Losing my job a few weeks ago meant more to me than losing an income.
Most of my identity was wrapped into my career.
I’ve spoken to several people who have experienced the same and it’s not a pleasant place to be.
I identified primarily as a wife in my early years of marriage. Making a home and pleasing my husband were my top priorities. During my 30s and early 40s I identified mostly as a mother. This was easy to do when my children were so young and requiring all of my time and attention. I was always working full-time, always looking forward in my career, but the kids took priority.
I loved those years, being mom to small boys. I felt so successful, fulfilled and rewarded. All the time.
Just before my mother passed, about 6 years ago, I knew change was on the horizon. My marriage was failing, I needed to find the career that would pull me to the next level of responsibility and gain more financial independence. I wanted to assume much greater accountability at work. I knew I could do it, but certain sacrifices would need to be made, primarily the time I was enjoying with my children.
I made the decision to go for the career. I knew my mother was dying, the people I was working for knew me for many years and were supportive of the time I would need during her end of life and the pieces seemed to fall into place. My x said “don’t do it if you want time with your children.” He wasn’t much help. I had already debated that argument in my head for some time. He added no value in my decision. It was also around this time my x made it clear he never intended to work harder or move forward (he had just completed his MBA with my support). His preference was to live with less income and not be challenged in his work environment.
My x simply gave up. He was fine with a decent career, at a decent salary for the rest of his life. He didn’t care if he had more.
Not me. I wanted more.
I wanted to travel, I wanted to take vacation, I wanted to purchase what I wanted to purchase when I wanted to purchase it. I didn’t want to think about my grocery bill every week anymore. I knew I couldn’t live that way the rest of my life.
He could. And that’s officially when the breakdown of the marriage was insurmountable.
I wanted more. He didn’t. And he didn’t care that I wanted more.
My more was only partially about material things. I liked my home and didn’t need bigger. I don’t need to be driving a Mercedes. I don’t need fancy jewelry. But I wanted to be able to spend, and I was incapable of doing so, on anything, without a battle, my entire marriage. I am a big experience person and wanted my children to have exposure to more life experiences, especially travel. And, you know, I wanted to buy some shoes since I had never purchased anything of value for myself.
I knew I was making the right decision. I have always been too ambitious to just sit back and drift. I became resentful of his attitude and was determined to make the change. I took a job that was challenging and high paying. This was the career that would provide the lifestyle I saw myself living. This was the job that was going to pay for college.
Until last week.
I did everything right along the way. I was promoted often and well-respected. My income increased. The challenges increased. While I didn’t love a lot of things about the situation, I could see myself sticking with this job over the next 10-12 years until the kids were out of college. By the time I received my last promotion 2 years ago, I had finally achieved the single largest career milestone that I had set my heart on. I was ok here. Like all jobs, it had its up and downs, but I was willing to ride it out.
I was made redundant, all the reasons why are irrelevant. They are not reasons that make me question my contributions or my abilities. I know my skill set. My job was simply eliminated along with a large % of our workforce. Many good people were let go and I was in very good company.
What’s scaring me is how much of my identity is wrapped into the last 15 years I have been building to this point in my career. I am highly specialized and niche and finding a job is not going to be easy. I am virtually certain I will never earn the same amount of money. I don’t need any platitudes around this, I know my situation and industry and I know this to be true. I have a very tough road ahead of me.
Part of my identity was wrapped in the title. Partially in the brand identity of the company. Lots in the income as it afforded me opportunities I wouldn’t have earning less. I was able to divorce and manage a household on this income. I was going to be able to pay for kids college tuition, in full, on my own. I was going to be able to travel around the world at my discretion. I was proud of my achievement and part of it is certainly vanity.
It’s not to say I can’t be successful on less, but I am proud and have worked my entire career for what I have just lost.
Part of me is embarrassed though I tell myself I shouldn’t be.
The other thing is that too many people around me just don’t understand my role, my industry and what type of earning potential I had. Too many of my circle are thinking what’s the big deal about someone who is that skilled finding a job.
They just don’t understand and I’m not here to correct them.
And then….dating…. it feels all wrong to admit I am out of work – what is it I will do all day, every day? And for how long? Friends of mine who lost their jobs in the past 2-3 years are still struggling trying to regain career traction. As I near 50 years old, this is frightening.
Now is not a time to recreate myself or go to school. I have 3 teenage children. My focus can’t be on too much change during these formative years. I simply need the income to keep my family afloat and hopefully provide some support while the kids are in college. Right now, the challenge is simply to find a similar paying job which is going to prove to be difficult at best.
I’m not fussed about taking a small step back to move forward, I have done it before, just not under such circumstances.
I’m worried. I’m trying not to show how worried, but believe me I am scared to death.
The best I can do at this moment is one step at a time. I can’t think too far ahead, I was never a good long-term planner in any case. I need to think short-term and just how I am going to keep my home and my family afloat.