Getting fired was the best thing that ever happened to me—here’s why

It started with a boy, as is often the case. After graduation, I packed up all my belongings and moved to Florida to live with my college boyfriend. I had no job, no prospects, and no idea what I was getting myself into. Even though I almost immediately knew the relationship wasn’t going to work, I stuck it out, hopeful that things would get better. I eventually found a job as a paralegal at a small, historic law firm, and plugged away, with no clue what I was doing. A few months later, my boyfriend and I broke up, he moved away, and I was left with an empty apartment and a job I didn’t particularly like. I felt stuck.

It was a Wednesday, early afternoon. I was 23, ending my first year at my first big-girl-post-college job, when all the sudden I wasn’t. It completely took me by surprise, sending me into a cycle of shock-depression-fear, then shock again. I remember calling my brother on the way home, my things thrown into a banker’s box like a bad movie cliché, sobbing harder than the rainstorm outside, struggling to see the road. I was too afraid—too embarrassed—to call my parents.

As awful as being laid off (especially without warning) is, the experience was life-changing. Here’s what I learned:

Being laid off doesn’t make you a bad person

I spent countless hours replaying the year over in my head, willing an answer: what had I done wrong? The reality is, although maybe the job wasn’t for me after all, the decision had more to do with the company’s needs than with me as a person. When I had been hired on, the firm was working on a large case that they thought would never get to trial. When it did, and they didn’t get any new clients, my job wasn’t needed any more. Sometimes it really just is a business decision.

It can be a great self-learning opportunity

I had an apartment and meager savings, but no clue what my next move would be. When I sat down and really reflected, I decided I needed to be closer to family. So I packed up what I could fit in my car and moved four hours south, into the spare room of my parent’s post-retirement home. I had a college degree, I had gotten a job—how did I wind up here? Coming to terms with the fact that it’s okay to ask for help was a giant step.

It makes you stronger

The feelings associated with being laid off—the fear, the stress, the worry—they don’t leave quickly, and that is a great motivator. I approach work very differently now. I’ve always been a hard worker, but now I strive to make myself valuable to my organization every day. I have changed my spending and saving habits, making sure that if it ever happened again, I’d be able to survive financially. This feeling of independence is extremely freeing.

Everything really does happen for a reason

It used to drive me crazy when my mother would tell me this during tough times, but now I have to admit, it’s a daily mantra. Had I never been laid off I would have probably never moved closer to my parents, and would have never met my husband, enrolled in my graduate program, or start working in the education field (which I love!) again. Allowing experiences, even the really tough ones, to shape you is probably the best lesson I’ve ever learned.

Glenna Lynne Schubert is Hawaiian-bred, Washington, DC educated, Florida voter and a Coca-Cola, sparkly shoes, and cinnamon roll enthusiast. She is an avid fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald, deep tissue massages, and writing about women’s daily lives. You can find more of her musings on her website or on twitter @glennalynne.

[Image courtesy FOX]