Just a few weeks shy of my 25th birthday, I found myself involuntarily unemployed. I was partially relieved, but to be honest, mostly devastated, as I walked home on what ended up being my last day on the job. I went into work that morning thinking I’d be doing the same thing the very next day. I probably shouldn’t have been all that surprised. But, I was.
I didn’t take the layoff well at all. That night as I sat on my couch with X (my fiance) on what was supposed to be our 8th anniversary celebration, I cried hysterically until I could not shed any more tears.. any more energy.. and passed out. I think I cried for a week straight after that. Then I reluctantly mustered the energy and motivation to retake the final part of the CPA that had kept eluding me.
I think more than being upset at myself, I was embarrassed. Was I not smart enough to handle the job? Would my colleagues think I was an idiot? Was this due to my bad first week at the office? Did everyone know about it? It was a small office after all. Or was it due to lack of work available, like my boss had told me when he sat me down in his office to give me the news? I spent the majority of my 2 1/2 months at my new office being unassigned and having no work to do at all. But still, all I could see when I closed my eyes (and even now – two years later – when I think back on this moment) were the rows of people watching me as I made my way, with the boss of bosses, down to the HR rep who was waiting for me at the end of the hall. The scene replayed over and over in my mind. I could so vividly imagine the look on peoples’ faces as they watched me walk down what felt like death row. Some looks of disbelief..some looks of.. pity? This.was.my.nightmare.
I devoted the following weeks to retaking the dreaded portion of the exam I had failed and put off finding a job. Then, you know, it was time for all the holidays – Thanksgiving.. Christmas.. New Year’s. “Companies don’t hire this time of year anyway, right?”, I’d say. Then I was “soul searching” because I didn’t think I’d found my life’s calling in accounting. Then I wanted to run a half marathon. Then I decided I hadn’t traveled enough….and before I knew it TEN months had gone by and I hadn’t begun to apply for any jobs.
I thought long and hard about being laid off from work. How could this be? I always prided myself on trying to be perfect. And here I was… failing. I’ve never failed at anything. And as I reflected more and more, I realized that not only did things at work the past few months lead me to this moment, but I could easily think back as far as my earliest memories as a small girl too afraid to take on the world. Of course I’ve never failed at anything in my life. I had never really even let myself attempt anything in the first place.
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Wise man, that Wayne Gretsky.
This may sound cliche, but as I sat around wasting another day, I had an epiphany.
I realized that there was something within me that was avoiding rejection – something I’ve actually carried with me for as long as I could remember. For the prior ten months I had been avoiding being incompetent at another job. Terrified of another layoff. But this wasn’t new to me at all! I had done this with every aspect of my life. I legitimately was just sitting there in front of my computer when suddenly I found myself frantically googling the term “social anxiety disorder”.