I'm panicked, yet there's a small sense of ... unfamiliar relief.
When I was much younger, I was in a relationship with an older guy for more than five years. He wasn't a bad guy, but it was a very bad relationship for me that left me feeling trapped (with very little happiness). At a time in my life when it should have been carefree and fun, I was miserable.
I cried myself to sleep way too often.
So why did I stay in a situation that I knew was wrong, that was making me sick and unhappy? Because at the time, I was naïve and craved stability and safety. Even if it wasn't ideal, it was something I could depend on. I would finish college, get married, have financial stability and the "normal" life that we're told we need to achieve.
When we finally broke up, I was devastated. I mean, I was "cry your eyes out the world is going to end" devastated but not for the obvious reasons. It wasn't that I was going to necessarily miss him as a person, but rather that the stable future I thought I could depend on was gone.
I panicked. I cried. I did the normal 20-year-old freaking out thing.
But you know what happened? In less than a week, I woke up and everything was fine. In fact, it was awesome. For the first time I had the freedom to do what I wanted when I wanted. I got a job as a cocktail waitress and had the best summer of my life, making new friends and doing things that made me happy — for me. It took losing who I thought I had to become to finally learn who I was — as much as you can know at age 21.
What does that have to do with me now?
Last week, I lost my job.
I'm still a little in shock and I'm sure it hasn't completely sunk in yet, but the enormity of the situation is obvious. My benefits run out at the end of the month and I have to apply for unemployment all while trying to pay my mortgage, bills, etc. all on my own. That's huge. Enter panic and "oh my god the world is going to end" initial reaction.
While I don't need to know the details, I will tell you that the job situation was not healthy and in fact bordered on abusive on several occasions.
And I know I was damn good at my job. Hell, two months before, I was told I was great and my job was mine as long as I wanted it, which is why this was a surprise (but not unheard of, seeing as they're a small company and more than 20 people had come in and out of that office in six years).
But more than external praise, I know how hard I worked and I'm proud of the quality that I produced, the effort I gave and the way that I conducted myself, despite an unhealthy situation.
So although I'm trying to decide how to decorate the cardboard box I might end up living in, there's also a small sense of... unfamiliar relief?
Although it's still raw, there's a sense that a weight has been lifted off my shoulders and that maybe this is just what I needed to find something that is healthier for me: physically and mentally. Maybe this will allow me to actually do something that means something to someone other than the only person making the profit.
Because much like that relationship mentioned above, I felt stuck in this job, but yet I never left because I didn't know what else I could do even though what I was doing wasn't making me unhappy.
So I'm taking this as a sign.
If I wasn't going to seek out the respect and fulfillment I deserve, the universe decided it would step in instead and throw a high-speed curve ball at my head. Now I have no choice.
That's not to say I'm not scared, that I won't miss my coworkers or that things are going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination. Right now there's a little bit of fear. There's a little bit of panic. But there's also no walking on eggshells. There's no sitting at a desk and counting down the seconds on the clock.
With my security stripped, there's also an unfamiliar freedom.
Maybe it will take losing who I thought I had to become to finally learn who I am — as much as you can know at age 33.
This article was originally published at Huffington Post. Reprinted with permission from the author.