“Susie, the boss would like to see you.” My heart seized in my chest.
“This is it!” I thought to myself. I’m getting promoted!
I was naive, ambitious, and a tad cocky when I started out in my career. I joined my first company in a receptionist role and I was desperate to get into sales. I spent all my time with the sales team, observed them, helped their clients, and learned everything I could about the craft so I could do it myself. “They have to be noticing my initiative!” I thought smugly—while totally ignoring the administrative work I was supposed to be doing.
So when my manager wanted to see me, I was ready. I strutted up the stairs, prepared to gracefully accept my promotion. But as soon as my butt hit the chair his words slapped me in the face: “Susie, we’re letting you go. It’s not working out.” Whaaaaat?!?! My whole body felt numb. I couldn’t breathe. I wanted to cry.
Getting fired was a massive wake-up call for me. I was shocked and deeply hurt by the rejection. In that moment, I thought I would never recover. But of course I did. The recruiter who originally placed me in the role saw the sales potential in me and hired me at her firm. That same week I was fired from one job I started another, and so began my sales career! I essentially failed my way into a better job.
When things hurt us, we often think we’ll never recover. Sometimes it feels like we’ve been pushed off a cliff. Sometimes life will deal you a heartbreaking blow. Sometimes we don’t know how we’re going to make it through the day. But keep in mind that you can cope and eventually come out stronger on the other side. Here’s proof.
1. Getting a Divorce
Getting a divorce in my twenties was scary, confusing, and painful. But even in my deep fog and on the worst days, I had faith I would be OK. I knew there was nothing original about what I was going through. Heck, half of married folks out there would (statistically) be in my shoes one day! My logical side also knew there was more than just one person in this world who could make me happy. I was right.
2. Losing a Parent
I’m not sure you ever get past losing a parent. But grief changes shape over time. There is one thing I know for sure: I still have a father, just not in physical form. My dad, who was an author, is with me in the way I write, the books I read, and the knack I have to parallel park. Love is stronger than death. And love never leaves you.
3. Screwing Up at Work
When we make a mistake at work we often think it’s the end of the world. It’s not. I made such a big revenue-reporting mistake once that the president of my company called me to verify my numbers. Was I mortified? Yes. Was it career ending (or even harmful)? Nope. It was forgotten the moment something more important happened.
4. Moving Away From My Family
I left home when I was 18 and I haven’t lived in the same country as my family since. I still feel sad about this sometimes. But we are an adaptable species and we get used to things. Every decision has a price. I try to see my family when I can and make the most of the independent life I’ve created. On the plus side, distance means we rarely fight and our time together feels meaningful.
5. Losing the Structure of a 9-to-5 Job
It feels very weird when you leave a desk job and start working for yourself. In the first few weeks I would walk aimlessly from room to room in my apartment. I couldn’t decide when to shower. The blazers and heels in my closet mocked me. For a long time I felt less important than I used to be. I was lost. I felt like a naughty kid skipping school. Creating your own structure as an entrepreneur takes time, self-awareness, and patience. But you do get there.
6. Growing Apart from Friends
This happens a lot, especially as you get older. It’s OK. Here’s a little secret: Not all friendships are meant to last. As Baz Luhrmann’s song Wear Sunscreen suggests, “Understand that friends come and go, but to a precious few you should hold on.” You know your precious few. Prioritize them.
7. Blowout Fights with Siblings
Relationships with relatives are rarely a walk in the park. The deeper you know someone, the more likely you are to see their cracks, their scars, their issues. No family is immune to challenges. I once went several years without speaking to my sisters. The sadness weighed heavily on me. But if you’re open, life can have a way of bringing people back together. Don’t give up. Give people space. And love and accept yourself when you feel hurt and rejected.
8. My First Experience With Online Haters
When I first started writing about my personal experiences I was shocked at the venom of online commenters. I wrote a piece on my divorce and was called a slut, a gold digger, scum—mostly by men who made wild assumptions. I couldn’t believe it! I called my mum for reassurance.
For a time I wanted to stop writing altogether. But why? Because people who don’t know me made some uninformed opinions? Hey, everyone’s allowed to have a voice. When I got over this I feel fueled to write even more—people will say what they will regardless. I now find many of my less complimentary comments the most amusing and interesting. Acceptance is a beautiful thing.
In my thirties, I’ve come to define maturity as the wisdom to control certain emotions that get in the way of seeing the real world. The real world can be harsh, yes. It’s full of uncertainty, change, and loss. But it’s full of gorgeous things too—love, family, adventure, forgiveness, growth, and courage.
In the Tao Te Ching, considered one of the wisest books ever written, Lao-Tzu writes, “Hidden in any misfortune is good fortune.” What can your current misfortune be uncovering for you right now?