My phone pinged on my way to work: It was a meeting invite from my director for 9:30 a.m. that same morning. Weird. Our weekly check-in was yesterday. My heart rocked in my chest as I quickened my pace. At the conference room table, my director and our CTO sat on the same side, a piece of paper between them. Fuck. The company was losing money and non-essential personnel would be let go, effective immediately. Tears smarted in my eyes and then fell in ample waves down my cheeks. I signed the termination letter.
The rest of the day, I roamed through the city with no sense of a destination, doubled down on my anxiety and hit shuffle on my mental playlist of worries. In four weeks time, I was planning to move out of the apartment I shared with my boyfriend. He was bound for Chicago and I’d already planned to spend a month at my mom’s in the suburbs until I secured a new place to live. He and I had recently made the joint decision to separate; it was a choice the two of us lauded as a mature while burying our grief for a relationship we just couldn’t support anymore.
And now I was unemployed.
All at once, I lost what had rooted me for so long: who I loved, where I lived, what I did. I felt alone, small, unsteady. With no significant other, work or space of my own, there were few things to distract from their all-encompassing absence. I collected unemployment, scanned endless job boards and started doing temp work, anxious for some semblance of structure.
Some days, I was able to convince myself this was all an opportunity to do something better, a clean slate for a fresh story. But most days, I doubted this new reality would ever feel normal. Most days, I wished for the ability to time-travel back to the snug security of the past.
Very slowly though, I started to adapt. Through temping, I found a permanent position in a field that had always intrigued me and took comfort in a new job better than my last. Eager for any sense of purpose, I took up running, stopped drinking, volunteered. After many months at my mother’s, longing for independence, I found a charming city apartment full of roommates. A month after that, I went on my first date since my ex moved away.
One year on and I still have to remind myself this is my new normal: a residual side-effect, perhaps, of rapid-fire life changes. But one year on and I’m no longer defined by my job, my partner, my home. I’ve rediscovered a dormant resilience, a long-forgotten sense of self, a sum greater than its parts. One year on and what I once considered a massive loss, I now see as a veiled boon.