My life post lay-off has been a hustle. It has been nothing like the steady, consistent work flow of my previous 9 to 5 life. It has been unpredictable, uncertain and unsteady at times, but it most certainly has been an adventure.
When I got laid off, I told myself I would look for jobs for a month, enjoy the free time and reevaluate my pocket book and my job status then. Well, a month came and went, February was fading into March, and I still didn’t have a job. Then, another month went by and April was knocking at the door. What did I do? I had a breakdown, ugly tears, worry lines and fear in my eyes.
It’d be two months and no job? What was going on? I had told myself I could manage a month of unemployment and make it. The second month, I told myself, “Okay, just a little bit longer.” Yet, when the end of the second month was closing, I freaked out. All my worries started to unfold and the dam to my fears was unleashed.
I started doubting. I started to worry. My tax return and unemployment benefits would only last so long. I started thinking maybe I should go back to working part-time job as a barista or perhaps go back to retail. I did it in college. So why not?
My gut gave me a firm but solid answer: No. No, what do you mean no? I have to eat and pay bills. If I can’t get an editor gig, then it’d be practical of me to at least have a back-up plan to keep myself afloat while I look.
But my gut instinct gave me a clear and precise no. No to going backward. No to settling. No to going for what seemed “practical.” No to what would provide a quick, easy resolution. No to easy. No to a back-up plan. No to Plan B.
Let me clear something up. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a side job in the pursuit of your dreams. When I first moved out to L.A., I worked at Starbucks as a barista my first few months here to earn money for bills, gas, food (ya know, the basics) while I looked for a writing job. In college and post-grad, I was a part-time manager at a little girl’s clothing store. All of it was a means to an end.
I am not knocking anyone for taking a job that isn’t in their desired field as an “in-between” gig, a starter job or for extra money. I have done it, but here’s my point: It was for a season of time in my life. It was a necessary building block to get where I was going.
Yet, there has to be a line between being practical and settling for less. Some people take an “in-between” job at a cafe or retail store, and they look up 20 years later and are still there. They give up on their dreams and the path they set out for to be “practical.” The bills won’t pay themselves, right?
Twenty-something advice for anyone:
“If you want to succeed in your dream field, then you can’t have a backup plan.”
I am 26 now, and I know I am not getting any younger. Being laid off at any age truly sucks, but I have resolved that if I want to succeed in the media industry, I can’t have a backup plan. I can’t go back to what is easy. If I want to make the lofty dreams in my head a reality. I have to give it all I’ve got. I have to be practical and idealistic, realistic and optimistic, a doer and a dreamer.
Living in L.A., arguably one of the biggest media cities in the U.S., there are ample opportunities in the journalism and media industry. It would be haphazard of me to not pursue that with everything I’ve got and to use my time wisely. If I am working 20 to 30 hours at Starbucks or another part-time job, the amount of time I am able to use to pursue my career path dwindles exponentially. I would be spending my energy waking up for the job, training and learning new skills, energy I could be using building my writing portfolio, pitching freelance stories and applying for writing jobs.
My resolve to not go backward has worked out in my favor so far. I have been freelance writing and editing the last four months, and I am making it work! It has required a lot of hard work and persistence. I look back over the time since my lay-off, at all the tears and the worry, and I know I am doing well. Losing my job, something I thought would break me, has made me stronger, smarter, more assertive, more persistent, more earnest.
Cheers to all the people who are persistently pursuing their dreams with no fall back. To the ones who are both dreamers and doers, I salute you.