Being out of a job is f*ing hard.
This might be a bit of a blunt way to start a post, but even for someone like me, who is very lucky to have a supporting family who is helping her economically during these difficult times, being out of a job can still be quite a mental challenge.
When I left my PhD, I started a translation course with a view to specialize on scientific translations. I had come to realize that the thing that I enjoyed the most about science was to read and write about it, and since languages had always been something that I have been interested about, this seemed like a reasonable path for me.
The coronavirus has made the job hunt more difficult, obviously, but I am also aware that starting a new professional career (which entails looking for jobs in an area where you don’t have much, if any, previous experience) while being in a country where you don’t speak the language and where you don’t know many people, was never going to be an easy task, regardless of the coronavirus situation.
Still, being aware of the difficulties of finding a job under these circumstances hasn’t been enough to take away the moments of frustration and desperation that I have been experiencing during this time. However, there has been a tool that has helped me to manage these moments, and that tool is meditation.
Although I meditated prior to the lockdown, living with my sister and not being able to leave the house made it much easier for us to stick to a daily routine of meditation. We used an app called Insight Timer, which has loads of different teachers that offer free meditations (with the option of paying for courses as well).
One common topic that we meditated about is acceptance. And while I was acquainted with this topic and I had meditated about it in the past, it has not been until recently that I have fully understood the meaning of it.
So thanks to these daily meditations, combined with some reading and podcast listening about the topic, I have finally come to terms with one of the factors that was contributing to the negative emotions that I have been experiencing regarding my job search.
And that is that I wasn’t accepting the situation I am in.
Intellectually, I knew that it was going to be difficult to find a job.
I knew it, but I just didn’t accepted it.
I kept fighting the situation, focused on how much I wanted it to be different. And this, I have come to realise, was not helping my job search at all.
Every time I sat down to send my CV and write a cover letter, I would feel so much anxiety. All I could think about was how much I wanted that job, or that other one, or just any job that would get me out of this situation. At the same time, I felt really inadequate for any of the positions that I was seeing advertised, and the fact that I hadn’t got any response from any of my previous applications was, in my head, a clear confirmation that that was the case.
But the more I meditated, the more I started to realise that this kind of thinking was not helping me. I started to realise that the way I was writing my CV and cover letters was being highly affected by these thoughts. Even the type of jobs I would apply to would be affected by these thoughts.
So I have started to make an effort to change these thoughts. In my meditations, I try to remember moments when I have felt good, when I have felt confident and when I saw things in a positive light.
One moment that comes to my mind often, actually, is how I felt when I went for my PhD interview, since I felt very confident then. The thing is, I wasn’t confident about getting the job, I really didn’t know if I would get it or not. But I was confident that I had done everything that was in my hand to get it. I had done my best, and I had decided to let go of everything else that I didn’t have control of.
It felt really good. I left the interview with a very positive feeling. Finding out that I had been accepted was even a better feeling.
I relive these moments because by doing so I relive as well the positive feelings that come with them. These memories, along with many other positive ones that I have had in my life, bring with them the confidence and happiness that I felt then, which puts me in a good mood right away. Remembering the times that I have been accepted in a job specially, reminds me that I have it me, that I can do it because I have done it in the past. And this allows me to re-frame the way I look at the job search.
Having this more positive outlook has allowed me to accept my situation. It is as if all of the sudden I understood what these meditation teachers were about when they talked about accepting and letting go.
Now I not only know but I have accepted and made peace with the fact that is going to be a long process. A difficult one.
I am now able to realise that by not accepting this situation all I am doing is creating negative emotions that won’t get me anywhere – things won’t just get better by constantly thinking about how much I want things to change and how much I wish it would be different. Things will change and will get better when I do all that is in my hand to make that change happen, which in this case would be learning the language and applying to jobs that match my skills and abilities. But, if my head is constantly full of negative thoughts, there won’t be any room left in it to do the things that I need to do efficiently.
I saw this even clearer after watching an episode of Charlie & Ben Podcast on Youtube.
In this bit of the episode, Charlie talks about a book he has been reading about a woman who survived the holocaust and who talks about her view on suffering. This episode made me realise of how subjective suffering is and hence how simple (although not easy) it is to decrease your own suffering. This episode also made realise why being grateful and practising gratitude daily can be such a powerful tool to increase our well-being.
So, while I know that there are many factors that affect me getting a job, and I don’t think that by changing my thoughts alone I will be able to get a job instantly, I can see how by changing my thoughts, my energy around job searching has changed and, since this is one of the activities I spent most of my time on these days, it makes my days so much better overall.
I am now able to enjoy again this new life here in Italy. I can appreciate again just how lucky I am. I am lucky to have the family that I have with a sister who is allowing me to have this incredible experience of living in a new country and learning a new language and culture (something that I reaaallyyy love). I’m lucky to live by Lago Maggiore and to be able to meditate in its shore everyday.
Because everything happens when and how it is suppose to happen. I am letting go of those things that I cannot control. Trusting that the job that is supposed to be mine will get to me. Not by miracle, but through my hard work. Hard work that will allow me to be at peace with myself for doing everything that is at my hand. And hard work that I would not be able to do if my mind is constantly filled with negative emotions.