To lose a job is to lose a vital part of oneself. Believe me, I understand.
A few months ago, I had a bad time with mental health. I was plagued with anxiety and panic attacks, along with an overwhelming depression. Reason? I was newly unemployed.
No, I wasn’t fired—I quit for personal reasons. No, we were not without income—we have a small farm that gives us a reasonable income. No, we were not burdened with student loans, mortgages, or EMIs. Yes, I had my writing. Life was actually good.
A Horrid Comedown
But the feeling of not having a job any more was awful. Going from being gainfully employed, doing something that contributed not just to a family but the society at large, to twiddling thumbs at home was a horrid comedown. Yes, I could stay in bed all day or yes, I could binge watch shows all day. While I loved doing that on weekends, it was not what I wanted to spend my weekdays doing. That was not who I was.
To me, to earn is to provide security for my loved ones. When I was unable to fulfil that basic duty, I felt like a failure. I wasn’t making a huge sum, but I felt that I was supporting my family in my own way. I was able to take care of at least my own expenses. But when I had to dip into the family kitty, I felt humiliated. I felt like I was letting my family down.
Self Esteem Dips
It also impacted my self-esteem immensely. I had people sneering at me, implying that I was lazy, unfit, and incompetent, and that was why my employers let me go. I found that I had to justify myself and I hated it.
I went from low to lower, as if I were bouncing down a steep slope of the Marianna Trench. Finally, when I couldn’t sleep and began to entertain thoughts of self-harm, I realized I had to take myself in hand. I made a mind map of my problems, internal and external. I took this with me when I started therapy and it helped my therapist to understand my problems better. I listened to self-confidence tapes to fall asleep. I read self-help books by the dozen and discovered inspirational speeches on YouTube. I tried to become my own best friend by talking to myself. And I asked for help from every good friend I had.
My Comfort Zone
The one bright spot was that I was in my comfort zone. I was no longer living in the US, but had moved back to India where I had friends and family and a support system in place. I didn’t have to worry about how it would impact my career path, as most of my working career is already behind me. Most importantly, I had no need to worry about my immigration status. I acknowledged these facts to myself, but it still hurt.
And then, I found another job when I cold-called a job contact. It wasn’t a perfect fit; it wasn’t a big-shot company, and it didn’t pay as much. I was at the beck and call of people who just wanted work out of me but didn’t really care about me. But I persevered in it, as something was better than nothing. However, it put me at the right place at the right moment for my dream job, which is an adjunct faculty at a university. This meant I had a job as well as some free time to devote to my writing. Soon my mental well-being zoomed, because I was back doing something that made me feel valued.
However, a few days ago, I experienced a nasty case of déjà vu. It was caused by the large-scale downsizing going on all over the world.
It was a bad feeling, and not just for me. Recent layoffs in the IT and other fields have shocked the entire world. And it wasn’t just the fact that these people lost their jobs, it was the way in which it was done. It was totally callous and high-handed and more of an ambush than anything else.
When a person is employed, there are tacit as well as tangible promises made by the employer as well as the employee, which cannot be brushed aside lightly. Like it or not, each has an unspoken relationship with the other. Trampling these relationships are going to cause serious harm to employer-employee relationships for years to come, increasing hubris among employers and cynicism and lack of commitment on the part of employees.
While most analysts are worrying about these aspects of the corporate world, I am worrying about the individuals who have been caught in this mess.
To those individuals, I’d like to say that there are many people who can understand how you feel. The plight of those of you who are on work visas is even worse and I understand that too, since I too used to be anxious about retaining my job and immigration status when I lived in the US. All your plans for your future have been totally disrupted and now you’re forced to reconfigure your life.
A Helping Hand
However, my sincere plea to you is this: please do not despair. Not to sound Pollyanna-ish, but there’s something better truly just waiting around the corner. Happiness with trust and security is any day better than a big name without basic decency.
To those whose friends and acquaintances have been hit, please reach out a helping hand sincerely. We have to support them in a sensitive manner, not take advantage of the situation to denigrate them or crow over their misfortune.
For, remember, there but for the grace of God, go we all.
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