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How Getting Furloughed From a Job Messes With Your Sense of Self

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I distinctly remember my first time hearing word that I would be out of work for a few weeks due to COVID-19 back in March. I knew things were heightening drastically and that I did not have much knowledge of the virus, but we really had no clue what we were about to be facing.

When they released us is was only supposed to be temporary — two weeks, tops.

Before being released from my job, I remember feeling incredibly burnt out. I was exhausted from working long hours, I was in physical pain from being on my feet all day and my mental health was rapidly declining. While I was not excited about the state of the world at the time, I was almost thankful to be given paid time to rest and prioritize my health for the time I was going to spend at home.

As we all know, we were advised to stay at home and begin quarantining. I’ll be quite honest, in the beginning things were pretty nice. I was sleeping, picking up old hobbies I had neglected and learning what makes me who I am apart from a job that took up such a large part of my identity. A lot of anxieties that revolved around my workplace environment started to calm and, at the beginning, I was feeling better. It was not until things started to take a more serious turn that my mental health started to feel like it was plummeting.

At the beginning, it was just a short amount of time to recover. A time to relax, focus on staying healthy and focus on self-awareness and development. But, what happened when those two weeks turned into two months? And then four months? And then seven?

They furloughed us.

All of a sudden life started to feel like I was in a tunnel and I couldn’t see the light on the other side. Death tolls started rising, most of the information we thought we knew about the virus seemed to be proven untrue and we had no sign of when we would be returning to work. The anxieties that were triggered by petty work situations now seemed like nothing in comparison to the stress of how I was going to pay my rent this month, whether the company I have dedicated years of my life to was going to give me any kind of formal update, or if I was even going to have a job to return to. I had spent years of my life pouring my entire self out to a major corporation that I had so much faith in. Now, everything felt like it was slipped out from under me and I felt lost and confused.

Now, they’re laying off thousands of valued employees.

While I understand the responsibilities that come with running a major corporation with thousands of employees, things surely felt personal. Why had it taken so long for anyone to reach out? Why had my friends that had been working everywhere else have answers already and we didn’t? I finally reached a point where I had to give myself the closure I felt denied of. I felt like I had been in a toxic relationship with my job. For months, they didn’t necessarily want me back, but they weren’t ready to let me go just in case they changed their minds and it still feels like that is the case. Again, I understand there was probably a lot more happening as far as communication and decision-making behind the scenes, but this is how it made me feel from my perspective. I had to make the decision for myself that I was going to move on and live life as if I had already been laid off. For me, that was in the best interest of my mental health. 

I acknowledge that I have privilege in not being one of the thousands the company is choosing to let go. Seeing how quickly things can change makes me want to start considering what comes next for me. I am fortunate enough to have more time to figure out what comes next. Others do not.

I applied to go back to school, I started applying for jobs elsewhere and I started focusing on the hobbies that gave me a sense of purpose. I started to finally feel all the thoughts that had been spiraling around my head for months calm down. Then suddenly, after months of hardly any communication, large amounts of lay offs began to take place. I watched most of my best friends lose a job they spent years working for. While I still do not know what my future looks like with the company I have been furloughed from for months, detaching myself from it as much as possible seems to be what is helping my anxiety the most. I still hardly have any answers, but I have found so much peace in not only telling myself, but proving to myself, that I will be OK, and I will survive either way. My sense of identity and purpose does not lie in the hands of a major corporation. Reminding myself of that has resulted in the most progress emotionally and mentally. 

Photo by Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

Originally published: October 14, 2020
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