Lessons learned from a Year of Unemployment

It’s been a year!

And what a year it has been.

So, what did I learn? What would I do differently and what would I do again?

One of the things about major life events, and there were a bunch of major life events that all landed within the last year, is that they usually happen only once. Okay maybe twice. But never in the same context.

I’m usually pretty good at looking back over a project and picking apart the things that went well and the things I would change. I’m not very good at doing this with my own life. More variables than I can account for in my brain is my guess.

I’ve been laid off before.

Experience helps, but this time is was different. This year it wasn’t just me and my life that changed. It was also my family’s lives that were turned end over end. Job loss, pay cuts, buying a new business, and health issues were all part of the last year for my nearest and dearest.

And while this was happening to them I had to learn to go my own way.

That was the most painful part. Maybe that is the lesson learned but it was a lesson that was specific to its time and place. I’m not sure I could have avoided it.

What I now know is that I have to follow my path no matter what others may desire from me. When I don’t I tend not to take the care required to do the job properly. I simply steamroll everything so I can get it the job done and get back to my work, my life.

It sounds like a selfish position. I’m not sure it is.

At the end of the day, for all the support and help my family has provided in the past, I am responsible for myself. The stars aligned and I finally had what I wanted so badly – time to write. Every moment that their lives prevented me from doing what I needed to do, even though I seemingly went willingly, diminished me.

The hardest lesson is that I can be nothing more, nothing less than myself.

I’m a writer.

Every day I learn more about what that means.

Like a chemical reaction, there is activation energy required to change a life. In a chemical reaction usually energy is applied from the outside in the form of heat. When changing a life it is more often required from the inside. Only I can make myself the person I wish to become.

It’s a learning process.

I never thought this would be easy, I’m not so foolish. But I did think that the patterns would be easier to come by. They aren’t. My life has few patterns. Some of the patterns that I have I don’t want.  I don’t want to go to bed after midnight and get up at 8 am. I miss the news and feel like a slug. I know that I can write perfectly well in the evenings but I’ve spent the last five years working grownup hours and my body is still set to crash at 6 pm.


Those patterns are slowly eroding. Today I realized (yes I am stupid sometimes) that one of the things I missed most about getting up early was listening to the news. So this morning I logged on to the streaming version of Morning Edition. That is the glory of the web – you can have things when you want them.

But, you ask, what else have I learned?

  • I’ve learned I don’t need the lovely wage that I used to live on, I can do with less.
  • I’ve learned that when you need money you can find it.
  • I’ve learned how to focus on my life rather than the life others want me to live.
  • I’ve learned that friends are invaluable.
  • I’ve learned that good web developers are hard to find.
  • I’ve learned that writing every day isn’t easy but I get better at it all the time.
  • I’ve learned I was right. This is the life I want.
  • I’ve learned (again) that the only thing I have control over is myself.
  • I’ve learned to be kind to myself for my failings but to always set the bar high.  

Not bad for year one!

~ Tess


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