Liberation and What I Learned from Losing My Job
My situation is by no means meant to stand in for everyone’s situation; of this, I am fully aware. But like so many other Americans last year, I found myself losing my full-time status and having to take freelance work with less hours and no benefits or insurance. I had a few fiduciary pillows to land on to make the crashing to earth portion of the job-losing experience a little less painful, and then I hopped right onto COBRA at a lower rate, thanks in part to recent legislation (wow, politics CAN do something). An inexplicable serenity hummed inside of me as I jammed 3 1/2 years of my pack rat office junk into two boxes (boxes I haven’t even bothered looking through since I dumped them in the garage, by the way). I was saying goodbye to a cubicle with windows that didn’t open and more importantly, leaving behind a 13.1 mile commute down Los Angeles’ most annoying traffic-congested boulevards, a commute that always left me gritting my teeth in senseless frustration.
My first impulse was to start looking for another cubicle to roost in, immediately. I have bad spoiled city girl habits, like having a bottle of wine with every dinner out, buying nice balcony tickets at the Wiltern, losing my mind inside a Kiehls’ store. My therapist gave me simple level-headed advice like – cut that kind of crap out ASAP. Start saving money now, get it down to the essentials of living. I thought crazy thoughts. Cancel the wine clubs, avoid the mall forever, turn old dresses inside out to make them new again…
And then the craziest thought of them all bounced around in my panicked mind:
Why not go to Italy with Patrick?
Only a few weeks after I had found out about my status change at work a friend of mine threw it out there that he suddenly needed a travel buddy for a trip he had booked to Rome. And here I am, with rusty Italian from a minor in college…and nothing to do for a while. It’s money I could have saved, sure. But with friends also falling into marriage/parenthood/ADULThood all around me, I wanted to do something selfish and spontaneous. I rushed my passport through the renewal process, skimmed through guide books, stood in the TSA lines…and suddenly woke up on the European continent – the week that was supposed to be my last week of work.
I know most people can’t do this. I’m not even advocating that anyone TRY to do this. But I will tell you what Rome did to me. It was a palate cleanser. That long flight really does make it feel like you wake up in a dream, somewhere else. I had no time to grieve what I was losing. I was so far away.
And while we were there, we ate such amazing, thoughtful, delicious food, every crunchy, cheese-y, carb-y bite bespeaking a long and proud cultural tradition. I realized that coming home to a new job situation wasn’t going to break my heart. I could also keep myself busy seeking out those fresh flavors again, coaxing them out of cookbooks (bought cheap and used on Amazon to save $) in my same old reliable kitchen pots.
The other surprise of losing a job, going to Rome, and coming back home again? We walked so much every single day over there that I came back weighing less. Upon discovering that little joy on the bathroom scale, I’ve tried to make it a point to leave the home office during the day to do yoga and take a walk outside, not just to continue losing weight, but to help manage stress. (There’s also a part of me that wonders if those pounds were unhappiness pounds, the weight on my shoulders caused by that stressful daily commute having disappeared? Who knows!)
I also found that the time away had helped my perceptions and perspective on lots of things. Miss my coworkers? Schedule a lunch with them then! Miss the little rituals of the office? Enjoy your own delicious coffee at home in a French press. Miss having money to shop? Nah, they’re just things – and free time is more precious than any old tank top you can buy in the mall.
- You can’t spend your post-job loss time mired in shame and negative thinking. Well, you can, but it doesn’t really make the situation better now, does it?
- It helps to take a breather – you don’t have book a flight to Rome to feel refreshed, a little weekend away to visit friends (with a guest room or fold out couch) can do the trick too.
- Not being in the office means you might have a little time to indulge in a hobby you’ve been neglecting, whether it’s learning about a new cuisine or taking up knitting again or spending all of your time online looking for naked pictures of Sam Worthington. Jokes aside, this hobby time will also help you feel human again.
- No meetings, conference calls, or long emails? Use the time to get outdoors and healthier.
(Photo Via: BraveNewTraveler)