I graduated from a prestigious school in May with a Masters degree. I also graduated with equally august ideas about what my life would look like post-graduation.
Before I continue, this is the first time, since my acceptance and graduation from the school, that I have mentioned it as a prestigious school. So in case ‘prestigious school’ is a trigger for you, please feel welcome. I am not going to rant about how life has failed me while I wait for my navy blue, gold buttoned blazer to be steam pressed. In fact, I’m sitting in a public laundry facility and there’s an EBT card in my right pocket. I do have said blazer but it’s currently subject to bidding on eBay.
Having been unemployed since May, I have consistently confused my status with my identity. This pushed me into an abyss of self-loathing, depression and unrelenting feelings of uselessness.
For several months, my unemployment meant that I did not have attractive skills, it meant that I hadn’t performed well at school, that my hard work was meaningless and had I even worked hard enough? I was confusing a temporary status with my entire existence.
Who I am is separate and unequal to my employment status. I am hard working, I did well in school; in a few notable courses I out performed my peers, I have an incredibly diverse skill set and I have been fortunate to have had experiences that will make me the perfect candidate for my perfect job when it comes my way.
How we talk to ourselves is so important. I would never talk to my worst enemy the way I often converse with myself. I had to change the conversation I was having with myself to find peace with my situation. When I stared doing that windows started opening. Not windows of opportunity mind you, but windows that let out a lot of bad air. Am I fully employed now? Nope! I don’t even have an interview lined up. But I am doing something now that I used to love and I am finally taking action on ideas that I’ve had for a while.
Given the pressures and schedule of a full time job, especially the type of job I had envisioned for myself, I doubt I would have had the time to do what I am doing now. And after the events of the last two years, I am not sure why I didn’t actually look forward to this time.
I don’t want to give you the impression that this was a smooth transition. It was not. I fought it, kicking and screaming. For months, I’d spend my day applying for jobs, reaching out to people on LinkedIn, formatting and reformatting my resume, I’d go on interviews only to be told some version of ‘It was down to you and one other candidate’. I heard this about four times. Eventually, I had to accept that perhaps, working right now wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing. If it were, someone else would be getting that call.
Learning how to accept things as they are is incredibly difficult. It is incredibly difficult for me because I was taught that if I worked hard, I would get everything I wanted and my achievements would be endless. And this is actually true; except no one ever said I would get what I wanted immediately.
There are other applications to this that have been useful to me, for example, body image. How I perceive myself to look doesn’t mean that I am not worthy of being in a relationship, it does not mean that I can’t have healthy relationships, it does not mean that I am lazy, etc.
I am going to continue reminding myself not to confuse my status with my identity.
This post is inspired by Joel Osteen’s ‘The Power of I Am’.