I was unemployed for a year, this is what I learned

AKA my first year in Atlanta…

I mention in the “about me” section of this site that my husband and I recently relocated to GA from CO. This is recently as in Nov 2016. As I write this, we’ve celebrated our first Atlantaversary, and we’re closing in on the end of 2017. This is the time of year we get all nostalgic and reminiscent, and look back on the year, something that’s important to do. It allows us to reassess our goals, what we want for the next year and gives us permission to let go of what’s no longer important or serving us. But I’m getting off track here, I want to review the things I’ve learned through my “fun”-employed year. So sit back and relax, I think this is going to be a long one…

Before I dive into the story of the last year, I want to preface it with a few details that will help you understand where we’ve come from.

  1. The idea to pack up our lives and move to GA came from a feeling that my old career was no longer serving me. I was more stressed out than I can even describe. I don’t want to drag you through the muck of what I felt in that time, I just want you to understand that I felt like the only solution was to quit the job, sell our house and move away to somewhere new, to start over.
  2. The entire process of moving was divinely supported. I’m serious. Getting our realtor’s feedback on what we needed to do to prep the house to sell, staging and even selling the house were all done so quickly AND simply that I knew in my soul this was the right decision for us. Who sells a house quickly & simply??? That’s what I mean. We had to have had divine support. There’s no other reason for it being so smooth.
  3. Also, let me state that although my husband I had been together for 11 years when we were moving, we had both, separately, been in CO for 16 years at this point. That means we had roots. We had support systems, friends, we knew how to get places without directions and we knew the histories of places because we’d experienced them. Leaving would change all of that.

Ok, I think that’s all the background I wanted to share. Onto the story!

The first couple of months after our move felt like vacation. We were eager to get settled into our temporary home and explore our new city. It was easy to get up and get ready for the day, no matter what we had on our agendas. My husband was also unemployed and it was like we had play dates every.single.day! I remember being in awe of the mild winter weather, missing the snow around Christmas but loving the short sleeves we could rock in January. We spent a lot of time with my brother in law and his family, just enjoying this time off together. My in-laws even visited for Christmas and stayed with us for a short time into January. It was cozy and happy in our new place.

In late January, we lost our dog Boba, aka ‘baby guwl’, to cancer. This was and still is one of the hardest things we’ve ever had to endure. Greif sucks. If you’ve ever experienced it for yourself, you know what I’m talking about. I think her loss is what triggered the depression I experienced for the next several months. My husband got a job in February and I was now facing a very strange opportunity before me: being home alone (with our cat, Chewie) all day, every day, with nothing to do. I had no GA friends at this point and I was no longer feeling those ‘vacation’ vibes like when we first arrived. I was suddenly faced with the horrible reality that I had no purpose. I didn’t know what to do with all this time on my hands, so I read. A lot. (As of today, I’ve already finished 66 novels, 3 e-books and something like 10 audio books.) I also cried a lot. Depression is a dark and scary place sometimes. My demons haunted me and tormented me continuously during this time. When you’re so alone, you have no choice but to BE alone. I worked hard, every day to heal some old wounds and it was a long process.

March had a blip of awesome when one of my best friends came to visit. She is awesome at dragging my ass out of the house. We explored the city and went to areas I’d never seen before. We also got Georgia Peach tattoos (mine is a vampire and hers is Frankenstein).

Sometime in April, things started to turn around. It was almost like the sun was coming out after a long winter. (Not literally, though. If you’ve ever lived in the south, ‘winter’ is something that happens to other people. It never really becomes winter here, and if it does cool off, it’s very quick!) The idea for Sage & Crow was growing and I dove into it like it was the breath of fresh air I had been missing for so long. I used my old project management skills and created a project plan on how to start my business. I had timelines, I had a very extensive test phase, I had recipes that included measurements down to the ounce and I had the thrill of creating something that would serve others. I even had testers who would pay for these products and give me feedback. WHAT?! I know! It was incredible. I felt divinely supported again.

