Why Getting Laid Off Was the Best Thing for Me in 2020

It’s 10 pm on a weeknight. I’m sitting at my makeshift desk in the corner of my bedroom I’ve declared ‘my office,’ and I’m contemplating whether to make dinner or ignore my hunger until morning. I’ve completed a 12-hour workday (yes, I woke up at 4 am). I’m exhausted, sore and mentally drained, but I’m also really fucking happy to have been laid off.

Let’s rewind.

Like so many others, 2020 was a dumpster fire for me. In March, I was one of the millions who lost their job due to COVID-19 ramifications. It brought on unwanted stress, anger, fear and many other emotions. For the first time as an adult, I worried about financially supporting myself. My savings admittedly sucked, and thinking of job searching and acquainting myself with a new company gave me anxiety.

The news of the layoff felt relieving. Toward the end of 2019, I discussed career growth at the company with my manager. We talked about where I saw myself, and even though I had options, none of them excited me. I knew what I wanted to do, and it wasn’t something my current company could offer. But my current company could offer me stability, and, at the moment, that felt like a priority.

A little background on me.

I have known what I wanted to do since I was a kid. My simpleminded child brain wanted two things:

  1. To live in a big city
  2. To be a writer

I spent summers as a kid cutting grass and working on a horse farm to make money to purchase books and journals. I wrote and sold comic books in elementary school (very much frowned upon by teachers). I drafted horrible novels about talking animals and school girl adventures. I subscribed to every magazine, and I told everyone my big dreams about leaving bumfuck Wisconsin for skyscrapers and a writer’s desk.

Unfortunately, the realities of life put a hold on my childhood dreams, and after a few years as a struggling freelancer and contract writer, I got into marketing. I by no means hated my job in marketing, but I also didn’t love it. I learned a lot, and working with a startup helped my understanding of running a business.  But at the end of the day, I saw my job as work. My job didn’t satisfy the little kid in my head who wanted nothing more than to live in a big city and be a writer.

I achieved one of my big dreams early in adulthood. In 2011, I moved to Chicago, where I still reside. Not in the burbs or a town no’s one heard, but in the city of Chicago. I rent a beautiful courtyard apartment less than a block from the lake. It’s small, but it feels and looks exactly how I want a home to feel and look. I remind myself of this obtained goal daily because it helps me realize how close I am to having my all.

When I thought about my career at the end of 2019, I kept thinking, “what do I want.” I knew what I wanted. I wanted to write. But I tried that and failed and didn’t want to quit an excellent job with no plan and potentially lose my other dream of living in Chicago. Ultimately decided to stay with my company and test out some new roles in marketing.

Fast-forwarding to March 2020.

Covid-19 showed up. Everything closed, work went remote, and then a few weeks into adjusting to the new normal, I lost my job. It felt surreal. Like the world fell apart overnight. But it wasn’t the loss of the job that worried me; it was the idea of having to give up on my dreams.

I called my dad, and as always, he told me exactly the right thing. He’s not one for words, but what he does say always hits right. He told me to take time to figure out what I wanted to do and that whatever I decided, he’d know I’d figure out a way to get it done. And if there’s one thing almost anyone who’s worked with me to agree on is that I’m the queen of figuring shit out and getting it done.

Luckily, I already knew what I wanted to do. I stopped finding excuses, collected my writing samples, fixed up my website (admittedly still and always fixing my website) and got to work. It started with a few weeks of watching webinars and taking classes on building a business and tips for freelancing, then weeks of job board postings and client pitching.

For many months, I had nothing. I questioned if writing was what I wanted. Was it a realistic job? Would I be good at it? Could I continue to afford my life? I wanted to quit many days, and many days I did “quit,” but only for a few hours before hunkering down again because that’s what I do. I figure shit out and get shit done.

Back to February 2020

It’s almost a year into freelancing, and I can confidently say it’s the best career choice I’ve made. Or best career choice that was forced on me, I suppose. I now work with five regular clients in health, wellness and high education. I have made a ton of beautiful connections throughout the year who have provided me with opportunities to write about exciting topics I would never have thought to explore.  

This is the part where I’m supposed to share an overused cliché like “every door closed is another door opened” or “every end is a new beginning.” I’ve also most definitely butchered those clichés. But honestly, unplanned changes suck. We’re all human, and even if you consider yourself a free spirit who thrives on spontaneity and adventure, there’s likely still a part of you that finds comfort in knowing you have your basic needs met. Losing a job puts those basic needs at risk, but there’s always light at the end of the tunnel (did I ruin another cliché? Oops). My light in getting laid off forced me to break away from a career I wasn’t thriving in and find fulfillment in a job I genuinely enjoy doing every day.

By no means do I wish to dismiss anyone’s feels or experiences who have dealt with losing a job in the pandemic, but for me, getting laid off was the best part of 2020.  

Published by Jessica Braun Gervais

Experienced Content Writer with a demonstrated history of working in the e-learning and entertainment industry. Skilled in WordPress, Communication and Journalism. Strong media and communication professional with a Bachelor's degree focused in Arts, Entertainment and Media Management from Columbia College Chicago.

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