I’m strong enough to handle a shitton of emotional pain without running away or self-destructing. I know that everywhere my higher power has planted me — and I’ve been planted in some pretty 🤬-ed up workplaces and life situations, y’all — I’ve shown up, dug deep and figured out how to bloom.
Oh, but lest you start thinking I’m some kind of delicate flower, I should point out that despite all the transition and reinvention and stress and emotion of the past 2+ years, I HAVE NOT PICKED UP A DRINK.
The day after I got laid off, in fact, I celebrated 27 months sober. 💪🏻💪🏻 I’ve since tacked on three more days; NBD.
Not to sound like a Big Book thumper, but life without alcohol is “happy, joyous and free,” with or without a job. Wherever that life takes me next, between now and my graduation, and into my real career, I have too much opportunity ahead of me to ever go back where I’ve been. 👀➡️