10 lessons I have learned without a job

Featured image credit: Book cover, link below

My husband is on his way home to his 30th high school reunion today. Remember high school? So long ago…and so many memories. One that has been bopping me on the head lately is the moment I was introduced to one of my favorite inspirational books. Back in 1990, I was inducted into the National Honor Society and the speaker used a picture book called Hope for the Flowers by Trina Paulus. If you have read or heard this book, you know what it’s about. The caterpillars mindlessly climb towards the top of the pile until a couple take a risk and form a chrysalis/cocoon. In the end, those wise butterflies actually make it to the top of the pile and realize the fallacy of their dreams. (It’s actually more positive than I just made out. It’s a great book. )

Sometimes, we get kicked out of the pile (thank goodness). At first, it is devastating. Everyone is clawing up to the top. We need to get back in there. We have lost our place. We were so close to the top. Typically, this causes panic.

But rather than jumping back in, take a moment to reflect. Here’s some of what I have learned from outside of the pile.

1. Your world will not end. When you woke up, did you have electricity? Was there water? A Zombie apocalypse? Exactly, just because you lost your job doesn’t mean the Earth is going to implode. This is temporary. And you are MORE than your job.

2. It is not about the hustle. I think of hustle as aggressively making money. It has really become a lifestyle as of late. It seems everyone is hustling and pushing a product. Isn’t that what your Facebook and Instagram feeds are full of? My feeds are.

Why are you hustling? I was hustling to make money for my family. (I really never hustled; I was a wannabe.) I know very few who hustle because they have to. Most hustle because they want to. They want the comradery, the money, feeling of control, or all of the above. Many of them dream of doing their hustle full time.

After being forced to hustle the last few months, wanting to do your hustle full time doesn’t make sense to or for me. As much as I want to have flexibility and control, working 10-12 hr days hustling doesn’t sound like flexibility. Am I missing something? I like stability and consistency I guess.

3. It isn’t even about the money. I spiral into a hustle when I worry about money. Know what I have learned? If I do the best I can and remain balanced, I always have what I need. There are obviously standards – “best you can” is working your hardest, and that usually has to be at least getting out of bed.

If you can find that faith within you, you will be able to avoid anxiety and stress, as well as stand up to the hustle. Besides, if you spend your entire time hustling, how can you apply and interview for jobs?

4. Let your significant other, family and friends help. Know what can be really insulting? Acting like your family will spontaneously combust because you are unemployed. I can promise, it won’t. When you lose a job, unless you are single, you have a partner to help pick up the slack. If you assume your partner cannot help then guess what – he/she won’t help and you end up looking like an ass. Don’t be an ass.

5. Feeling sorry for yourself, aka wallowing, looks different for everyone. I kept saying, “but I’m not laying in bed” and “I’m working Instacart.” But in all truth, I was busy creating “blame stories” for why I was fired, why I wasn’t being hired, and so on.

Because I had tried to prevent it, I didn’t think I had fallen into the trap.

6. You won’t recognize you are wallowing. Whether you get a pair of kittens from the animal shelter or you join an online self-help challenge, you are still susceptible to feeling sorry for yourself. One day I said to the hubs, “ugh, this extra 20 pounds I have put back on.” He responded with typically JGB truth, “well, you have been feeling sorry for yourself. That always equals weight gain.”

Ugh. He was not wrong. I guess he knows me after 27 years. Just one more reason #3 is so important.

7. Losing a job produces grief. Kubler-Ross has identified 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These are often shown in a linear progression, but I think they are more like the gigantic squiggle shown in the iconic meme below.


Image credit here

We know that not working through grief when losing a loved one is detrimental. Same is true when we lose a job. And since we don’t think of losing a job as being associated with grief, we almost always move on (or try to) before we have processed. Then it sabotages an interview, usually for the job you really, really wanted.

8. You cannot beat yourself up during the process. With every “we’re sorry” email, and every unresponsive job application you may find yourself in a very negative self-talking loop. All you want to do is feel useful again. You begin to think you need to hustle more. You distract your intentions. Instead of allowing your dreams to develop, you are searching for your quick fix. Don’t get caught up in that hustle again.

9. Forgive yourself. Did you get fired? Were you “doing everything you could”? Sometimes we just don’t belong where we are. If you’ve been fired, your employer is just saying they need something different. They aren’t saying you are a bad human. In fact, they probably still like you. They just need something different. Something you cannot provide. Get over yourself. Seriously.

10. You are more than your profession. While the previous 9 lessons were tough, this one has been the hardest for me. I have always been my job. First, I was a teacher. Then a trainer. Then an Editor/Director. I worked hard, set and achieved goals, and strived to succeed. Then, it was gone. I’m not sure how, but I refuse to let that happen again.

So now that I have been kicked out of the caterpillar pile I have a chance. I may not be a butterfly yet, and honestly, have realized I’m further from it than I ever realized, I do have faith that it will happen eventually. Hopefully, this means I’m finished stepping on the heads of others. Time to grow 🙂

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