In early May a friend presented me with an opportunity to join her on a camping trip in NM. My husband suggested that I make it a longer vacation so I could visit my family and our old friends back home for a couple of weeks. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Of course I’m doing that!! Even though I was in the middle of my test phase, I needed this. I missed (and still do miss) the mountains and everyone there. I hopped on a plane and had a great couple of weeks. Camping was awesome, spending time with that friend always fills my soul up. I also got lots of mom time in, some time with my brother & his family and of course my dad & step mom. I got to see a good chunk of our friends, but the time was not long enough. It was kind of a blurry visit trying to fit everyone in. I’m still so incredibly thankful for that experience and I cherish those memories.

When I got home, the vacation continued because my bestie was back in town visiting! Only it wasn’t long into her trip that the family experienced something real and really scary: my brother in law needed open heart surgery. This was a shock for us all. I mean, at the time of this news he was only 45, super fit and eats really healthy. He’s one of the most active and energetic people I’ve ever known… This hit us all really hard and we were suddenly faced with something life changing. My husband & I traded shifts at the hospital with my sister in law for 2 weeks. My in laws flew back to town and we all tried to support one another. I remember thinking for the first time “this is the reason we moved here”. And although I was still deep in my own depression (regardless of all the visits with friends & family, depression is a plague!), I finally felt a sense of peace in knowing that I wasn’t wrong in moving us down here.

The end of May and early part June were strange in that we traveled a couple of times. My brother in law was just on the other side of surgery (everything went great and he’s doing awesome, btw), and we had previously planned to go to a wedding in MD, and only went after he promised us he was ok and it was the right thing to do. It was only a long weekend, but it was a break we all needed. Incidentally, we ended up picking up my step son during this trip and brought him home with us for a short while. A couple of weeks after the wedding, we were presented with a last-minute trip to Hilton Head. My in laws had reservations at a resort that they had to use and we had nothing better to do, so we went. Again, it was only a long weekend, but this trip seemed easier to agree to and helped us move past the scary reality of what we had just experienced in the hospital.

In mid June we decided it was time to start house hunting. At this point Sage & Crow was put on a shelf that maybe someday I’d return to. Life seemed to take priority and honestly, I was kind of low on funds to continue. We had a scare with the cat during this time too. He had lost a lot of weight and was really sick. I vividly remember being in the frozen foods section of Target when the vet called to tell me he was close to dying and I had to make some serious decisions, and fast. This moment triggered so many things for me – thoughts about Boba, feelings of devastation in that it might be Chewie’s turn, I felt lost and I didn’t know what to do. This was yet another life halting, life altering moment. We decided to try medication and see if that helped the little guy. I wasn’t ready to let him go, not so soon after my baby guwl. Even with this going on, we were still house hunting. It felt like I had seen a million houses and was feeling down when we found our dream home. In reality, I had only been searching for a few weeks. We went under contract on June 30th. July is kind of blur for me. I don’t think much was going on, but I did make a friend! I didn’t know it at the time but this was the beginning of the end of my depression. Summer was long. And hot. And humid. But weirdly, we had already adjusted to the mostly humid days and only it only felt ‘muggy’ when it was truly oppressive. We lost Chewie in August while we were on a family trip in Iowa. I somehow knew in my heart he wouldn’t be joining us in the new place. I was devastated.

We finally closed on our house Aug 25th and spent the weekend “sort of moving in” and prepping it for when the movers showed up. The end of August felt like the ending of a horrible chapter in our lives. Our previous house had very little natural light and felt like a cave. Our new house is nothing but windows, our back yard is a literal forest and the physical differences between the two perfectly mirror the symbolism of them too. That first house was the dark, depressing physical manifestation of my mental state. There were bright little spots here and there and I have a fondness for that time. It’s almost like that was the gestation period, which allowed me to grow, heal and prepare for the next step. This new house was the birthing of our dreams. Suddenly, our energies were up. Our moods were up. We were so close to nature and life slowly started to happen for me.

