Tag Archives: Job loss

Bodies of Work, Plastic Flowers and the Bitch on Your Shoulder

I subscribe to a number of blogs. I like getting the emails in my inbox whenever the writer has published something new. But they are not blogs about animals or forensics, they are blogs mostly about personal finance, self-improvement, and career inspiration.

It’s been a rough ride lately. My job transitions in 2011 – from financially stable and employed to unemployed and obsessed over money (largely because I didn’t have much) to employed at a significantly lower pay rate – have been anything but easy. I’m trying to see everything in a positive light, but it’s a struggle sometimes. Many of my friends are going through the same things. Call it a quarter- or third-life crisis (we’re all still too young for the much feared mid-life crisis), but many people I know are struggling to find themselves, or happiness, or career success, or what they want to be “when they grow up”. The pressures from society, family, friends, and especially ourselves, don’t help much either. Reading the blogs that I do gives me a fresh perspective and much needed help dealing with life issues.

Over the past few weeks, many of the blogs I read have all published articles about letting go and being yourself and ignoring the naysayers in one form or another. Everyone must have had the same mindset. They all really hit home with me and I wanted to share them here in the hopes someone else could benefit.

Trent Hamm writes the blog The Simple Dollar, which describes many ways to save money, get out of debt, and live a non-consumer lifestyle. His recent article, Plastic Flowers, figuratively describes how some people choose to fill their lives with dandelions and weeds, nothing fancy, just things that are simple and personal to them, while others have nothing but plastic imitations of roses, all shallow, showy pieces solely to impress others. He says: “you’re better off being proud of being a ditchweed than trying to be a rose and merely being a plastic imitation of one. Stop caring what other people think. Be passionate and proud of who you are and what you enjoy and stop spending a dime of your money or an ounce of your energy trying to be something you’re not“. Really good advice, don’t you think? I like weeds.

Another great blog that I read all the time is called Escape From Cubicle Nation by Pam Slim, and it’s all about breaking free of the corporate grind to do what you are truly passionate about. She recently posted an article called  Blow Up Traditional Careers In Favor of Bodies of Work. What she means is, build your foundation not on “a singular work path” like being a successful lawyer, CEO, accountant, researcher, Tahitian pearl farmer, whatever, and start thinking about using your talents in multiple ways: “Focusing on a body of work will give you more freedom to choose different work options throughout the course of your  life. So you won’t have to say things like ‘I am throwing away 10 years of studying and practicing law if I start a yoga studio. ‘(Don’t worry — your relatives will say it.) Or ‘I am undermining my potential if I take a job as a barista’ after you get laid off from your corporate job as a highly-paid creative“. Just because you’re a barista doesn’t mean you can’t still be creative (I love the picture Pam posted here of the frothy designs in a cup of cappuccino) and bring happiness or inspiration to people. Hmmm… sensing the theme I’m trying to get at here??

Finally, The Write Site is a blog about, well, writing, by New Zealand author Philip Bradbury. He is hilarious and motivational, and his post How Do Writers Write? Rule #7 – The Bitch on Your Shoulder is absolutely PERFECT for those of us who are wayyyy too hard on ourselves, who constantly find reasons NOT to try things, who always feel that we suck at everything while everyone else is so much more talented, successful, beautiful, smart, etc. It’s that bitch happily perched on our shoulders maliciously chattering all these reminders of our ineptitude who is so much easier to listen to than our own shaky self confidence. His article describes an exercise that he participated in where everyone had to introduce themselves by saying their name and the phrase their own personal bitch whispers most frequently: “Hello, I’m Shirley and I’m too fat. Hello, I’m Shirley and I’m too fat. Hello, I’m Shirley and I’m too fat … or Hello, I’m Michael and I’m not bright enough. Hello, I’m Michael and I’m not bright enough. Hello, I’m Michael and I’m not bright enough … You might imagine the mirth in the room – it was rocking with our laughter. You see, once you get that silent, snarling conversation out of your head, through your mouth and over to someone else, you realise just how stupid it is.” Why do we listen to this woman?? Brush her off your damn shoulder and tell her to scram.

Sorry this post is so long, but with so many people going through some of the same things, I thought sharing these blogs may help. Whatever your path, build up your body of work, fill your life with weeds, not plastic flowers, and don’t listen to that bitch. I’m beginning to accept that my career path has never been traditional. And just because I choose to do one thing right now, it doesn’t mean I can’t try something else somewhere along the way. Animal forensics? What is that? Who cares? What makes you think you’re qualified? It doesn’t even really exist as a field of science, so what do you think you can do with it? Shut up, woman! My career will be what I make it. And that’s okay.

When Life Kicks You in the Ass

So, it’s funny that two of my last posts, especially the one on January 6th, involved thoughts on my goals for the new year ahead. I was looking forward to a lot of great things. But yesterday, seemingly as a smack back into reality, I was laid off. Slam, went the door in my face.

All that remains of my career for the last 4 years

That sad-looking box of stuff is what I carried out of my company for the last time. It constitutes a huge portion of my life for the past four years. That stuffed elephant stared at me from the top of my computer every day. Those pictures reminded me of family and my dog and of good times. I even have a sports bra stuffed in there from when I would go running on my lunch break. It’s all I have to physically show for many years of a three-hour-per-day commute, many headaches and stress, and much learning and growing. And I haven’t been able to bring myself to empty it yet.

Sounds strange to listen to myself say that overused, cliche statement “I never thought it would happen to me” but I really didn’t. As much as I disliked my job and even said that I sometimes wished this would happen, it really SUCKS when it does. It’s a huge loss – a loss of not only a paycheck and a title, but a loss of confidence, security, and self-respect. A loss of a lot of freedoms and things I took for granted.

I have been rather aimless today as the reality sinks in. I am now an unemployed graduate student. That is my new title. But it’s only temporary, and I realized last night as the phone calls and text messages came in that through it all I was able to leave a legacy, however small. I made some good friends who care and who are sad to see my empty cubicle, or “hamster cage”, as I used to call it. That means the world to me. Over the past few years I have begun to realize the importance of those relationships. They will sustain you when the well seems like it’s run dry.

It’s not the end of the world. End of an era, yes. But not the end of who I am. I even mentioned in my post on January 1 that I was going to attempt to venture into new realms this year. At the time I had no idea this would happen (a bit of foreshadowing, perhaps?) and I had no idea the concept may be forced upon me. But this could prove to be a true turning point. Who knows. For sure it is a learning experience. NEVER take anything for granted. I’m glad that I was somewhat ready in case it happened, although it was still a bit jarring. It’s like I’ve been taught in all of my forensics courses, when you think you’ve found all the evidence, think again. Don’t be over-confident, because just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, i’s dotted and t’s crossed, you can accidentally turn over a chair on your way out the door and find a bullet casing you missed. Okay, maybe a silly analogy, but you get the point. Your great ride can end in a New York minute, and you can find yourself staring at a tiny box that holds the last few years of your life.

Let the new journey begin. This brings about a lot of changes that I wasn’t completely expecting (although I did have a sneaking suspicion it may happen), but it will be okay. Perhaps this wasn’t a giant slap in the face or kick in the ass, but merely a tap on the rump in the direction of a new beginning.

For any of you out there going through a rough time, keep this in mind….

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.

Read the rest here.

Onward and upward, my friends.