Eight years ago, I had one of the worst weeks of my life.
One day I was laid off. The next day my mom was diagnosed with cancer.
I was newly married, a new home owner, and the primary bread winner in our household. I’d left a newspaper with a job-for-life promise to its employees to pursue a new opportunity, and six months later, I was out of work.
My mother and I had what could charitably be described as a bumpy relationship most of my life, but we’d actually started getting along a few years before her diagnosis. I considered her a friend.
At first, having these two bad things happen back-to-back seemed like cruel timing. Then I realized what a gift it was.
Being a new homeowner, I never would have quit my job to spend time with my ailing mother. But suddenly I had the ability to go with her to doctor’s appointments, to have long talks, to be there for her like I couldn’t have if I still had my job.
I hadn’t much liked my job. I struggled to understand what my boss wanted from me. But only having been there a few months, leaving would have felt like the lazy way out. The stubborn girl in me wanted to tough it out. Getting laid off gave me permission to leave a job that was a poor fit.
A few weeks into unemployment, a friend referred me to a part-time temp PR job. If I’d had other options, either the part-time or the temp part of that description probably would have turned me off, but wanting to make the mortgage payment propelled me past those objections.
It turned into a sort of test period where I discovered I liked the job, and they apparently liked me because they offered me full-time work. Which at first, I turned down. I was appreciating being available for my mom.
Later I took that full-time job, and almost immediately my mom took a turn for the worse. I hurried home to be with my mom in the hospital, and my new boss told me to just come back when I was ready. I will always remember that generosity of her allowing me to stay for mom’s last week without pressuring me to return to work. And I am highly skeptical that would have happened at either of my previous employers.(See comment below.)
Sometimes transformation in life and work comes from careful planning and intentional decisions. Sometimes you get walloped by surprises.
But even in those changes thrust on you, you have a choice — feel sorry for yourself and play the victim, or look for a way to make the most of the situation.
In today’s economy, thousands of people are facing that choice. Do they grow bitter or angry or depressed? Or do they embrace the chance to go back to school, make a career switch, spend more time with the kids, move out of a town they never loved but lived in for work?
How have you made the most of adversity, and used it as a chance to positively transform your life?