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The 4 life lessons I learned after losing my job

There's actually a lot to gain after a job loss. (Yes, really.)
Alesandra Dubin
/ Source: TODAY

Losing a job is painful. It’s scary. It’s a lot of things all at once.

When it happened to me, I cycled through all the feels — and then repeated each cycle a few times. There were tears, appetite changes and spikes in anxiety-driven energy. (I might have spent some early mornings waiting in my car for enough daylight to break so it felt safe enough to hike L.A.’s urban trails solo.) Of course, I’d sound disingenuous if I claimed that losing my job was all just a big chance for optimism and positivity — it wasn't. But it was that, too.

Here are some of the valuable life lessons I learned from losing my job that helped get me through a tough time — and are helping me live my best life overall.

Empowered women empower other women.

That’s not just for Instagram-friendly quotes: It’s real. And losing my job underscored just how much it truly matters to all of us that women provide meaningful support for other women.

Consider this: When I found myself in the position to be looking for work again, I reached out to a remote contact who owed me nothing — not karmically, nor professionally. But she was in the position to help provide general advice, and also to introduce me to other contacts who might connect me with quality work.

Some people might have first worried for their own piece of the pie before sharing it. But not only did she come through, she was so effusive with support that it was both an incredible practical advantage for me, and also a spiritual balm at a humbling time. When I reached out to thank her, she said (and I’m quoting): “It’s no big deal at all — sisters gotta look out for each other! I firmly believe that sharing opportunities creates more for everyone.”

Of course, she’s right — and you can bet I will never forget that when it’s my time to pay it forward again.

Friendship reveals itself in tough times.

There’s not a lot of value in keeping an indelible mental list of who didn’t reach out to me with encouragement after I lost my job. (Yes, I do have such a list — and I wish I could un-keep it). But the real value comes from realizing which friends really did come through for me — both with practical support (say, the talented design bestie who created a logo for my new business) and also with the kind of emotional support you don’t regularly call upon, but hope is there when you need it.

"My reason for being is love. It’s my husband, my kids, my parents, my sister, my friends. And it’s experiences: travel, adventure, discovering and trying new things."

Another friend picked me up one day when I was in a particularly morose state, treated me to an indulgent matinee, lent her own professional expertise to my job transition needs — and baked me a muffin when I hadn’t eaten all day. We’ve certainly had more glamorous moments in our 25-year friendship than that decidedly makeup-free and tear-stained outing together — but I’ll remember this one just as much (or more).

It’s powerful when you realize how much you are truly loved and protected by your chosen family. And it’s a powerful reminder to be that kind of friend when you’re needed, too.

Time and money are both ephemeral; family is forever.

I’m a career person, and I can’t imagine a time where I’d ever want to stop working (nor can I imagine a feasible scenario for that, as I’m raising two young children in Los Angeles). But for how essential work feels to me — I would not call it my fundamental raison d’etre.

No, my reason for being is love. It’s my husband, my kids, my parents, my sister, my friends. And it’s experiences: travel, adventure, discovering and trying new things. That’s what I need most of all.

Deep down, we all know this. But it bears repeating: Our identity — not to mention our self-worth — is hardly synonymous with our job title. And it's certainly not synonymous with our bank balance either. So who do we really want it to be?

Money is going to come and go — it does that. Meanwhile, time is just pursuing its forward march — unstoppable. So how about making sure life outside of work is the kind of life that's truly fulfilling — like right now, and every day? You only get one time around to do this right.

Balance is a choice.

For working parents, life can feel like an unrelenting treadmill. Each day, and each week, feels like a sprint. At the end of each interval (bedtime or the weekend) — you might have only enough bandwidth for a face mask in the bathtub, or an HBO marathon. Who has the mental resources to reevaluate what balance means when you’re just trying to keep up?

When I lost my job, I was required suddenly to evaluate the bigger picture. Yes, I needed to hunt down my next paycheck. But what did I really want to do — and what was I unwilling to sacrifice, when I really thought about it — in pursuit of that? It was a time to look at my priority list and do a self-audit.

It’s hard to carve out time and mental space to look at our real life goals — I know this. (I promise I do.) But we owe it to ourselves to be reevaluating our priorities as we move through life, and ideally to keep making tweaks that help us realign with what we care about most.

It wasn't long before I felt OK again after losing my job — shock wears off, time heals. It's fine.

But in the end, what matters is using a period of transition and reflection to carve out a more intentional life — the life you really want and by all means deserve.

That is what's really to gain when a job is lost.