This post kicks off our summer guest post series and was submitted anonymously.
“A simple life,” my therapist said to me. “Maybe you want a simpler life.”
“I don’t know what I want,” I told him.
“That’s the point. You need to let yourself be and feel. It will come to you. Don’t think and use your brain. Connect with your heart center and feel. You can do anything you want in life and have freedom.”
Wow! Freedom! That feels exhilarating!
I am out of the shackles of waking up on a pre-dawn schedule and conducting my daily activities while walking around like a fatigued zombie. On a typical day, I drank six cups of coffee to stay alert until I left work after dark, driving home in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Most days my working hours went well into evening, past dinner. It didn’t matter if I got home at 10 p.m., I had to wake at 5:00 a.m. and start all over again.
That was my working life before September 30, 2020. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, “I had ill-being in my former life and didn’t even realize it.” I slept 6 or 7 hours a night but never woke feeling rested. I kept a rigorous, disciplined schedule that included working, exercising, and trying to eat healthy. My down time was lying in bed 30 minutes before lights out to read a book. I was almost always moving at a fast pace and thinking about the next item on my to-do list. I was constantly racing to the next event. I walked fast. I even ate with speed. My mind was always focused on the future.
Now I am now free and unemployed. Dare I say that I like not having to answer to anyone and having flexibility in my schedule? I can sleep late, wake refreshed, and take time to meditate in the morning while listening to the birds chirping. Why do I feel so guilty for liking my days? But have I become lazy and complacent? My emotions are like a roller coaster. Some days, I am depressed. Others, I am at peace. I have difficult moments when I start thinking, “No one wants to hire me. No one likes me. Will I ever work again?” I recognize my moments of irrational thoughts but can’t shake the negative pattern. Sometimes I feel so out of control and frustrated that I want to scream. I feel frozen, waiting to make major life decisions until I know if and when I will be employed.
For someone so used to doing, the flipside of this freedom is that the downtime has been one of the most uncomfortable experiences of my life. Sometimes I want to throw in the proverbial towel. I am being ghosted by industry colleagues and recruiters. I take it very personally. My unemployment status, coupled with the search for an entirely new role, is very humbling. I have found that others who have had similar experiences of job loss are the most helpful with respect to making new connections. I feel vulnerable and at everyone’s mercy. Will people remember me and recommend me for a new role? Will I ever get hired?
I attended a couple of Buddhist meditation sanghas via Zoom and the teachings spoke directly to my heart. Sometimes I do believe in the synchronicity of the universe. I have to find ways to stay in the present, not project into the future or reflect on the past.
However, my Type A self continues to schedule networking calls and send emails. Emails and calls seem like such a waste of time but it’s what I am supposed to do, my job-search coach says, so I’m doing it. Apparently, the stars are supposed to align and I will land a job eventually. I’m not sure how this will happen but I am trying to trust a higher power and my coach.
I have regular calls with my therapist who moved away from the area during the COVID pandemic. Thankfully, he didn’t abandon me and is offering phone sessions. It’s amazing how one conversation with him changes my entire perception. A simple life! Yes, maybe. Maybe I don’t want a corporate job. Maybe I want to work in a bookstore or embark on a new career. Or no, maybe not. Maybe I just need a more positive work environment and corporate culture. Maybe I need a new role that motivates and excites me.
I really don’t know the answer but I am not ready to give up just yet. I don’t want to say yes to the simple life just to avoid rejection and feel in control. I do feel strongly that I will not accept a title or role less than I deserve for all my years of experience and grit. Corporate culture is very important to me. I want a new employer who will value my talents and treat me with respect. I want to work in an inclusive, diverse environment that will allow me to maintain some balance and healthy habits. Looking back on my old work life, it’s no wonder I always felt like shit, was tired, and had two bouts with cancer. I was running on adrenalin, never stopping to see life around me. Now when I visit my parent’s home, I see things in their backyard that I never noticed before. How could I not have appreciated the brook and colorful trees? I lived in that house for 20 years. It’s a wonder to me. I go for walks in my neighborhood and hear birds. I see bunnies hop and notice the containers neighbors have planted to bring bursts of color to their front stoops. For 50 years, I never saw or really lived life. At least, that’s how it feels. I was driven by ambition to work and maintain independence. My goal was to succeed, not enjoy life. I didn’t take the summer off after college and go to Europe. I worked.
My family’s economic status didn’t force my hand. Working was my choice, to live freely, to not rely on my parents or any partner. Now, I yearn for nature and beauty. My perception has shifted these past eight months. I don’t want to return to my old self. I wasn’t happy. I was burnt out.
I do want to work. Can I find a positive inclusive work culture with colleagues who also want balance in their life? How long do I have to wait for that perfect role? Just asking that question makes me feel anxious. I am trying to be vulnerable and get comfortable with my lack of control but anxiety and frustration wells up inside me. What will happen? Will I ever work again? Will I be valued for my career skills and expertise? When can I move out of this purgatory? Maybe I should just opt for the simpler life and work as a barista. Will I be happier with a simpler life? Something inside me stops and says No! Don’t give up! Keep trying and trust the universal forces that are working to reveal my next employment home. I do have talent and value to contribute.
Last night, I had an epiphany while lying in bed! If and when I do land my next job, I won’t be afraid of the future or of being laid off again. I have lived through this experience with uncomfortable and sad moments but also with positivity and joy. I don’t know how this story will end but I am trying to remain open and focused on the present moment. I hope the universe will show me the direction that I should follow, sooner rather than later.
As we say in sangha: Metta! I need some love and kindness.