At a Loss

It’s day 27 of Blogvember. I’m following the prompts from Andrew Canion, which can be found here.

There’s a danger as we get older to tie our identity to what we do, or where we work. I fell into the this trip a few years ago, becoming very tied to a specific position and the associated role and title I held there. This lead me to hold onto this job much longer than I should have, and the toxic environment it spiraled into left me feeling broken. I had up that point not experienced anxiety in an acute way, and had no framework of recognizing that anxiety and depression can result from seemingly “external” factors. Burnout, and hostile work environment, can certainly do that.

My decision to leave was in large part a decision of self-preservation, and it remains to this day one of the wisest decisions I’ve ever made. The aftermath left me reeling, and struggling with a complete sense of loss of my own identity. How would I move forward? How had this thing I had worked so hard for come crashing down so swiftly? How was it that I had built skills, and yet had suddenly lost them?

It turns out, much of what I experienced was directly related to burnout and a hostile work environment. My recovery from this has had an interesting trajectory: once I began to re-establish my own identity to myself, I became more committed to a sense of self and less committed to a sense of place. I am what I do, not where I do it, as it were.

Further, I think often about this pivotal experience of my life, and use it as a bit of a North Star to guide me and keep me grounded. By processing what went wrong, it’s less of a scar now and more of a guide. Contrary to conventional pop wisdom, it didn’t happen for a reason. But I have learned a great deal from it, and for that, it feels like less a loss to me now than it did to me then.