LONDON – A year and a half ago I was confused and did not know what I wanted to do with my life. At the time, I was convinced that I had just botched an interview for a job I was underqualified for and not lucky enough to get.
Then I got a phone call to say that I had landed the dream job.
I started this job nervous, overdressed and pumped with adrenaline. Just like that, I began my career, and I loved it. I learned so much, from so many people.
But one of the best skills I gained is something I had never been too good at, but wanted to learn, which was to go with the flow and not care what anyone thinks about it.
I learned how to be proactive for myself, not for a future goal, arbitrary mark, or, more importantly, anyone else.
And this was all because I left my job.
I know many people for which this comes naturally, but for me, regardless of the books read or ted talks watched, going with the flow has not quite been my forte.
I seem to have a stubborn rigidity when it comes to thinking about the future, and a tendency to focus on one goal. While this has helped my long-term productivity, I found out that this is not a sustainable, or good idea.
A job that I loved. A job, where I had just been promoted. A job that, although I did not realize it at the time, had started to become connected to my self-worth, esteem, and identity.
It had come to a point where I had done less for myself, and more for the gratification of others.
Losing my first job, my first adult identity, the thing that I would talk about at networking events, forced me to start looking at myself.
And, just after I finished working there, I went to my biggest networking event of the year.
On the tube there I started wondering, will people judge me for not working? Should I avoid the topic entirely? Should I bend the truth? Will people understand? I told myself to be totally candid and that it was not my problem if people couldn’t accept my reality, (which, if we are honest here, was not as dire as I was telling myself it was). I did not have to be constantly successful in order to be worth their time, or to deserve a seat at their table.
So I went. I was honest, and the strangest thing happened. I naturally approached networking differently.
When someone asked me about myself, I spoke about my old job, of course, but beyond that, I started talking about other topics that I would previously be hesitant to mention.
I talked about my passions, interests, or my dreams, regardless of how ridiculous I felt they sounded.
Losing something that I valued so much, forced me to look at myself, and not my job description. I believed what I told myself on the tube, if they didn’t like me, it was their problem. And to my surprise, it was one of the best networking events of my life – so far.
While doing what you love is fantastic, ending that job helped me learn what I already knew and preached: that we should work to live, not live to work.
At first, the thought of finding a new job – with no degree, and no clue of next steps – felt like I was losing something.
Now, with my stubborn outlook left at the door, I feel that I have gained much more.
An initial fork in the road has turned into no road at all.
I believe that ‘self-care’ a word so easily tossed around in 2020, is not about bubble baths, skincare routines or Instagram-able kale salads.
It is about respecting yourself, your decisions, and your life. Give yourself unconditional love, like that of a supportive parent.
Let’s face it. After you finish your job, someone will replace you. Once you sit those exams, another year of students will do the same.
They might not be as good as you were, they might be 10 times better. Regardless, you will be replaced, and the cogs will keep turning.
Really, the only person you should be looking to impress, is you.
Amy Goodman is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.