The Unexpected Upside to Unemployment: What I Learned About Myself, Self-image, & Anti-fragility

On July 5th, 2017 I was fired for the third time in my working life. Unlike the previous firings, which both shocked & outraged me, I enjoyed this one, even though my Crohn’s Disease was being used as justification. You could say I was both expecting & anticipating it. I was excited by it, excited for the opportunities offered by having my means of support taken away by an unhappy little man. 

Imagine a chain smoking guy who looks kind of like this, but only wears Track Suits

It took me longer to get to the Human Resources office than I spent in the “meeting.” It was a struggle to keep the smirk off my face. I almost gave the HR Director the “Yeah, yeah, yeah…” treatment. It was efficient, if nothing else.

About an hour after I’d gotten home, I realized that the barely suppressed smirk had turned into a full blown shit-eating grin. And that I had no idea how long it had been there. My financial base had been torn away, & I was unemployed for the second time in 14 months. But I felt great, with confidence surging inside. All of the new skills I was learning could now take center stage, as it were. There was now plenty of time to pour into these new skills, & to expand the scope of my writing activities online.

The worry, the dread, of the previous year’s seven month long unemployment were nowhere to be seen. Ambition had taken its place, mixed with a type of excitement for plunging into the unknown that I hadn’t felt in years. A plan of action had come to mind almost immediately, unlike before. A sense of relief filled me, unlike before.

For the first time in my adult life, I was freely wandering, going where ever, following along.

The Zhuangzi is my absolute favorite book, no question. The ideas it presents have influenced many facets of my life, from the style of meditation I practice to the attitude I display while teaching Qigong & Internal Martial Arts. There’s a massive tie for second place involving more titles than it’s practical to list. One of those is Antifragile, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

More than anything else presented by Mr Taleb, the idea of improving under stress, instead of resisting it or being overwhelmed by it, stood out. It is, perhaps, the only aspect of the work I’ve even begun to grasp. But the reality of it, my putting it into practice in this situation, was & is obvious. The only way out of this seeming cycle of “work, illness, unemployment, repeat,” is to go through it, & to thrive as a result of the experience. And since I’ve already made it through once, unscathed except for some over-dramatic self talk, then I can do it again. And again, as necessary.

Thanks to the lessons of these two books, I’ve realized that my self image isn’t as invulnerable as I’d assumed. Or rather, it was & is more vulnerable than I ever cared to admit. In the last few years, it has been utterly devastated by a chance illness, expected criticism, & the emergence of permanent, disabling illness. Bearing in mind what I’ve learned, it now seems obvious that most of my troubles are self-made, in the sense that they exist mostly in my head. They’ve only become real when I have exerted effort to make them real, & then nurtured the results. I think, from this point on, I’ll focus on nurturing a blend of antifragility & carefree wandering.


22 thoughts on “The Unexpected Upside to Unemployment: What I Learned About Myself, Self-image, & Anti-fragility

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