“When one door closes, another opens.” This is the phrase that I kept ruminating on, running over and over again in my mind like a touchstone, as I started to come to terms with the reality that I had just been laid off from my job in the middle of a global pandemic. The meeting was on a Tuesday, and I was told that Friday would be my last day. Three days. Three days were all I had to transition my projects, wrap up current work, say goodbye to friends and colleagues. In a way, the rapidly changing circumstances were a kind of blessing; it didn’t allow me much time to think, so I had to act, and I welcomed that distraction. It kept other, more depressing thoughts at bay, all those fears and what-ifs like a yawning pit that threatened to swallow me up if I let them.
I cried my tears, of course, until my eyes were red and swollen and mascara ran down my cheeks. When I was first told the news, it felt like a gut punch, like I was going to faint. I heard a ringing in my ears, black spots dancing across my vision. I am almost certain my mouth was hanging slightly open, in shock and disbelief. No. This couldn’t be happening. Why me? What am I going to do? So many questions swirled through my thoughts like a maelstrom, and yet there were no answers, no comfort. Even though it had nothing to do with me personally or my performance, I still felt a sense of shame. I had always worked, and now, for the first time in my life, I found myself unemployed.
Immediately after that meeting, I called my sister, sobbing. I texted my closest friends. Survival instinct kicked in. I reached out to a few recruiters that I knew, told him about the situation, and asked them to please keep me in mind for opportunities they might know of. That same night, I worked on updating my resume and cover letter template, updated my LinkedIn profile, and started searching for job openings.
Still, I prayed – to God, the universe, whoever would listen – to send me a miracle, to let this all be a bad dream, some kind of horrible mistake. I was clinging to what I knew, to comfort, stability, the familiar. Who wouldn’t, especially in times as unpredictable and unprecedented as these? I had worked so hard to move my way up within the firm during my five years there, had recently been promoted back in June and intended to use the pay raise to save up for a potential move to Washington, DC. I thought that things were going the way I planned, but that wasn’t meant to be. For this loss, I let myself grieve. Let myself be upset, worried, scared, anxious, sad. I would let myself feel what I wanted and needed to feel in this moment and in the coming days, and then I would move on.
In the myth of Pandora’s Box, after the box is opened, Pandora manages to trap Hope inside before it could also escape along with all manner of misery and evil, hardship and illness the gods had placed there. The tale goes that this is the reason hope is the last thing to die in the hearts of mortals when everything else falters and fails, and thus life’s greatest gift of all was saved. Right now, it certainly feels like every evil and disease (COVID-19, anyone?) has been released into the world. 2020 has been a tumultuous year, to say the least.
But that is why we must hold on to hope and keep it alive. In the face of so much uncertainty, it is nothing short of an act of radical defiance, of the strength of human perseverance. This story, my own story, is still being written. I do not know how it will end, or what the twists and turns will be, but I remain optimistic about the future and this next chapter. I have to. Such is the mystery and the messiness of life, I suppose. So as I adjust to this new, temporary routine of looking and applying for jobs and scheduling phone and video interviews, I know that hope, that precious gift, will keep me going.