Exactly 1 year ago, I got a not-so-pleasant news at work. The news was not about me being fired or laid-off. I actually felt being fired or laid-off at the time would have been a more pleasant news. But instead, I was told that I was being demoted and was advised to take a junior level position as opposed to a mid-level position which I felt I had earned based on my experience and dedication to work. At least, that was how I saw myself (a dedicated, brilliant and hard worker). But I guess management felt otherwise.
Weeks after receiving this news, I found myself still in a state of shock, disappointment, humiliation and shame. Shock because if anyone had told me at the beginning of the year that this was going to be my fate in 10 months time, I would have laughed hysterically while asking the bearer of bad news to go find someone else to disturb. I was in a state of despair because I found myself having to choose between accepting what life was throwing at me or walking away even if the consequence was being unemployed (at least for some time).
The humiliation and shame I felt during this period stemmed from that dark unpleasant road I knew I had to walk in the coming weeks and months while I gather my thoughts and decide on what to do next or how to respond.
No one is immune to disappointment and neither does Life prepare you for one. Therefore, our reaction to it can often be characterised by self-pity and anger evoked by the sudden realisation that life, within the blink of an eye, has pulled the rug from under one’s feet. This is the juncture where you need the sheer will, courage and that thing called Hope to keep you from sinking into the abyss of nothingness.
Consequently, this shocking, painful humiliation and disappointment led to a season of self-pity, self-reflection, forgiveness, assessment and seeking of new opportunities that I had ignored in time past. Looking back at the past 12 months, I truly am convinced that our greatest pain and disappointment can sometimes lead us towards the greatest adventures of our lives and consequently leave us with life lessons that would have taken us years to learn or become aware of.
In retrospect, I am grateful for the pain, the many nights I cried myself to sleep because of that excruciating feeling of failure and the thought that I had lost my sense of direction in life. I am grateful for the many questions I asked myself and how I tried fruitlessly to relive every single aspect of my work life in search of finding that point where I ‘lost it’. The point where my work was no longer good enough and was too careless or carefree to even realise it. I am also grateful to God on how He led me to a place of rest and reminded me that He was my Shepard and therefore I would know no lack.
Eventually, I learnt forgiveness (of myself and others). I learnt about the limitations that characterise our human experience. I learnt I could only do my best and if it turns out that my best isn’t good enough, I should not relent in my effort but continue to strive for excellence and dedication in all that my hand finds me to do. I also learnt that should your best-laid plan fail, then look inward in order to find the courage and strength to charge a new path and destiny for yourself because you owe yourself (and the people who believe you couldn’t do it) that much.
Perhaps you have walked this path like me. I leave you with this comforting words from the wise Oprah Winfrey and what she ‘knows for sure’ about pain and disappointment:
“I try always to let my pain and disappointment be my teachers. In fact, I’ve learned my most soulful lessons from betrayal—from people who let me down, who acted one way to my face but very differently behind my back. From every disheartening experience, I’ve gained new insight. And a firmer resolve to see what I see and know what I know, for sure.”
So go ahead, learn the lesson you need to learn from your pain and disappointment. Then pick yourself up and get on with Life.