In just a couple days, it will be Thanksgiving. People all over the internet/blogosphere/country are busy writing about everything they’re grateful for. Me? I just got a laid off.
I started November as a marketing manager, a title I was proud of and a role I felt fit me well. Now, at the month’s end, after a severe round of lay-offs, I have a title that I’m far less comfortable with: Unemployed. For someone who started babysitting for spending money at age 12, got her first real paycheck at 16, worked through college, and held a full-time career-track job while attending grad school full-time for over two years–well, let’s just say it’s an adjustment.
I’ve been in this career purgatory for about two weeks now, and I’ve recently arrived at my parents’ house for the holiday. It’s a new experience, being around family and friends I haven’t seen in a while and having to answer “how are things in the city?” with an awkward shrug. An innocently intended “how’s work?” quickly devolves into an uncomfortable explanation about being low (wo)man on the totem pole in a declining economy. Don’t even get me started on the inevitable, “So are you going to move back home?” questions (answer: no). The point is, I’m still adjusting, still navigating my new-found socioeconomic space.
And that is precisely why I am so grateful.
Grateful? People look at me like I’m crazy when I use that word. After all, I have rent to pay and food to buy–losing my job right before the holidays was not a happy surprise. But believe me, I’m going to be just fine. Best of all, this period of unemployment is providing me with some much needed perspective. The truth is, I am not my job. As individuals who spend so much of our days at our places of employment, I think it’s easy for us to lose sight of that fact. No matter how many hours a week you devote to your work, no matter how much you excel at it, a career cannot define a person. I had nearly forgotten.
It actually came as a bit of a surprise to me that things didn’t completely fall apart when I lost my job. Of course, there are financial concerns; there’s no denying that. I have some challenges ahead. But fundamentally, I am still me. I have not changed. I have the same skills, the same personality, the same sense of humor that I had when I was “marketing manager.” My family and friends still love me. The face I see in the mirror is still my own. Even if the worst of the worst happens and I never find a new job, none of that will change. It’s an important realization: We are not talented, skilled, and competent because we have great careers. Rather, we build great careers because we are talented, skilled, and competent.
When it comes down to these essentials, I have lost nothing. That’s what I’m thankful for this year. So there’s my Thanksgiving advice for everyone: Think about the essentials. There’s not much else worthwhile.