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avril 2008

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N is for Neville

Spleen et ideal

One of the first things my parents tried to impress upon me when I got fired was that looking back, it would not seem like such a catastrophe. That it was one relatively small bump in the road over the course of a long career. They weren't trivializing what had happened, only I think trying to help me put it in perspective during those first few days I spent essentially in shock.

I've often repeated this sentiment, to myself, to others-- as if to prove that I am levelheaded enough to already possess in part this perspective that is supposed to come years down the line.  As if to say, This awful thing happened, but I know it will be okay, even if it might not seem that way right now. But I don't really believe that. And while it may be true, that this was not the end of the world, it was the end of a world, for me.

When I lost my job, I lost an intrinsic sense of myself. There were many factors contributing to my being let go, but I know that the primary reason was due to my own shortcomings. I had known for some time that I was not performing as well as I needed to, partly due to being overwhelmed and overworked, but also due to the way in which I reacted to these things, which was almost to ignore their urgency. I did not face the challenges head on, but instead avoided until I was forced to scramble and scrape by each deadline. I knew this needed to change in order for me to succeed, but I didn't effect that change. I arrogantly assumed that my position was far more secure than it was in reality-- that my assets outweighed my liabilities. And this turned out not to be the case.

And this all sounds very academic, very removed, when I am trying, for once to not be so removed, in a public space, from what has happened. As I said, losing my job felt like losing myself-- previous to this I had always thought of myself above all as someone who succeeded, who was gifted, and who never failed to thrive in her "professional" endeavors. But in falling short, so far short as to be asked to leave my company, i could no longer claim this. And very little has happened since then to restore this faith in myself, this knowledge of myself as someone who, by-and-large, did not fail at things. Who had a sense of direction and purpose. I don't have any of those things any more. I've become the person I used to scorn, the drifter, who talked in vague sentences about goals and plans.

The job I have now only reinforces this feeling; hardly rocket science, and yet I struggle with it, and am fairly certain I will not be offered a permanent position. Perhaps it's because my brain just doesn't work this way, doesn't lend itself to this type of work--and while I come back to this time and time again, I also resist it each and every time. How unamerican, to fail at something, even if you put your mind to it.

Months have now gone by and I'm still unable to throw myself into the job hunt the way I need to, and the two dozen or so jobs (if that) I've applied to haven't even resulted in an interview. I'd always depended on the steady success of my academic/professional life to compensate for the disappointment I've often felt towards my personal life. Now neither is satisfying, and it often feels unlikely that either will take a turn for the better in the very near future. I'm cringing at how passive this all sounds-- I should take charge of my life, rather than let it happen to me. But I've lost my agency, and the idea that agency will get me what I want out of life. I look at my friends, most of them thriving, and wonder why and when exactly I stopped being like them. I can never go back to being the person I was before all this happened, that untested arrogance.  What happened has shaken me to my core, and it's hard to know exactly how to put my world back together again; or rather, how to create a new one.

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