“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.” -Gilda Radner
Starting over is hard to do – even when it’s something you want and have been working towards doing for a long time. For the last year, I’ve been mentally preparing to leave my current position. It has been a tremendous learning experience as I have grown so much, both personally and professionally, throughout this time. But feeling like I have gotten as much as I could in my time here, I began searching for a new role last winter. I wanted something that would be similarly rewarding and challenging, and offer me more opportunities for growth as well. I was open about this with my supervisor. The only way I could describe it to her was to say, “I’m just ready to spread my wings.” She was completely understanding and supportive of this choice, although, she did express that it would be bittersweet to see me leave.
Things didn’t quite pan out as expected, though. I was very thoughtful and particular about where I wanted to go from here. I didn’t just apply to every opening I saw. I was selective – being extremely considerate about things like what type of commute each job would entail, the start and end times for the work day – but mostly the start times (I’m not an early riser), the work environment, and the salary and benefits, of course. I would think long and hard before I sent in my resume for any position. I received a call for an interview for a job I really wanted and was also told I would be a shoe-in for. Not only did I have extensive experience for the position, but with my Arabic language fluency and the cultural competence I naturally possess by being Arab and Muslim, I was told I had a significant edge over other candidates because of the need for those skills in this particular role.
After the interview, I sent the standard “Thank You” emails and letters in the mail. A week went by and I didn’t hear anything. Then another week. So, I sent some follow-up emails. Another week went by and I still didn’t hear a thing. I was concerned, obviously. Did I just get ghosted by an interviewer? I decided to call one of the interviewers to ask why I haven’t heard anything. She was confused and unsure. It was a cryptic and further confusing phone call. She told me she didn’t have any answers for me, but did share that they had already moved on to second-round interviews, so if I hadn’t heard from them, then I wasn’t selected to move forward. That was the last I ever heard from them. I never even received the standard follow-up to inform me that the position was filled and they’ll keep my resume on file. I was, in fact, ghosted by a job. I tried not to feel hopeless at the time because there were still plenty of positions available that I would be a good candidate for. But it was hard. It was definitely a blow to my self-esteem and confidence.
“I had no idea I could be hit so hard and feel so devastatingly awful about a loss like this.”
Throughout the summer, I didn’t see openings for positions I was super gung-ho about, so I only applied to a handful of places – mostly to reassure myself that someone would see potential when they looked at my resume. And even though I knew in my gut that I wasn’t meant to continue in my current position, that something new was on the horizon, the summer was nearing its end and I had to rewire my mental preparation to go back to the same position in August. I started to wonder if I had been too selective – too picky. Then one afternoon, I got a text message from my work best friend. She accepted a new position elsewhere and wouldn’t be starting another school year with me. I was elated for her! We had both decided to pursue new options around the same time and I knew what this meant to her. That night though, it hit me. After working with her for three years, leaning on each other through our work woes, always having each other’s back through thick and thin, and developing a friendship that felt lifelong in such a short time, I was going to be doing this alone now. I cried a lot that night. I had no idea I could be hit so hard and feel so devastatingly awful about a loss like this. As much as I mentally prepare for everything (too much, I know!), I hadn’t even thought about the possibility that I’d have to do this without her. Of course, I can do my actual job and everything it entails – on autopilot – but it was the fact that she wouldn’t be there anymore that wrecked me. I now had to prepare for an unexpected new reality.
Just as I finally came to accept what this upcoming year would be – going back to a job I was prepared to leave, without my work best friend – I was thrown another curve ball shortly after the school year started. I was abruptly informed that due to concerns about low enrollment and funding, our program was looking at a more-than-likely closure within two months unless there was a drastic increase in enrollment and funding within that time. Three employees were removed from our program and shortly thereafter another one left on her own. Things were looking bleak. Every time our principal opened her mouth to speak, we were scared it was going to be more bad news. I couldn’t wrap my head around this – I was confused, worried, and angry. With every misleading explanation of what was “really” going on, my anxiety kicked into higher gear. My emotional eating habits got out of hand, but recognizing that was a turning point for me. I don’t deal well without some sense of structure and stability, so I decided to look out for my own interests rather than relying on a company that didn’t seem concerned with the lives that would be impacted by such ruthless decision-making. It felt like this was God’s way of confirming that gut feeling I’ve had for quite some time now and gave me a push in the direction I really needed to go in. I got in touch with my contacts in the field in the hopes that someone would be able to help in my pursuit of a new position.
After trying to figure out what to do next, I took a step back to just breathe. I rested in the assurance that things will fall into place as they are supposed to – breathing out the stress, tension, and negativity and breathing in hope, possibility, and positivity. A few days later, I received a text message from a former supervisor about an open position she had just heard about. I applied immediately and received a call back the same day. Within a few days span, I interviewed and was offered the position. Alhamdulillah. I felt such relief. I allowed myself a few hours to enjoy that feeling before my dreadful next step – offering my resignation for my current position. It was harder than I thought it would be. I know my supervisor and coworkers were happy for me, but they also couldn’t conceal the bitter part of that news. Things had already been so hard to deal with in that last month and my leaving would only put them in a very difficult position because I was the only direct service provider left at that point. I was asked to stay longer than the typical two week formality to help facilitate the transition. I agreed. We were already short-staffed and it didn’t sit well with me to abruptly leave my coworkers, one of whom is pregnant, another is finishing up her cancer treatment, and the other was getting married. So, although I was beyond ready to begin this new chapter of my life – albeit with a few hiccups in the process and an awkward transition period – awkward timing is really my life story, so I’m not surprised that things happened this way. I’m not someone who gets many easy situations – where things just fall into place. The simplest of things are always messy and muddy and don’t go right until they go awry first. I’ve learned to accept it. To see the lesson in it and to gain whatever insight and perspective it’s supposed to help me realize is the way I’ve come to approach life at this point.
The few weeks leading up to this transition have been filled with a whirlwind of emotions. But it’s also given me so much more time to process it all rather than hit me like a ton of bricks with no time to work through it. I’m anxious and excited to start my new position. But it’s also a bit nerve-racking with thoughts and concerns about what things will look like in my new role. Will I be good at my job? Will I pick things up quickly or will I bug people all the time with questions? Will I like my new job? What if I hate it? What if I’m not good at it? Have I made a mistake? I’ve had to remind myself to stop and breathe a lot. I’ve been able to push through these overwhelming thoughts with positive self-talk. I’ve also been anxious about leaving my current role and closing this chapter of my life. I have already felt a range of emotions in the weeks leading up to this, so I’m not sure what will come to the surface on my last day. I rarely cry or show any emotion in this setting – it’s actually my job to always have a neutral facial expression – so it’ll be interesting to see how things pan out from that aspect.
Overall, I’m curious to see what this new chapter has in store for me. And even though venturing through new territory is intimidating and scary, I’m looking forward to expanding my horizons. This new chapter came at a time and in a way that I did not anticipate, but I’m not upset because what I’ve hoped for so long – to stretch out and spread my wings – has finally come to be. It’s a gentle reminder that you get what you pray for. Your role is to do your part to get there, put aside all constraints and limits (like time), and leave the rest to The Man upstairs.