Identity loss

I am getting a wonderful and unique opportunity that not many people get in their life.  I get the chance to decide again what I want to be when I grow up.

Remember when you were a kid and everyone would ask you, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”  You’d tell them that you want to be a police officer, firefighter, teacher, or even a professional athlete.  Your answer to that question probably changed countless times until you finally ended up in the career that you have now.  Maybe you never decided what you wanted to be when you grew up, but instead just let life carry you into a job that eventually became your career.

When I was young I wanted to be a neurosurgeon, in the army, and a truck driver.  All of those ideas lasted for about 5 seconds each.  I have always said that I knew when I was 14 years old that I wanted to be in radio.  Honestly, though, I knew years before that.  I knew when I was 6 or 7.  My mom took road service calls for AAA, and the company enrolled her and all the other call-takers in the broadcasting program at Broadcast Center in St. Louis, which, as the name implies, is a school that focuses predominantly on teaching radio broadcasting.  The company wanted to make sure that all the employees had a clear and proper speaking voice.  That was my first encounter with radio.

My next encounter came around the same time.  My mom had a co-worker that also worked at a radio station in St. Louis.  He came over to the house one night and heard me reading a book out loud.  He told my mom that I’d have a good voice for radio and that he’d send her a cassette tape to record me.  He sent the tape, but my mom never recorded me.

When I was 14 years old I saw the movies Good Morning, Vietnam and Pump Up The Volume.  Those were life-changing movies for me.  I wanted to be Robin Williams and Christian Slater.  I didn’t care if they were acting.  I wanted to spend my life doing what their characters were doing.  I wanted to reach people on a personal level courtesy of radio.

I enrolled in Broadcast Center when I was 23 and radio would be my life for the next 19 years.  I think I always knew that it would not be a profession that I would grow old doing.  I’ve never been able to see myself retiring from radio.

Now, at 42-years-old, I am no longer in radio and am faced with finding a new path.  I’ve never looked into other careers.  I’ve never taken the time to find out what else strikes my interest or what else I am good at.  My life has always been focused on radio.  It was radio or nothing.

I’m trying to look at this time in my life as a fresh start, a chance to find out what else is possible for my life.  That’s the silver lining thought that I’m trying to maintain in my head.

But I will be completely honest.  I am struggling with all of this right now.  I don’t know how to talk about this to my friends or family because I don’t want to sound like I am whining.  I feel lost and directionless.  Ever since I started working at the age of 17, I’ve never gone this long without a job.

When I first lost my job I thought I’d get hired for a new job relatively quickly.  After all, my resume screams a cornucopia of office-based skills and longevity with employers.  Who wouldn’t want to hire me?  It turns out that every position I’ve applied for and every company I’ve interviewed with doesn’t want to hire me.  I’m taking that a bit hard.  It was already an emotional hit to get fired.  That made me feel worthless.  And the longer I go unemployed, the more unsuccessful interviews I encounter, the more worthless I feel.

Personal worth is something I’ve always struggled with.  Despite the time I’ve spent in Celebrate Recovery, I still continue to define myself by my job.  Right now I am jobless, so that makes me feel like I am nothing and that nobody wants me.  I know that is not true because I am more than whatever my career is.  I am a wife and mother.

My son has enjoyed having me home with him.  We’ve gone swimming, gone to the movies, and gotten to just hang out.  He’s not questioned me once why I’m not going to work.  He’s just going along with it.  My husband has enjoyed having me at home, too.  I’ve cooked dinner more in the last few weeks than I have in the past year.  Those are things we would not have done had I still been employed.

But with the loss of my job, and the loss of my career identity, came the loss of the relationships that have been a part of my life ranging from 1 year to 7 years.  Some of those I was truthfully happy to see gone.  You’d be lying to yourself if you said that you get along with every single person in your workplace.  Some of those relationships I am genuinely sad to see go.  It’s really easy to say that those relationships don’t have to end, that we can remain friends, but when a relationship is built around 1 factor and that factor is removed then the relationship has nothing left to stand on.

I texted a former coworker tonight.  The conversation was brief and was never able to get past small talk.  It was then that I realized that a relationship that I thought of as a friendship was nothing more than a work relationship that, in truth, ended the moment I was let go from my job.  After all, his allegiance is still to the employer, as it should be.  But that realization still made me sad.  I was prepared to deal with losing my job and my income.  What I was not prepared for was the loss of the relationships.  That has always been a huge struggle for me.

I written more than once about my struggles with losing relationships.  I get attached to people.  I get emotionally invested in their life and for some reason that relationship comes to an end and I don’t get a chance to say goodbye.  That’s how I’m feeling now.  I’ve lost half of my identity.  I’ve lost who I am professionally, and every aspect of that part of my life.  I feel like a portion of myself has literally died and I don’t know how to deal with that.  The more time that passes with me unemployed adds to this feeling because right now I feel like I have little to no purpose and very little worth.

Is it alright to feel that way?   I want to be angry, sad, pissed off.  I want to cry.  I want to not have anyone expect me to have my feelings in order or to be positive.  Am I allowed to do that?


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