Monday, February 18

Character and Uncertainty

I'm less in shock today than I was on Friday, but I'm still reeling from losing my job. It's really difficult to process. One day you're getting up at 6 o'clock and slogging along through rush hour traffic and the next you're wide awake and 6 o'clock sobbing because you're not quite sure how things are going to work out.

Today I'm looking around at my suddenly unplanned life and trying to lay tracks where they were recently dug up. I'm trying to find strength to reclaim my own fortitude because I know it's there. I do. And those of you who've told me to take heart--thank you. When facing the shock of sudden and pervasive uncertainty, it is inherently difficult to take heart in messages that appear to completely invalidate the situation, its seriousness, repercussions, and pain... however unintended the invalidation might be... it's still invalidating and, therefore, more painful.

But I'm terrible at processing uncertainty. It's probably my greatest weakness. When it comes to planning ahead, thinking things through, and organizing, I'm your gal. I can really set things in motion and lay down a path for success. In fact, I'm convinced that is what made school so easy for me. The path was laid out--different grades with classes to take, tests to pass, papers to write. All I had to do was show up, try my best, and win the day. Frequently I did just that. It was so natural.

Now that I'm not in school (finishing grad school threw me for a loop, trust me!), things are less clearly defined. There are no definitive achievements (like diplomas or degrees or year-end grades) unless you set them for yourself. There are no organized portions of the year (like semesters and breaks) unless you organize them for yourself. There are no measured or predetermined activities unless you choose them for yourself.

This is probably why running makes so much sense to me. There are achievements, seasons, and activities and I just have to choose to take part in them and *voilĂ !* predictability!

But the uncertainty of life on a larger scale--the grand scheme, the big "What If," which not even running can pretend to answer--is what makes me crazy.

I like plans.

I like plans so much that yesterday I made a list of projects that I can do around the house while I'm unemployed. I like plans so much that I bookmarked a bunch of job search websites and have blocked off a few hours each morning to go a-hunting. I like plans so much that I am trying to organize and reorganize my life in order to give me solace during this time of chaos.

Today the chaos really resonates with me. It was ten years ago today that my family's house burned down. I was a senior in high school, there was a two-hour delay because of a sparkling blanket of snow covering the school district, and I met up with a photographer to have my senior portraits taken. Those portraits are the last moments of "normal" or "calm" that I remember. After that, I smell smoke, I see soot and burned memories, and I feel hurt so deep it rocked my core.

That was ten years ago. Since then, my family has overcome many more tough times. Maybe none matching the magnitude of losing your home to fire, but certainly tough times attributable to personalized suffering through myriad pain. Most families have, but I tend to think that my family is tougher than most. I don't care if that's a little egotistical. We're hardy.

So I know I'll come out on top. I know I'll find some other job. I know I'll take uncertainty, whip it into my own personal mold, and eat it for breakfast one day. I know I can do it. I just might need you, my friends, to remind me once in awhile.


  1. I know you'll get many words of advice from well-meaning folks on this matter, but I just wanted to say keep your chin up and hang in there. I was in your shoes in November of 2011. It's almost surreal to go from one reality to another, but I will say that it gets better. You seem to have a fantastic outlook on life, and I know you'll land on your feet.

    Funny thing is, people told me that when I was unemployed, and I didn't quite believe it. With a family to support, all I could think about was how useless and unproductive I felt sometimes. It's easy to get stuck in the pit of self-despair, believe me. So I'm not one to hand out this type of advice. But having come out the other side successfully, I promise you it won't last forever.

    Sure, my fight with joblessness lasted exactly 7 months. By way of explaining how I found your blog, I'm in marketing at UPMC, and manage the Twitter account for UPMC Sports Medicine. I happened to see your post today and figured I would say my two cents. :)

    In practical terms, I will offer that was truly the only job search site I used. It's pretty nifty if you haven't had a chance to use it.

    Oh, and I'm the praying type. So you and your future job are in my prayers!

    Take care and stay positive,


  2. That is the nicest comment I've ever gotten on any blog I've ever owned or written for--thank you so much, Josh! I'm trying really hard to stay positive and keep myself busy.

    The "chin up" and "hang in there" stuff is hard to take still, but I honestly do believe I will be okay. At some point in the future... but right now I am not okay. I'm just trying to get a grip.

    Thank you so much for your prayers and kind words. I really appreciate it.

  3. You're welcome! One thing I know really helped me is constantly telling myself that in 1,2,5 years, I'll look back on this period of my life and wonder what I could have done better or differently, and what I learned from it all. Oh and maybe laugh a bit!

    What specific type of work are you in?

  4. Yes, and I've had those situations... The fire I talked about is something my family can joke about a little now. And I had a tumor three years ago (see my About section) that I can joke about now. It's life when you're LIVING it that isn't necessarily great... it takes so much work!

    I studied English (BA) and teaching English (MA). I'm an editor, writer, project manager, and lover of language. My nickname is Grammarissa :)

  5. Yes indeed. Being a person of faith myself, I particularly found hope in a song by Matthew West, "Strong Enough". I would sing it to myself and repeat the chorus over and over again when I felt down and in despair. Not trying to be preachy, just wanted to pass that along :)

    I'll let you know if I come across anything in my comings and goings in the Pgh business community!

  6. I'm so sorry to hear about the job. Hang in there and you'll be ok! I actually understand though - I went through something similar when I went from grad school to my another job because of things that happened. It's uncertain, but stay strong! My situation actually ended up WAY better than I ever could have imagined and I hope the same for you!

  7. Thanks, Paulette. I'm glad to hear your situation turned out well. It's my greatest hope that this is the proverbial door closing-window opening I need in my life. :)


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