• Gill Reed

Three Things I Learned After Losing My Job

How unemployment has helped me find my true passion.

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

This wasn’t how I envisioned my “post-grad lifestyle.” I had a much better plan, but the Universe chipped in along with its new friend, COVID-19, and together, they put my plan on the back burner, maybe even farther than the back burner. It could honestly have made its way into the landfill for all I know. 

The Background

About a year ago, I realized I was unhappy. I didn’t like working in an office and couldn't see myself working a different corporate job or trying a different business. I was comfortable and it was the only reason I hadn’t left yet. 

I knew I needed to make a change. I needed to find something in my life that brought me excitement as a career. The gym was the number one place that came to mind. I loved being there. I loved working out with my friends and family. It was the one place in my life that really felt good.

  Previously, I was on a path to become a lobbyist. But instead, I decided being a personal trainer and starting my own fitness business would better suit me. My plan was to keep my full-time position and after I graduated from college, I could spend my free-time building my business. Then COVID-19 basically slid in my DMs and said “lol, that was a good idea but I have a different idea instead.” I was terminated from my job at the end of April, graduated from college in the middle of May, and was thrown into my botched plan with steps A, B, and C, completely missing. 

So, since then, I have been unemployed. Sounds sexy, doesn’t it? 

Yeah, just kidding it doesn’t sound that great to me either. 

I digress. 

My life lately has looked nothing like I ever wanted it to look like. I hate to admit that I feel a little embarrassed and almost ashamed of myself. I’ve learned to always look for the lessons in the not-so-sexy parts of life, and so I felt like the ones I’ve learned from losing my job were worth sharing. 

Let’s get started. 

The Lessons

#1: Don’t make so many plans

I have this little thing my doctors like to call anxiety. It takes a myriad of different forms, but its favorite one is pushing me too many steps ahead of myself. 

I made it a habit two years ago to really do my best to live an intentional life. This meant writing my goals down every morning, taking actionable steps every day to reach them, and making sacrifices in my personal life. But somewhere in there, I started getting a little too controlling. 

Instead of being intentional, I was trying to plan every piece of my life that I could. I still do this, too. I get lost in the present because I want my future to look exactly how I have it planned. But the Universe always slides back into the DMs and says, “Hey, just so you know, I’m in charge here, not you.”

My point here is that it’s good to have goals to work toward, but trying to plan how those will come to fruition will only disappoint you. I’m constantly taking actionable steps to accumulate the things I desire, just with fewer expectations. 

Keep your goals, just don’t let them become the only path you decide to pursue. You never know when the Universe will switch your direction. 

#2: Your job doesn’t define you

 I took five years to graduate college because I was working two, sometimes three jobs, all while taking classes. During my last two and a half years of college, I was working a full-time job. 

Because of this, I became whoever I needed to be for my job. My likes and dislikes were intertwined with my job as were most of my hobbies.

Since being unemployed, I’ve had a lot of time to define who I really am outside of my work. When people would ask about me or what I wanted my career to be, my answers always dealt with my current job or the job I wanted to have. Today, I understand that I am not what my work is. My work is simply a piece to my puzzle to build my lifestyle and the way I make a meaningful contribution to my community. 

I’m able to define myself with the things that make me who I actually am. I like going for long walks on trails while listening to podcasts. I enjoy slow mornings in bed with coffee, a book, my laptop, and the Bon Iver radio station playing from Spotify. I enjoy searching for new outdoor spots to sit and read books or write. I don’t like being around big groups of people. I prefer spending time with the ones I care about one on one. I don’t like drinking just for the sake of fitting into social situations. I like long drives and finding new music. 

You get the gist. 

I never would have considered those characteristics to be part of who I am last year. In this new stage of life, I’ve learned to define myself with the parts that are true to myself and not with the parts that fit what my job is. 

#3: Say yes to the things you want to say yes to and no to the things you want to say no to

It seems like a simple concept, right? For me, it was a little more complicated. I found myself saying yes to the things that other people wanted me to say yes to. 

I said yes to keeping a job because I was told if I left, the connections I had made with my bosses would be severed. I said yes to dinners and drinks each night because every time I said no, I was told to “live a little more” or told to “loosen up and have more fun.” I said yes to going to college and getting a degree even though it was something I always knew I didn't really want. I said no to what I really wanted because I knew it didn’t make sense to other people. 

Since losing my job and graduating from college, I feel like for the first time in my life I am fully saying yes to the life I want and saying no to the parts I don’t want.

If you want to do something, say yes. I’ve missed out on a lot of opportunities that excited me because I thought saying no made more sense. If you say no to everything, you’ll never know if anything will work out. If it excites you, say yes, if it doesn’t, say no. 

In conclusion…

We should be eternally grateful for the people and experiences that gave us a chance to learn something even if they never worked out how we planned. 

The thing is, we can’t plan for anything. We can only take what happened and find the lesson in it. In losing my job I learned to lessen my expectations, say yes and say no to what fits my goals, and to define myself outside of whatever my work is. 

If you take life as it comes and choose to not learn from the good and bad parts that happen, I think you’re missing out on an opportunity to figure out who you really are and what you want. 

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” — Epictetus
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