Within ten days my girlfriend was diagnosed with cancer. It turned our world upside down. She stopped working and started spending a lot of time in the hospital. Five days here, another nine days there. I couldn’t sleep because I was too worried about her. Going to work was pleasant just because it was a distraction from the constant worrying.
Then the state of the economy started affecting my workplace. People got laid off. Consequently, there was extra work to do. Everyone who didn’t lose their jobs took pay cuts. Our life insurance was canceled. Health benefits were reduced.
If all this wasn’t stressful enough, I heard through the grape vine that I might be next in line to lose my job. I was concerned because with Cassie unable to work, the best thing that I could be doing for her during this difficult time was to simply keep my day job. If I lost it, who knows how long it would take before I found something else to make ends meet? Would I need to break the lease? How many months could my savings carry us until they ran out? These are the types of questions I was plagued with throughout each workday.
As the warning signs became more apparent at my job, I decided to change my mindset. Instead of simply being reactive, just waiting for the axe to fall, I started being proactive, and began looking for something else. My love for writing was put on pause while I concentrated on the new priority of finding a better job. I started telling people about my situation, how I was in the market for a new job because of it, and was always keeping one eye open for new job postings in my area.
Unfortunately, with the tanked economy most everything I looked at sounded worse than what I was already doing. “Part time to start.” — “$9/hour as needed.” — “$10/hour on a contract 1099.” The pickings were slim.
Despite the discouraging choices that were out there, I quietly kept looking, stayed optimistic, and did all that I could to stay employed. In a way, I was doing all this because I wanted to improve my life, but the real motivation was Cassie. I needed to be the strong one while her health was down and push forward in spite of everything trying to knock us back. I searched, waited, and hoped for a silver lining, and it finally arrived in the form of an email message from my friend Lauren.
Fully aware of my situation, Lauren spotted a job posting that sounded like a good fit for me. In all honesty it seemed like it was designed for me. This company was looking to fill a role I had all the relevant experience for, and so they were immediately interested. I breezed through the phone, in-person, and second interviews. When they offered me the job, they said “So how much money would it take for you to leave [your current job]?”
For a number of months now, I’ve felt unhappy. I kept my head up, but all the stresses that I’ve dealt with have been about serious shit that I’ve never dealt with before. I’ve only recently managed to adjust to it, and thankfully something has come along that makes this year seem considerably less shitty.
It’s hard to explain what kept me going. In another life, I might have already given up. Instead, I just told myself things like “One day at a time.” — “It could always be worse.” — “Someone else’s problems would make mine seem trivial.”
The thing is, everyone’s got their own problems, and everyone deals with them differently. I won’t say that for the past six months I’ve managed to stay happy regardless of everything that’s causing me sadness — because then I’d be lying. But I will say that at some point I made a conscious choice to deal with these life stresses with a more positive attitude, and continue making efforts to create positive change in my life.
There will always be things you can’t control. Life has a way of creating situations where you feel helpless about all that’s got you down. For me, it was having the girl I love fall victim to cancer — and trust me, I’ve never felt more helpless. In these situations, you’ve just got to decide what kind of person you are: one who lives with the unhappiness, and allows it to consume oneself fully, or one who pushes past the unhappiness, and makes a conscious effort to be happy regardless of whatever is causing stress, worry, or helplessness.
I’m proud to say that I’m in the second camp. What about you?
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