Tag Archives: Lessons learned

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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The Stories We Tell

New York Public Library

A friend is working on a project concerning how historians are dealing with the preservation of the occurrences in the aftermath of 9/11 specifically what do we save and how do we preserve it.

Which made me wonder… what story are we going to tell?

You can take this from the level of the individual to the country to the world – and on every level tell a different story – provide a different filter – let some facts speak and lay others silently aside.  

Like the rest of the world – I was stunned and horrified at the occurrences that morning. And like many spent the rest of the day wandering through it dazed. It altered my perception of the world – my own sense of safety and security. Nothing on this magnitude had been perpetrated on American soil since the bombing of Pearl Harbor in WWII.

But we forget.

We forget that our situation is not normal – that many nations deal with much more on a daily basis – look what the British and Irish went through, or what occurred in Beirut in the 80’s, or what is occurring in so many countries in the Middle East right now. Every day in the Middle East soldiers and civilians are killed – we see the numbers daily in our news feeds. Can we even imagine that being our country?

So – what story will we tell?

One story that I hope we tell is about what, in our fear, we were willing to lose. Fear is a strange thing. It makes us willing to give up so much and we were afraid and our leaders leveraged those fears. Molded them, gave indefinite fears form and then went to work on their own agendas.

We wanted answers, someone to blame, someone to punish, someone to protect us and tell us that this would never happen again. For us the world stopped – paused while the planes were grounded – and then our world started up again different.  

We are a great nation – but we were not a wise or good nation.

The most powerful fears are caused by what we don’t understand. And it takes time to understand – to process, putting emotion aside, and think through things – to look at the information through different points of view. Even then – you may comprehend what occurred but not understand.

But then how many of us are crusaders or extremists – willing to put our lives, not just on the line for a moment, but for years of planning and training. Because that is what it took – years for them to develop and execute the events on 9/11. How many of us truly understand that mentality that level of commitment to a goal that ends in death?

This is a story that has nothing to do with religion, with faith or with nationality, this has to do with ideology and fear. Their fear of us – of change – and their desire to instill fear in us.

Fear is a destructive emotion – nothing great or worthwhile has ever come of it.

And we have proved that we have nothing to fear but fear itself. Our fear has changed the world – Think about it. In how many little ways has the world changed from air travel to getting a bank account. How many of us know people who have were detained, who still have a double check from officials as they enter and leave an airport?

And then there are the things that changed us as a country. We wanted the men found who had done this. Found and punished. And we didn’t care how. We demanded information and we received it. It wasn’t till much later that we asked how.

Look where we are now.

So, my friends post on FB telling about her research on preserving 9/11 made me think. What stories will we tell – and have we learned anything from them.

~ Tess Anderson

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