On one lovely summer day, I was brought into a conference room, and told I was being let go from my job.
So were dozens of people who worked with me.
Some sat there in stunned silence, others lowered their heads to hide their tears; another smaller group turned to the person next to them, already aware this was coming and unable to do anything about it. We commiserated with one another and ate the food catered for us. After a suitable amount of time we went back to our respective offices with the new task of cleaning out our desks.
I gave my entire soul to that job.
It was everything people say we should want in a career, those elusive qualities most professionals never will get to experience: creative, flexible, great and talented coworkers that felt like family, with a noble purpose of helping other. Challenging yet rewarding.
And I was losing it, just like that, because of reasons that were outside of my control.
I did what I do best: I escaped for a weekend. Just took my car and drove out of town; drinking in all the sights, the people going about their lives, the sway of the trees against the sunset. I let my fear and my despair run wild, away from prying eyes. On Sunday, I turned my phone back on to desperate calls from my mother.
I had no answers. Only daunting questions.
What do you do when you lose the foundation on which you had built your life?
Where do you go next, when you have nowhere to go?
Were all the days I poured my heart into my job and all the late nights spent putting up decorations for events worthless?
Would I ever find a job as amazing as the one I had lost?
I spent days in a dark haze, surrounded by self-pity, until my mother sat me down and told me what’s what.
Something you must know about my mother: she is an expert at overcoming setbacks that would have paralyzed most of us in fear. Put an obstacle in front of her and she will slowly chip away at it until she comes out of the other end, ruffled and tired but triumphant. With a cool mind and steady hands, she will do whatever needs to be done, whether that is folding and tagging clothes for less than minimum wage or making and selling sandwiches, all while studying at night to get her certifications.
So, for her, my conundrum had a very easy solution: go out there and find yourself a new path.
“This job failed. So? You have skills, you have experience, you have an education,” she told me. “You have a passion for something. What can you do with that?” That stopped me in my tracks.
Such an easy conclusion: I had failed, but why did that have to be the end?
We are conditioned from an early age to follow a clear path to reach success: go to college, get a corporate job in a field related to what you studied, climb up the ranks until, after a suitable amount of time, you are ready to start a family. I have watched many of my friends and relatives perform this dance and obtain happiness.
It works. Put effort in, get achievement out, like a well-oiled machine.
But the overwhelming majority of people seem to be stumbling in the dark, following their own song and coming up with new dance moves. People radically switching careers, moving to another city to start a new life, starting their own businesses. Traveling. Giving a shot to all the dreams that had once seemed unreachable.
And when things don’t work out as planned, move on.
My clear path, the one I had thought to be the only way, had been closed to me. But so many doors full of possibility had opened in turn.
I still had no job or no idea of what to do, but I had in my hands something I hadn’t realized I needed: the freedom to choose who I wanted to be.
So, pen and paper in hand, I sat down, gave myself permission to daydream, and created a plan.
J.K Rowling said it best: “Rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” Once the misery gave way to hope, I knew what I was meant to do with the skills given to me, and as I now embark in a different journey, I have in me the confidence of knowing I had survived failure, and come out stronger for it.
Sometimes, your world needs to be shaken up a little to realize the song you were always meant to dance to.
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