Get Well

What Losing My Job In Terrible Timing Taught Me About Myself

by India Gladstone

When you’ve got less than two months to go until your wedding, you’re meant to have your life in order. Society (and a fair few rom coms) have led us to believe that not only should you and your partner should be stronger than ever, you should also be honored to spend every minute – waking and sleeping – planning your upcoming nuptials, that life should be easy and breezy, and your job should be fruitful and fulfilling, bringing you the exact amount of money that you’ve budgeted for said nuptials and a honeymoon that you’ve likely been planning with as much diligence as the wedding itself. You’re grown up enough to get married, so you should automatically have everything else perfectly figured out, right?

Wrong. For me, one huge part of this perfect plan didn’t, well, go to plan. A few weeks away from turning 28 and only two months out from my wedding, I lost my job: a job that, ironically, I had been headhunted for, and one that I had loved – surrounded by an amazing team and working on everything I thought I’d ever wanted to work on. Until one afternoon – less than 24 hours after a departmental meeting proudly exclaimed the industry-defying stats that proved the company’s enormous success and outstanding annual figures – the rug was pulled from under me and it was all over.

“We’re restructuring your team”; “There are other roles in the business you can apply for”; “We hugely appreciate your output so far”; “We’d love you to apply for these roles and carry on working for the company” were all futile mutterings that I received from my boss in person and over the phone in the days that followed that first meeting. I should note that this affected my entire team (one of which has three small humans to feed) and not just me. This also is not a sob story: I know that life is a lot more challenging for a huge amount of people than it is for me, but it’s all relative, and this was now my reality. As the world’s greatest control freak, I was worried. Really worried. How was I going to pay my mortgage? My bills? For my eye-wateringly costly honeymoon? I live in London, one of the most expensive cities in the world. This wasn’t part of the plan – it wasn’t meant to happen. In 2017, an eye watering 104,000 people were laid off in the UK alone with that number only slightly decreasing last year – so I was at least safe in the knowledge that it wasn’t just me.

Yes, the first thing I did was panic. Over the days that followed, I cried… a lot. As is common when massive, life-altering moments happen, I felt like I was having an out of body experience and sitting on the peripheral, witnessing something that wasn’t really happening to me. “Brexit is happening! It’s fashion, no one is hiring! Anyone can write, you’re not special! No one hires at this time of year! You’ll never find work again! How could you let this happen!” The voices in my head were overwhelmingly loud and they physically manifested in an inordinate amount of tears, followed by the creeping and familiar face of acne and eczema, a constant, pounding headache that I couldn’t shake for love nor money, and physical exhaustion that I didn’t know I was capable of.

For most of my life, I’ve had a consistent battle with anxiety in many forms. Over the past year, though, I’ve fought tooth and nail to make sure that it wasn’t running (or ruining) my life. I’m convinced that the tactics I learnt over the last 12 months (the yoga, the running, the meditation, the huge support system I tapped into in the form of girlfriends, my family, my fiancé, and a both needy and reliant relationship with CBD) meant that I knew I could get through this. If this had happened to me a year ago, it wouldn’t be the same story. But deep down, even when I was crying into my dinner for the fourth night in a row whilst my incredibly patient and loyal fiancé told me everything was going to be alright, I understood how important it was for me to not let my innate desire to try to control everything about my future take over the present.

This was challenging. I’m the type of person who likes to know the exact time and place of a meeting three days before it happens. I like to have every single detail of the week ahead planned out in full when I open up iCal on a Sunday night. I don’t think I’m neurotic, but I definitely like to control what I know I can. So, the prospect of not knowing what the day – let alone the week – entailed when I woke up on Monday morning and the rest of the world got settled into the work week, filled me with a fear and dread that I haven’t felt in years.

But here’s what I did: I started to think about everything that was good in my life, of which there is a lot. I am surrounded by strong, independent girlfriends who shower me with a delicate balance of tough love and sympathy exactly when I need it. I am about to marry a man that I’ve been (secretly and not so secretly) in love with for at least 12 years, who is the strongest and most reliable champion of all that I do, and who knows exactly what to say and when to say it. I have parents and siblings who know what I’m capable of, even when I don’t, and who (gently) pushed me to go with my gut and cut all ties with a company who had actually been making me miserable for months. Crucially, I started to see that losing my job was actually an unbelievable blessing in disguise. Whether you believe in the power of the Universe, of God, of a higher spirit or not, I have wholeheartedly started to live my life according to the wildly over-used ‘everything happens for a reason’ gag. Maybe, actually, this was meant to happen. Maybe I would have stayed far too comfortable and far too complacent if I hadn’t been forced out. I had no choice other than to see it this way, because thinking any other way would have seen me sink far too deeply into a dark and desperate place.

The process has been long, tiring, and difficult, but it’s taught me that if we’re privileged enough to have freedom of choice, we shouldn’t take it for granted. I had two weeks to decide whether to interview for a new job in the company that, in hindsight, I’d never been proud of, but one that paid my bills and gave me security, or to cut and run – taking the ‘compensation’ (a word I now loathe) money, but risk being back at square one in a saturated and famously cut throat industry. My first and immediate thought was that the former was my only choice, that I couldn’t possibly take the risk of being out of work because, well, what about the future? But by looking deeper into myself, into my anxiety, into everything I had spent time, money, and emotion learning about myself over the last year, my gut knew that this wasn’t actually the right thing or, indeed, my only choice.

I’ve learnt more about myself and my abilities in the last month than I ever thought possible and I can safely say that taking the time to shift my mindset has been the single most important thing I’ve ever done. So if I, a person with an innate and urgent need to control everything about my life and an ability to feel unimaginably anxious as soon as something goes wrong can learn to live with not knowing where the future lies, so can you. We have freedom, even when we don’t believe it. We have a choice, even when we don’t think we do. Shifting your perspective and flipping your mindset can be devastatingly difficult but once you learn how to do it, you’ll never look back – trust me.

Feature Image via Daniela Spector

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