I talk a lot about positive thinking, vision boards, and getting everything you want out of life, but I realized this week that that mindset is like a muscle. If you don’t continue to use it and work on it, it will atrophy and not do you any good.
Here’s the thing: 2011 didn’t get off to a very good start for me. Not only did my car die on Christmas Eve, but I got some pretty dramatic news the day before that — mainly, the news that I no longer had a job.
This wasn’t a total shock. Annie had told me mid-December some amazing news: that she was pregnant and had decided to leave our company and start her own photography business. I could not have been more happy for her, nor was I at all surprised. She is extremely talented and seriously needs full creative control of her business. When I found this out, I had no idea if I’d even be kept on, or what would happen to my position, but I also felt more relieved than I expected. While I loved Annie and loved working for her, I had been thinking since Thanksgiving that come the first of the year, I would need to start thinking about finding another job, for reasons that were about the business as a whole, not our department. And while the hours left me plenty of time to pursue writing and do coaching sessions, I also was really starting to crave stability.
Still, though, when I found out on December 23 that they had decided to not keep me on…and that, given the fact I was leaving the next day for Michigan and would be gone the entire following week…so it was now my last day (well, hour) of work, I was, quite frankly, a little rattled. There are certain things in life that have the ability to throw off even the most have-your-shit-together people, and losing a job is one of them. You just have this weird, unsettling feeling that something very serious has just taken place.
Luckily, I had the holiday to distract me, but when it came time to head back to Houston, I felt so strange. I honestly had no idea what I was heading back for. What would my life look like? What would I do with myself all day until I found a job? In the past few years, I’ve gotten more comfortable with uncertainty, but I don’t really like it.
It wasn’t that I was worried I wouldn’t find a job; the market in Houston is impressive and when I applied for jobs this summer, I had really good options. I knew I was in a situation that had a lot of potential to be a really important “before and after” moment in my life. But I was still worried that I wouldn’t find the right job. For me, the thought of going to a boring 9 to 5 job, doing work that doesn’t matter to me, is soul-crushing. The fear of having to accept a job that would suck the life out of me was really overwhelming. I’d start the task of looking for jobs with a huge sense of dread; I practically had to bribe myself into doing it.
But I did it. And that’s the thing — you just have to do it.
I had applied for one job before I was officially let go, and they actually called me on Christmas Eve to set up an interview. The job sounded like a perfect fit, but I had to wait to interview until I got back. But with my dead car, the interview was sort of…shelved. Not good.
I know they say things like losing a job can be “emasculating,” but that implies that it only affects men. Not true. Whether you are male or female, searching for work is exhausting, depressing, overwhelming, and just makes you feel insecure. To say it’s emasculating implies that women don’t have an identity related to work, which simply isn’t true. Most of my friends like to do work that they can be proud of and aren’t content to just not be doing.
For me personally, it forced me to be introspective, which, honestly, hurts a little bit. It’s scary. I had to think about things like my writing, career goals, money, debt, the future, marriage, adulthood, and, hardest of all, the reality of what it means to be a creative adult as opposed to a creative student — when a blessing turns into a curse because, as amazing as it feels to be able to create, it sucks that quite often, the time you need to devote to your passion means you have to live paycheck to paycheck.
Like, thanks for putting me in the gifted programs, but I can’t make a living off my potential.
Anyway, I spent the first week of 2011 trapped in my apartment with no car, no job, upset with Eric, and just summoning everything I had to focus on the positive and have faith that it was for the best. Since the day before Christmas Eve, I’ve just felt like life has been in black and white. It’s like my life was still there in most ways, but something didn’t quite feel right.
(Another reason I needed my tools this week.)
I was finally able to have a couple of phone interviews with the first job I’d applied for, and it seemed like a great fit. It was a marketing and social media job for a start-up Web site that combined a lot of things I love — online video, social networking, and creative endeavors. It seemed like a job where I’d have a ton to give, but would also learn a lot. They asked me to come in on Thursday and meet in person. Then I got another interview set up for Thursday with a medical spa — doing marketing and sales, a job that I would also love to have. (Hello, discounts on Latisse?!) My horoscope said Thursday morning that it was a good day to talk business and a four-star day to sign contracts. I pretty much just held my breath until yesterday afternoon.
The first interview, with the med spa, went really well; it was the kind of place I could see myself doing well and being happy. Decent pay, decent hours, all that. But the second interview, the one with the Web site, was amazing, a total love fest. Once they had met me in person and seen that I wasn’t a total psycho, and I had gotten a feel for the office culture and had seen that yup, I’d fit in there, they made me an offer that was exactly what I was looking for and I went with my gut (and, OK, my horoscope) and accepted it.
(Due in no small part to the fact that the 66-year-old CEO of the company told me that he had read my Web site and he told me he loved it, and he thought “head down, butt up” was “too cute” — further evidence that you can, in fact, have a blog with a strong voice and still be gainfully employed.)
I am so excited about the new job (I’ll share full details on the site next week!), my new coworkers, and the fact that I’ve been hired to do something I love and I’m good at, something not everyone can do. It’s a start-up, so there isn’t long-term stability, but I also know now that whatever happens, I’ll be OK and it will be the right thing at the right time. When I got in the car to head home, I seriously felt like I was seeing the world in color for the first time in two weeks. I really didn’t know I was that sad until I felt the huge sense relief and excitement yesterday afternoon. I use this metaphor a lot, but I feel like everyone has an inner flame, and sometimes, it starts to burn very low. You have to find something that is going to be that huge gust of wind mine needed to kind of do that woosh! and start really burning again.
You can say what you want about positive thinking, vision boards, and all that, but I firmly believe that positive thinking combined with faith in your talents is the only thing that’s going to get you through a situation like this. You might have to dig deep for it; I’m not going to pretend I didn’t. But I fucking dug for it and I had a new job, the right job, after a total of four days. Oh and I lost a couple pounds because I was too distraught to eat much and avoided job searching by doing more workouts. So yes, I’m lucky, but I’m only lucky after the most unlucky events go down.
So here is today’s lesson:
What’s happening in your life right now is exactly what needs to be happening, even if you don’t like it or think that this is true.
Sometimes, it’s good to exercise your “This is scary but I’ll be OK” muscles.
Uncertainty and fear about the future can be paralyzing, but you have to push through it.
If you are job searching and haven’t started a blog yet…holy shit, what are you waiting for?
When the time comes to choose a verb, don’t go with “crawl in a hole and die” and you’ll probably do just fine.