When my former employer decided to let me go, it didn’t come as a huge surprise.
The writing had been on the wall for the month leading up to it. The guy who had been acting as my supervisor asked me to meet him “to chat.” I opened the office door and the company’s head of HR was sitting next to him to give me my walking papers. I was almost relieved to finally know where I stood.
I shook their hands, thanked them for the opportunity, and booked before any of my now former coworkers could see how overwhelmed I was.
What came next was the most surprising to me. Even though my career track has taken a few more turns than most by my age—including a stint abroad and a couple industry moves by the age of 25—I was always on some a defined path, confident in where my foot would land before taking the next step. Once I was let go, all of that changed.
I didn’t know what to do with myself when I woke up the first morning at 7 a.m. on the dot, just like I did on days I was expected to be in the office.
I wiped the grog from my eyes and realized I had no pressing responsibilities. I could do whatever the hell I wanted! I promptly rolled over and went right back to sleep.
This didn’t mean that I was living in some type of fantasy world with no consequences. It meant that for the first time ever, I had total control of my life, with my own agenda. There was no school or work responsibility. I was confused and conflicted and more than a little freaked out, but for once, I just wanted to sleep in.
Of course, I couldn’t stay in bed forever: even with a severance check coming and savings stashed away, my bills would soon pile up. I had just moved to New York for that job—it had been my big break into writing and media. And in that lies the next lesson: even if you don’t have a definite path in life, you probably have a direction. Find out what that is and then figure out the best way to move toward it.
For me, that meant leveraging any opportunity I could find, no matter how far-fetched. I spent mornings applying to every open job I found, sending blind messages to people in the working world, and shamelessly contacting everyone I had ever interacted with in the industry. I’d break for a midday workout. (Prioritizing time to take care of yourself is lesson number three.) And then, if I was lucky, I’d have a meeting planned. I met with anyone who would talk to me: it didn’t matter who they were, so long as they agreed to give me some advice or maybe a lead.
People were unbelievably helpful. Even if the world seems like a cold and callous place at times, I learned that most of us live by the Golden Rule. If you’re not asking for the world, people will help you—even if it’s just because they’re trying to build up some good karma. No one handed me a job on a silver platter, but no one hesitated to send a quick email to a friend who might know someone, or even meet up to reassure me that my life wasn’t quite in the shambles I felt it was.
Eventually, I received a job offer. I was lucky to find a position, but it took a lot of work too. Perhaps the biggest lesson for me from losing my job is that no matter how stable life seems, it can all change in an instant. And that’s okay: just because you’ve envisioned yourself on a certain path doesn’t mean it’s the one meant for you. We adjust, we move on, and we grow.
Brett Williams is a New York-based writer whose work has also appeared at Supercompressor, Thrillist and AskMen.