By Aida Knezevic
In March of 2020, I received a grim message from my manager after lunch. It was a carefully worded, sufficiently empathetic announcement that I no longer had a job due to the financial consequences of the COVID pandemic.
Shocked and in panic, my anxious brain couldn’t see anything else but a catastrophic outcome. For all I knew, my life was over. I’d have to move back in with my parents and resign myself to a lifetime of working at jobs I hated.
The ordeal was particularly painful because it was the first job that gave me the space to use my creativity and hone my writing skills.
Before this job, I had another job where I developed intense work anxiety that caused me to lose weight and develop unhealthy coping mechanisms.
You can imagine that after such a taxing work environment, this job felt like a Godsend.
But just like that, it was gone. Fear of the COVID spread in my country of Bosnia compounded my anxiety. Suddenly, the future seemed very uncertain. For a person who struggles with anxiety daily, few things are worse than uncertainty.
With little savings, I packed my bags, leaving behind my roommate and our little rented apartment in Sarajevo, to spend a few weeks at my parents’ house until I figured out what to do next.
I furiously applied to half a dozen jobs daily and prayed every night I’d get an interview. I didn’t realize that I was going through one of the most significant periods of my life. Then again, rarely anyone does.
I look back on this time in my life with endless gratitude for teaching me some of the most valuable lessons of my life so far. Here they are:
1. Challenges Are a Part of Life
As far as I can remember, I’ve always done my hardest to dodge challenges in life through careful preparation and planning. If I could think of every possible thing that could go wrong, I could avoid it, right?
I was not only wrong but also delusional. It was precisely my delusion that caused me to struggle so much with challenges when they did come. I believed I had done something wrong to deserve them and the universe was punishing me.
Naturally, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Challenges are normal and expected in life. Expecting to avoid them altogether is unrealistic, not to mention detrimental to my growth.
When I learned to embrace challenges, I discovered that they are nowhere near as awful as I made them out to be. In fact, they appeared as blessings in disguise, helping me to move forward when I was too afraid to take the first step.
Now I feel much more capable than I ever gave myself credit for. Human beings can overcome incredible hardship and still come out of it alive and kicking, wiser than before.
2. It’s Okay to Not Be in Control All the Time
I discovered at an early age that the only way to deal with stress is to have as much control as possible in every scenario. It became my default state with time, and it’s almost impossible to function in any other way. Any fluctuations in control immediately led to anxiety and panic. So losing my job felt like the ultimate loss of control.
Suddenly, I had to face something I had been avoiding for most of my life—accepting that I’m not always in charge. More importantly, I had to understand that losing my grip on a situation doesn’t make me a failure.
I am not entirely sure if this lesson has fully set in yet. After all, it’s competing with behavioral patterns that I’ve nurtured since childhood. But what I do know, is that a lightbulb has gone on in my head, allowing me to step into a less controlling existence.
3. Failure is Not Final
Whenever I failed in the past, I would usually respond by becoming demotivated and giving up. Clearly, failure was a sign that whatever I was working toward was not for me, so why even bother.
I rarely saw failure as an interlude to something better or God forbid, as preceding success. In my mind, successful people were successful all of the time even though, rationally, I knew this was not true. Everyone fails.
What I didn’t know at the time was that my biggest career “failure” to date would lead me to my biggest career fulfillment.
Two weeks after I lost my job, I was offered an opportunity at a company where I’ve been able to truly thrive and grow into my abilities. People, who care about my growth, just as much as I care about theirs, surround me.
Furthermore, the lessons that I learned during this time kick-started a deep, inner change. I finally became aware of myself―why I am the way I am—and decided I didn’t want to live life on autopilot anymore.
It’s safe to say that the pandemic has challenged all of us to varying degrees, forcing us to acknowledge parts of our lives we may have ignored for far too long.
For me, it has been a time of immense (and sometimes painful) transformation, beginning the day I lost my job and continuing today.
About the Author
Aida Knezevic is a digital media content creator and personal development enthusiast. Her blog, A Glass Box Of Emotion, is home to her musings on emotional wellbeing, relationships, and mindset. You can follow her on Instagram and Pinterest.
Carol Cooper says
What a wonderful article! Thank you so much for writing about the positive outcomes and growth opportunities that uncomfortable challenges present us with. Just today I was thinking about this very topic, and I so appreciate your thoughts and perspectives!