I’ve lived a life that was very different than the life I’m living now. I worked for a major corporation and earned a six-figure salary. I owned a convertible and my vacation souvenirs were diamond jewelry.
Then I was laid off. Even though my co-workers and I had been warned that there were going to be layoffs, I somehow assumed that my assortment of skills and reputation for high quality work would protect me. It didn’t.
As I write this its several years later. By now I’ve been joined by many, if not most, of my friends in this world of layoffs. Although we all talked about the possibility, none of us truly expected it. And when it hit it was devastating.
When I consider my friends’ and my reaction to the loss of our jobs from a broader perspective, I realize that our pain isn’t just a result of what we lost, it’s also a reflection of our attachment to what we had. The reality is that most of us live day-to-day with the unconscious assumption that things will never change, that what we have now is somehow permanent, ours to own.
The end of the assumption of “forever” eventually comes to all of us in some form, whether it’s the loss of a job, or a loved one, a relationship, a lifestyle, a home – the list goes on and on. After we lose what we thought we would always have we recognize that nothing is forever. And, because we’re human, our first reaction to this new reality is fear.
What drives this fear is the belief that if we lose what we have now there will be nothing to replace it. We cling to the present not because we love it, but because it’s what we know. In reality, I had come to hate the job I lost. I was no longer growing and learning – by the time I was laid off the only skill I was still sharpening was tolerance. But when I walked out the door for the last time I still felt as though I’d been gutted.
Trying to lock down today into forever is futile, frustrating, and foolish. The desire to hold on to an ending career, relationship, or lifestyle doesn’t serve anyone, not you or the people who are in the game with you – your co-workers, employers, partners, family members or friends. By focusing on what was, we close ourselves off to what could be. We never get to experience the rich world of possibility that exists outside the limits of our present life.
Now, my life is almost the opposite of what it was five years ago. I don’t have nearly as much money but I’m rich with new friends and experiences. Starting my own business has increased my self-confidence and I’ve discovered a love for writing that feeds my soul.
I won’t lie, sometimes I look back and miss those fat pay checks. But most days I’m deeply grateful for the freedom I now have and for all that I’ve been able to explore and accomplish in the last few years. With this love for my new life comes a new awareness that things won’t be like this forever and the knowledge that I need to enjoy them while they’re here.