How Being Laid Off Made Me More Millennial Than Ever

Photo: Courtesy of the author / Kiarra Sylvester
woman on beach with hair blowing in the wind

For years I've been fighting my conformation into adulthood, believing it was far more drama that it was actually worth.

But, I hadn't even discovered half of this adulting thing until I was laid off from my first paying "career" job.

It happened right after Thanksgiving, days before my birthday, and weeks before Christmas, but unlike the rest of the bunch that was sent packing along with me, I didn't drink my sorrows away that night at the bar because it simply happened.

If anything, I cried because I'd miss (some of) them and the cushiony salary that was keeping my fun New York life funded.

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Admittedly as weeks went by I noticed a depression set in, and still, it had nothing to do with the lack of a job.

The job had me stressed every day. I was eating poorly, working late every night and living a lifestyle that didn't mesh with the work-life balance I'd been trying to achieve in the hopes of having a family someday. I wasn't happy! Not really.

Yes, sometimes s*** happens, but by no means do I want to spend every day of every week taking work home or staying at the office as an alternative to actually living my life.

So although doing nothing all day and waiting for friends to get off work to keep me company bored me into a depression, it also encouraged me to think about what I really wanted out of life, and I knew it wasn't another office job.

I knew what I wanted couldn't be found in someone else's company, and that scared the s*** out of me. What scared me most was the lack of time. In New York, there's absolutely no time to be wasted on figuring it out — you better know before you get there or else.

For me, as I paid off credit card debt, it meant sacrificing my savings (because New York is expensive), so it wasn't long before I couldn't pay my landlord.

That's when I decided to move back home in order to figure out what it was that I wanted from life since I already knew what I didn't want.

I decided that although I was far from happy at this moment in my life, I was no longer willing to sacrifice my long-term happiness for the previous work experiences I'd had — tethered to my computer, unable to leave one spot, never taking an actual lunch, and being too tired to workout and cook dinner — ultimately sacrificing my health (both mental and physical).

But, it's not just me! I know I'm not the only one who believes that we must all stop sacrificing our happiness in the name of adulthood. It's not fair to anyone, but especially not to ourselves. Do what you want; live the life you're meant to live and not the one you feel forced to live.

Yes, what I'm saying may sound absurd and entitled, and to an extent perhaps it is. But it's a basic guide to your own sanity and happiness. It's Millennial!

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We prefer to enjoy our careers (if not create our own), spend our last dime on traveling and mimosas. We are a different breed, and it scares older generations.

But the truth is, we should all think with a more of a millennial mindset when it comes to life and happiness. But you don't have to get laid off like I did to figure out how.

Here's how you too can embrace your inner millennial to find a more fulfilling life:

1. Pause, and take stock of your life.

Have you accomplished the things your younger self wanted? Did it turn out how you had hoped? What do you wish you had more of in you life? Less? Do you always feel rushed? Broke? Hoping for more? Dreaming you were someplace else?

If you aren't doing what makes you the happiest, you're going to need to put the other s*** down and start doing it.

If you wanted to read more, do that! If you just want time to sit with your kids and cook them dinner without being cuffed to your computer, then do that. And, if you're flat-out tired of working for others because it lacks the freedom you desire (I'm projecting onto you, sorry), then start plotting.

I'm not suggesting you quit your job. I mean, you can. But baby steps are OK, too. Do what works for you, and sometimes quitting your paying job isn't conducive to that.

The one thing I know is that it's never too late! And, that no matter what the circumstances are — there's definitely a way. Overall, you must reevaluate everything you knew to be good and aim for greatness.

2. Make time to travel more.

I can't stress this enough: you should travel. You have to travel. OK, maybe you don't have to but it should definitely be a prerequisite to advancing in adulthood.

Travel provides peace and clarity as it takes you out of the regular state of your life and allows you to see clearly for a bit.

I traveled during my unemployment, and it was in a Vegas hostel that I figured out that I was going back to school to be a sex therapist and it was in a Vegas hotel where I began the application process.

For me getting away for a bit was the key to escaping the madness that had been my life since December. It was crucial to helping me escape the depression that I'd been in to think and start planning my next move (instead of dwelling on the lack of a current move).

I know many adults and even young adults who are waiting for some big financial break to travel. But, the truth is by the time that happens your finances will be redirected to children or other priorities.

There will always be something standing in your way — if you let it.

3. Have faith.

The one common denominator among business owners is their faith. I can't recall how many posts I've seen from entrepreneurs in my #BossBabe group about just doing it.

Sometimes it's hard to know where the money is coming from when pursuing your happiness but you must step out on faith, believe in something even if that something is luck.

4. Just start — anywhere.

The best advice I can give is to just start. Some may tell you to write a business plan first, for me that's a wet-mop step that kills my vibe. For you that may be a necessity.

Either way, pick up your computer and start somewhere (whether that's a new Pinterest board or a spreadsheet) in creating a future you truly can see being rewarding.

5. Get lost in you.

Since being laid off I've made it a priority to be more selfish — with my love, with my money, with my time.

I spend more time focusing on the things that I want. If I need more gym time, I make sure I get that because for me it's a measure of just caring for myself. It's a couple of hours in the day where I can take my frustration out and think a little less.

I make time for my business every single night, even if it's getting one detail worked out or reaching out to one contact.

Overall, I've started doing the things I said I would in order to create the life I said I wanted.

This is the tune that my generation is singing and I've finally arrived, but by doing these things so can you.

And it starts with knowing there's nothing wrong with actually loving your life and not being miserable in it.

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Kiarra Sylvester, MEd, is the founder of Black Girl Book Collective. She is a sex educator on a mission to decolonize Black women's sexuality.