“Try not to become a man of success, but rather to become a man of value.” ~Einstein
Like almost everyone and their mother, I lost my job this year. In all honesty, it wasn’t a big shock or blow. I’ve worked in 5 different industries for over 75 companies since I graduated from college in 2001. Change is my security. But it was different this time around.
When MyThings.com laid me off—and both my freelance employers gave me the shaft, as well—I realized I didn’t have the same opportunities I’d had in the past. It didn’t matter how many feelers I put out or seeds I tried to plant for future work, there just weren’t any jobs available.
I’d spent my life jumping from cloud to cloud without any real sense of direction. Now I had no choice but to plant myself firmly on the ground, collect unemployment, and accept rejection after rejection.
My mother recommended I suck it up and “just accept a waitress job.” Which would have worked perfectly if there weren’t 100 other applicants—all with previous waitressing experience—vying for every open spot.
My first instinct was to make a list of “can’t dos.” I’m out of work, with no prospects in sight. I can’t:
- Afford my over-priced apartment for very long.
- Spend a lot of money on travel.
- Buy myself new clothes.
- Treat friends to dinner.
- Buy people expensive gifts for birthdays and other events.
- Add to my savings account.
- Or even maintain my savings since unemployment is barely enough to live on.
From that perspective, my life felt pretty empty and meaningless. Then I realized there was another way to look at my situation. My life had changed dramatically, but that shift provided me with a whole new list of “can dos.” While living on unemployment, I can:
- Live in a less expensive, but equally comfortable apartment—one that will allow me to build my savings back up once I’m working full-time again.
- Devote hours to blogging for my own site and other people’s—sites that connect with my passions.
- Spend some time volunteering behind the desk at my yoga studio, which I enjoy, in exchange for free classes.
- Visit my family more often. I went home for two weeks in March, August, and October; and I have another trip planned for Christmas.
- Put more meaning behind gifts for friends. When a friend’s birthday recently passed, I gave him an antique Turkish mirror a friend from Istanbul had given me years ago.
- Get creative with my wardrobe. I’m not a great sewer, but I’ve given several outdated pieces of clothing a new look with a little ingenuity.
- Challenge my money beliefs and phobias. I’ve lived with a tight grip on my savings in fear of being destitute. Learning to let go, take care of myself, and trust in future abundance makes me feel less anxious and fearful.
The truth is there are no guarantees I will soon make as much money as I was making before. In fact, there are no guarantees in life period.
But I know this much: I’ve enjoyed this year more than any other year. The time with my family strengthened my connection to them. My writing provided a sense of fulfillment. And focusing on who I am more than what I do allowed me to grow into a more caring, helpful person.
My tax return may not convey a woman who’s had tremendous success in 2009. But I have never felt more valuable.