120 Days of Unemployment

Here is a post from my blog Cooking Therapy that details how I felt being unemployed for 4 months. It’s a short amount of time compared to many other people, but getting a small taste of it made me never want to experience it again. Writing this post was the most vulnerable I’ve ever felt, and hopefully, it helps to encourage people out there that are going through the same thing to keep their heads up.

Spring is the time for new beginnings, and it’s never been more true for me. I have been going through a lot the last few months, and I’ve been hesitant to share on the blog. I think a part of me was afraid of sharing an ugly part of my life on a platform that has made me so happy. But cooking is more than just hobby for me. It is therapy for me in tough times, and really the only way I get through them. So maybe it might be okay to share this part of my life.

Four months ago I was laid off from my job, and it was honestly the most traumatic experience I’ve ever had. Mostly because it was so unexpected. The company was downsizing, so I was unfortunately a casualty of that. It was the first time I didn’t know what my next step was. For as long as I can remember, I had done everything right. I got great grades, I studied extremely hard, and I went to the right schools…all so I could have the financial security that I wanted. That my immigrant parents wanted for me. And all that disappeared in a 15 minute conversation. I remembered feeling like I was having an out of body experience as my manager said the words “We have to let you go”. Like I was watching someone else’s life.

After I left that day, I went home and cried…a lot. I did nothing but Netflix and cry for a few days. Then I had to buck up and tell my parents who I was afraid would be disappointed. After all their hard work, their only daughter was unemployed. Surprisingly, they were extremely supportive, saying they would support me in whatever I wanted to do next. I then spent the next few weeks seeing friends, seeing my family, and doing anything to perk up my mood. It was also December so I figured not many companies would be recruiting that month, and I just needed break.

Once I got back in January and I got my head on straight, I hit the pavement hard. I went to every networking event. I reached out to friends and even strangers for help. Anything I could do I did. In retrospect, the next three months were a short time to be unemployed compared to MANY other people, but to me, they felt like an eternity. Every passing day, I felt more and more like a pariah of society. The toughest part for me was just interacting with people. Meeting new people was the worst because inevitably they would ask me the “What do you do?” question and I would have to tell them “I’m in between jobs”. Saying it made me wanna cry, but I had to remember to keep it together for those two seconds while I delivered that line.

Even though I felt like I was falling apart most of the time, I started to see some bright spots in the middle of the darkness. For one, I finally got the time to focus on my food photography, and in those moments I was styling the perfect flatlay, I forgot about my situation. I made HUGE strides in my photography in the past 3 months. My pictures now compared to 3 months ago are night and day, and my passion for photography has grown. And I don’t think I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I have in such a short time if I didn’t have this break.

I also learned to network my butt off. It was the one thing in my career that I was putting off, but now since I had no other choice, I finally did. I actually learned to like networking because I started to see it as making new friends. And I did make new friends. I was constantly surprised by the kindness of others, and how complete strangers would take the time to help me and encourage me. And they would ask for nothing in return. Thinking about this right now brings tears to my eyes because their kindness was one of the things that got me through it.

The biggest thing I learned was empathy. Being in a tough spot really helps you build empathy for others. It taught me to consider other people’s situations before judging them. I’m not saying I didn’t have it before, but it was not on the level it is at now. After all if you don’t go through something really hard, how can you REALLY empathize with others. I finally did get a job, and I could not be more elated. Now looking back, getting laid off was probably one of the best things that could have happened to me. Before this, I was getting complacent in my career and in my life. I was not pushing myself. I was saying I wanted to do things, but never doing them. It was not a great mindset to be in. Now that I feel like I’m getting a fresh start, I am for sure going to work my butt off to realize my dreams.