Six days before Christmas I found myself leaving the house at 7 a.m., not to go join the crowds bustling out to finish their holiday shopping, but to go stand outside in the cold and wait for the unemployment office to open the doors for the second time in three days.
As I made my way inside, I took a number and a seat among the crowd that had already filled up the room. A quick check of the clock showed that almost exactly two weeks ago at that time, I was told that my job of almost eight years wasn’t mine anymore.
And so, there I was, a number among the crowd.
Two weeks ago I would have never envisioned myself in that position, listening to an unemployment office worker address the room like a school teacher, instructing us as to the steps we needed to take, the forms we needed to complete, the frustration we should probably anticipate. I would have never envisioned myself among the crowd I often saw waiting outside as I drove past this building hundreds of times through the years.
Having security ripped from me in one quick sentence —“We’ve decided to go in a different direction” — essentially changed my life forever.
Instead of worrying about editorial deadlines or meetings, I now worried about overly complicated online paperwork, figuring out self-paid health care and sending out emails, resumes and positive vibes to the universe.
While I had previously thought freelance rejection was disheartening, I was now faced with rejection in terms of jobs I felt were a good fit, frustration in not reaching an actual person on the phone, and helplessness and fear that has reduced me, the woman who never cries, to sobbing like a baby more than once or twice.
And so, there I was.
When I looked around that room, I wondered about the stories of everyone else. What brought them to that point?
I wondered if they felt like a burden to those in their lives, despite how supportive they’ve been. I wondered if their hearts leapt into their throats every time the phone rang with possible news, if they got hopeful and then disheartened, motivated and then discouraged. I wondered if they missed the luxury of being stressed out over completely insignificant things like a long morning commute or a boring meeting.
And I wondered if they felt humbled, the way that I most certainly did.
While I’m envious of those not dealing with this, I’m not bitter and no that it could be worse. If nothing else, I’m now forced to realize how so much is out of my control—a feeling we all know that I try and avoid—and to let go of how I think things should be. I’m now forced to reflect and rebuild—a process that’s hard, but that’s also exciting in some ways, as I know my last job just wasn’t for me.
It’s that whole, “see a slammed door as a window to new opportunity” hippy-dippy thing.
Above everything else though, these past few weeks have showed me just how much I need people. I always appreciated those in my life, but this situation has forced me to open up, be vulnerable and let down my guard quite a bit. In doing so, I have been overwhelmed with the kindness bestowed upon me, melting away my cynicism and replacing it with a restored faith in people, in goodness, in hope.
I might have a heavy heart at times, but it’s also a heart filled with gratitude for those in my life—both online and off.
When my number was called I walked up to the desk and looked around that room one last time. As cheesy as it sounds, I hoped everyone else had their own stories to write that would end up okay in the end, that they had people they could talk to when the cloud of uncertainty shrouded the last spark of hope.
Without these people in my life this past month, I don’t know what I would have done. They’ve reminded me that while one sentence changed my life for the worst, one sentence could bring a new start.
It’s time to go in a different direction.
And then, that’s where I will be.
While I keep things light around here, people are also asking me how things are going so I thought I would just give an update. However, attempts at humor coming next post.
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