one month after getting laid off

one month after getting laid off

January was such a roller coaster ride. The first day I came back online from year end break, received news of being laid off on a call with the directors while I was in my KL airbnb apartment. I was given garden leave, so I could drop everything to let my emotions slowly sink in. I felt it physically at first, a sinking feeling in my stomach trying to process the fact that I’m no longer stably employed. My mind was racing with a hundred and one things to do next. Reaching out to impacted team mates, telling close friends and family, trying to lean in to my support system as much as I could.

It was a shift in how I handled sudden life changes. I was surprised my reaction was not to cry first, as it has usually been growing up with big intense emotions.

The change may be due to my open-ended-ness and learnings I accumulated about myself over the years. I no longer attach my self worth and identity to a single thing like work.

I’m starting to see my life like a book without an ending, a choose-my-own-adventure. Or to take a gaming analogy, since this main quest I’ve been playing has came to an abrupt end, I can go on other side quests to keep myself occupied. Farm for exp while I find another main quest to embark on. A pretty fun game to play, I think!

Of course, being laid off comes with many feelings, not all of them pleasant.

My anxiety-prone mind sent me on a rollercoaster ride. At times mindlessly scrolling LinkedIn and reading many others posting their layoffs status, feeling a sense of gratitude that my bosses did the layoffs thing as humanely as they could. Saving potential jobs to apply to, trying to imagine life in those workplaces, and feeling afraid that I’d not be able to find something close to what I had before. Procrastinating on updating my CV because I didn’t feel like digging through my memory to write about my accomplishments.

On certain days I felt hopeful and excited that it could be a sign for me to do something different with my life, something more exciting. Like turning my side projects or ideas into a full-time thing. Or booking a train ticket to slow-travel up Malaysia and Thailand. Or becoming an airbnb host for food tours in Singapore because I’m a foodie who loves to share my GMaps list to whoever asks.

But first, I had to allow the dust to settle.

Here’s what I did in Month 1 of getting laid off which led to a more emotionally stable me, approaching job search with positive energy and a level of excitement:

Taking a mental break to reset, heal, and lean into my curiosity

One week into finding out of The News, I was feeling a little bit exhausted from trying to tend to my emotions while thinking about next steps. After a series of texts and chats, I decided it was time to pick one thing to do. And I chose to rest and reset. Gave myself 2 weeks of a mental break, and aimed to start the real job-hunting work end of Jan, roughly after the Lunar New Year holidays.

Giving myself that timeline was a guardrail to reassure my monkey brain that ‘no, you don’t need to feel “behind” time. Stop thinking about What’s Next. Your job now is to heal and reset in preparation for next few months of a potentially difficult season.’

It was a good choice, that dedicated time allowed me to feel all the emotions that I needed to feel. To explore the ideas that needed space to expand in my brain. To read the accumulated newsletters that I had fallen behind in reading.

I ended up digging into my old bookmarks and notes, resurfacing old interesting topics that faded into the back of my mind. That week, I found my past and present selves gather in one time and space. Some parts of me stayed, some parts of me faded away.

What will this concoction lead to?

Planting seeds, and growing a metaphorical garden

True to my nature, I’m not just focusing on getting another Product role. I’ve got a desire to explore different paths. So I’m planting seeds of different outcomes, water them, and see what grows and thrives.

I’m not keen to plant a land of homogenous crops for harvesting. Much prefer a plot of garden with variety of flora for a visual feast.

Although I have no clue what I want this garden to look like exactly, I’ve just been gathering seeds that catch my interest, talk to random people about them and see where it takes me.

However, I know how I want to feel about it.

I want to feel energised, and wake up feeling excited to tend to this garden.

I want this garden to tickle my curiosity, maybe grow some unexpected plants and I can go explore where those came from.

I want to feel proud of this garden, and invite other gardeners, chefs, makers and creators to explore this garden together. A sense of having a central piece to dig into and have interesting side conversations about.

Moving on and mental prep of the road ahead

A lot of moving on is based on instincts. Listening to my gut about what I needed to do. Everyone moved on in their own pace. Some may need less time than others, and it’s alright to take what we need.

I could attribute this to months and years of journalling, and making mindfulness practice a thing in my life, but I was hyper aware of when my mind and body needed a rest, or when I was ready to expend energy. Some nights I let job search activities go on too late into the night, leaving my nervous system too hyped up that I couldn’t wind down to sleep. It disrupts the next day’s plans like going to the gym in the morning. Such blips in my week teach me to set cut-off timings so that I can prioritise my rest.

Prioritising for rest has been a great principle to stick to because it is the foundation for regaining energy and refuelling the tank. We’ve been conditioned to hustle culture, and glorifying not sleeping, over working, at the expense of not listening to our own bodies.

Growing up, I felt this need for self-improvement, reading all sorts of productivity hacks, self-help books. I needed to “fix” myself and follow the path of others who seem to have their life under control and thriving. What I didn’t learn is to question if those habits are even meant for me.

What do I actually need? What am I optimising for? What do I want my life to look like?

There’s a slew of content out there telling us that in order to be successful and better versions of ourselves, we had to stick to our habits down to a tee. Want to be a gym girl? Stick to a 3-day split and be at the gym 3 times a week. Want to be a writer? Write and publish once a week, or on any regular schedule to grow your audience. Want to be successful? Learn the habits of CEOs who wake up at 5 am every morning morning, plunge themselves into ice baths and throw in a 5 km run before the sun rises. It probably takes a lot of focus, discipline and awareness of what they are optimising for to be able to keep up with a stack of habits strictly.

I’m not at that level of discipline or focus, and I may not ever narrow down to a single set of habits for life.

But I’m happy about how I’m now able to tell when I’m off balance. When there’s too much of something that takes my energy away, I’ll cut back and do something else less demanding.

My approach to habits now: Start small, and be kind to myself when there are days it’s just not possible.

It’s time I own the person that I am - someone who has interest in many things, not locking myself into one identity, and the things I love to do have seasons. It doesn’t make me love those things less, but there’s a right time and space for me to do them.

Actively finding balance means it’s okay for the scale to tip over.

In this way-finding season of looking for my next thing, the feelings of not being good enough, feelings of rejection will find its way back.

But now I feel ready to face them and move through them.

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