How I coped with being made redundant during a pandemic
Redundancy is about as close as it gets to the feeling of being dumped.
There’s no good way to experience it, but having to sit on my bed and watch my boss and a HR representative (never a good sign) tell me over a glitchy Microsoft Teams call that my services were no longer required, was tough.
My team was told a week later (again through a screen), and then that was that: five years to the day in my dream job as editor of a national food magazine brand, wrapped up with no exciting new role to look forward to.
I’m not alone though, I’m one of the 227,000 recorded redundancies this year, according to the latest statistics, with the rate of those losing their job doubling since March.
Not that those figures helped me make sense of the situation or gave me any comfort. I didn’t cry as much as I thought I would. I had a bawl immediately after, then a bit of a wobbly lip the day after, but then I just felt numb.
The only thing that changed how I felt, was self-care. It wasn’t until I truly started looking after myself through exercising and being surrounded by nature that I got out of my redundancy funk. It was far from an easy journey to get there though.
In the weeks after I was made redundant, I couldn’t be bothered to cook, which until then had been my constant love; my therapy, my creative outlet.
I didn’t want to get dressed. I couldn’t face Joe Wicks (no offence Joe, I love your positive energy normally), I couldn’t even read.
All I could do, between scrolling through social media (looking at everyone else who had jobs), staring into space and endlessly refreshing job boards, was binge watch The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
Indeed, it felt like the only thing I achieved in that first month was completing all 10 seasons – that’s 220 episodes and approximately 9,240 minutes or six-and-a-half solid days of my life.
I needed the time to acknowledge and accept the dramatic change in my life, to grieve, and to begin to move on.
As August became September I started furiously applying for jobs. I reached out to all of my contacts who were so kind and generous with their time, offering advice, freelance work and more contacts to speak to.
I began to feel energised again. I even – break-up cliché incoming – cut off my long, curly blonde hair into a short brunette bob.
With every feature I wrote, every covering letter and CV I sent off, I felt a little bit more like myself. But something still wasn’t quite right.
I wasn’t sleeping, old conversations – like difficult work calls or petty disagreements with my partner – replaying in my mind during sleepless nights. My confidence was shot, and my inner introvert was morphing into a complete social reclusive.
I was also burning myself out, working as hard as when I had a full-time job – glued to my screen all day. I needed to find balance.
‘Make the most of this time,’ my fiancé reminded me, as did my friends. ‘Do all the things you could never do when you were working.’
It was after cancelling plans with a friend and ex-colleague one too many times, unable to be around anyone who reminded me of what I’d lost, that I realised that I needed to start focussing on what I’d gained.
I’d gained the gift of time, the freedom to wake when I wanted (I’m a night owl, so 6am starts have never been my favourite). I invested in my health, joining a new gym after six months of a forced break (thanks again, Covid-19).
It felt good to feel the weight of a bar on my shoulders. It felt good to finally feel my legs wobble with that oh-so-satisfying post-workout burn. I needed something more though. Luckily, my gym membership included more than my local leisure centre – it also included a lido, a 40-minute bus ride or cycle from my house.
Booking my slot seven days in advance to comply with Covid-19 guidelines, I planned my outdoor swims happily around sunny windows in my structureless days. The gear-shift in my happiness was immense.
For the first time in months I felt real, true joy.
I could breathe the fresh air as I whizzed past chugging canal boats. I could watch the mid-morning sun lethargically move between the trees and sparkle across the water. I found calm in mindlessly swimming in my allotted lanes.
I didn’t track my swim, I didn’t count my steps, or chart my journey. I just moved freely and cherished the seasons as they changed, rather than fearing the inevitable passing of time.
I also made the most of my trips, making pit stops at any bakeries I could find. Where better to check the status of my job applications?
Like any break-up, time is a healer. It also gives you the chance to rediscover and even redefine your sense of self.
Turns out, I rather like who I found. She’s a free-wheeling, lido-loving kinda gal.
And my shift in perspective clearly worked, as the week we went into the second national lockdown, I was offered a new job.
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