From Sept – Dec, things were a lot more positive for us. Making new friends, new connections, I’ve been able to share reiki with numerous folks and I even joined a book club. Oct was full of visits: that same bestie who had already visited twice, came for another visit, and I took a trip to New England to visit one of my oldest friends (and got another tattoo!). Thanksgiving week was great because my mom and step son both came to visit. Mom and I got tattoos during this time too! (I haven’t been tattooed regularly in several years, but I’ve gotten 3 just this year! 2017 is so weird.) Dec greeted us with a surprise opportunity and more time with family. I didn’t get that puppy from Santa though.

Lessons:

  • Existence without purpose sucks. We all need to find our purpose for this life; at least most of us need this; because without it, what’s the point? In my old life, my purpose was to help others. To boost up other women and to be a magical person. In my new life, I had to figure out what my purpose was all over again. (Spoiler alert, it’s the same!)
  • Healing is messy, ugly and takes time. It’s easy to be alone when you’re ok with who you are. If you’re not, then it’s hard. You don’t want to hang out with someone you don’t like… and if that someone is you, it’s a call that you have work to do. Face your shadows, call your demons out and do the hard work. Healing is messy – sometimes you’re on top of the world, other times you’re crying your ass off for no reason and haven’t showered in 5 days. It also takes time to heal. It works on its own clock, not yours. Be patient.
  • Reach out to others. It’s important to continue to be a friend to others even when you’re sad, alone and thousands of miles away. Your friends still need you. I wasn’t the best at reaching out to everyone, the way I should’ve been. I’m sorry for that.
  • Make amends with your past mistakes. We all make mistakes. No one is actually perfect. When you remember the embarrassing moments or the terrible decisions you made, be gentle with yourself. Give yourself the love and grace you’d give to another in that same situation. Yes, it’s easy to say that, to type that out, and no it’s not easy to actually practice it. But just like any other practice, it gets easier over time.
  • Self-care is important. Well duh Stephani, you created an entire business around this concept!! Well, yes I did… but I don’t mean the little rituals of meditation and hot baths. I mean the ‘caring about what you’re putting into your body’ part. The ‘how active you are’ part. Being a lazy lima bean is NOT serving you. In fact, you now have high blood pressure because of it! No one wants that. Get off your ass and go for a walk. Put the chips down and pick up a carrot. You DESERVE to be treated with respect by you.
  • Rejection sucks and you are the only one who can pick yourself back up. In my former career, we always used the ice cream analogy when a position opened. The hiring manager is looking for someone to fill the position; this person is the ice cream. You apply for the position, because you too are ice cream. But you don’t get the job. It turns out that you’re mint chocolate chip but the person who was hired happens to be java chip. You’re both qualified, but the hiring manager needed that little something different. You’re still tasty (read: valuable)! You’re just not the specific flavor they were looking for. (Roll your eyes all you want, I know I do. However, the advice is still the same!) You have to remember your worth and your value because YOU are the only one who can shake off the rejection. Find your inner cheerleader, find that little bit of self-confidence that you still have and keep going.
  • Patience is a virtue. All good things come in time. Nature has periods of rest, so should we. And all those other cliché phrases that speak to chilling the f*ck out – are true. Manifestation happens when it’s meant to. Not when you want it to. It’s uncomfortable to wait, the unknown is really effing scary. But this shit pays off! I promise you it does!

I’m sure there were more lessons but these are the major ones. I hope you enjoyed this post. How was your 2017?

Sending you all the love!

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing that Steph! I had no idea just HOW tough 2017 was for you – yare always so positive in your social media. I’m so glad you got through it and you learned and grew from the experience. 2016 and 2017 were pretty rough for me as well – but reading this helped me realize there were some good spots as well and did a bit of growing. Cheers to 2018 and I’m pulling for you and your new business. You could not have picked a better career because your ability to connect with people and help them is par to none. <3

    1. Aw thanks Amanda! It’s important to look back and review what we’ve been through – not to just see how far we’ve come, but so that we can appreciate all the work we’ve done too. It’s always interesting to hear what others go through too, and learn that we’re not alone in our struggles.

      You’re doing really well with your awesome sweater making skills! I hope 2018 brings you some awesome adventures! <3

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