I knew it was coming.
We had been having issues with our largest client and my boss had been in a strange mood all week. I nervously logged into LinkedIn, clicked the "Jobs" tab and began scrolling through potential options, just in case.
When my boss called me into his office to tell me we lost the client and I was being laid off, I smiled.
I was devastated on the inside, but my intuition had prepared me for the news and I would accept it graciously. Within a day, my desk was cleared and I, for the first time since I had graduated college, was unemployed.
According to the Center for American Progress, young adults are unemployed at twice the rate of older adults.
I was laid off less than two years after graduating and securing full-time employment. I’d just started building up my savings account and learning how to responsibly manage the money I earned from working more than 40 hours a week.
For me, getting laid off was scary. I had bills to pay and more importantly, goals to accomplish.
I had an entire five-year plan written out and unemployment definitely wasn’t part of it. At the time, being laid off was the worst thing that could possibly happen to me.
However, since the day I packed up my cubicle, I’ve learned several lessons that have made the past year of unemployment one of the best years of my life.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do is abandon your plans.
I’ve always been a planner.
If I hadn’t been laid off, I would still be working in the same job, following the same five-year plan I wrote when I was 22. Being laid off threw me a curveball, and I had to learn how to adapt to a life that didn’t follow a specific outline.
I soon realized that not having a plan is actually extremely refreshing.
The first thing I did after getting laid off was take a solo road trip. I told very few people where I was going or what I was doing. I needed time alone to sort through my thoughts and figure out what to do next.
I didn’t plan where I would go or stay beforehand. I just drove.
The spontaneity of this trip reminded me that I can live an exciting and fulfilling life, even without the perfect plan in place.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that this simple road trip would be the catalyst for a year full of new opportunities and adventures.
Experience is key to discovering your passions.
Even though I enjoyed my previous job, I didn’t feel passionate about the work I was doing. After being laid off, I decided to use the time to explore the things that made me feel passionate and excited.
I’ve always loved to travel. I love the feeling of experiencing new places and meeting people who pushed me to reexamine my beliefs and ideas about the world.
After a few months of no luck finding another full-time marketing gig in my area, I decided to expand my search.
I ended up applying for a seasonal job that was more than 1,000 miles away.
Even though the pay was hardly impressive and I knew the job could potentially be a setback to that silly five-year plan, when I was offered the position, I didn’t hesitate to take it.
I had re-evaluated my plans and I knew that the only way to discover my true passion was to experience new things.
I spent the following five months living and exploring a new area of the country in a job I’d never imagined holding and it resulted in some of the greatest memories of my life.
It also taught me that living outside of your comfort zone is incredibly rewarding once you rise above the initial fear.
It’s okay to be alone.
I’ve spent more time by myself this past year than any other year of my life.
When you’re the only person in your social group who is unemployed and you no longer have additional funds to spend on happy hours or Target binges, you begin to discover more rewarding hobbies and interests.
In the past year, I’ve gone from not being able to run a mile to training for my first 10k.
I started teaching myself how to cook great meals on a budget. I’ve read more books in the last six months than I had in the previous six years.
I now spend much more of my spare time writing, reading and exercising than I do drinking wine and watching Netflix.
Overall, I feel healthier and happier than I did when I was working and I attribute this to the time I’ve spent with someone I’ve really grown to like lately: myself.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
I hate asking for help, but this past year, I had no other choice.
Even with receiving unemployment benefits and working a couple of minimum wage jobs, I’ve still struggled to pay bills and afford food and gas.
I’m extremely fortunate to have helpful and supportive friends and family who have offered to help me out countless times.
It has been hard for me to feel okay accepting help, but it’s been a good reminder that all of us go through hard times occasionally and these times are the best ways to find the people who truly care about us.
Money isn’t everything.
Money is a necessity in terms of security and comfort, but it is far from the most important thing in life.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m looking forward to the day that I can once again expect a full-time salary with benefits. Penny-pinching is hard and requires you to be more responsible and aware of where every cent goes.
However, having very little has led me to realize what I truly value in life. And as cliché as it sounds, those are the things that money can’t buy.
Being laid off forced me off the path I had planned for myself, and instead took me down a path that was scarier, more adventurous and overall, more rewarding.
There are still stressful days when I look back and think, “Why didn’t I save more money when I could?” or, “Why did I quit my secure job for one I knew would be more of a risk?”
However, I don’t regret any of the experiences I’ve gained in the past year or the several lessons I’ve learned from them.
Starting off the New Year, I have zero plans or expectations for what will happen next, but I’m excited to see what life will bring. Okay, actually, I have just one: Officially throw out the five-year plan.