As of the time of writing this, it has been exactly one year since I was downsized out of the organization I had worked for over 26 years. I think today is a good day for me to engage in both a reflection about times gone by and also on the future ahead of me. As someone who lives with the challenges of mental illness, I feel incredibly grateful for the people who I met and connected with while I was in my previous workplace. I learned so much through those years during which I married, had children, learned about life, love and laughter, divorced, suffered in silence, received support, gained resilience, disclosed my illness, embraced change, mourned the loss of family and friends, lost my job, took a new direction in my career, returned to school, and celebrated life anew. Whew! Looking back, this woman has a lot of living under her belt as she approaches the half century mark. I can’t say it was easy, but every moment, every experience has contributed to making me who I am today. I am now a person who knows her strengths, recognizes her ability to see the opportunity of open windows when faced with closed doors, and excitedly looks forward to her future. Not bad for a year in the life.
A year ago today my life changed and, a year later, I can definitively say I have taken adversity and molded it into hope, strength, love, and happiness while managing the setbacks, challenges, hiccups, disappointments, losses, and upsets that are simply part of living life. I would be lying if I said that my depression and anxiety have not reared their ugly heads to try to disrupt my path along the way. Mental illness tries to force its way into any crevice of doubt or crack in your resolve. But in spite of my nemesis, here I stand, with more than two thirds of my Master of Education degree completed and a brain bursting with accomplishments, new ideas, and action plans for the future. It seems some of us have to wait until 50 to experience their “gap” year.
So what words of wisdom do I have for my contemporaries in this ongoing struggle? Find your own window to crawl through when the door shuts behind you. Remember that you have been strong before, and you will be again. Be kind to yourself when you need it. And when you feel like you are at your end, grab a friend, cry for your losses, and then resolve to battle another day. Then…fight, fight, fight. Remember every day that you are worth it; that you make a positive difference in a world that needs good news wherever it can find it. Make sure that you slow down and enjoy the journey – a child’s smile, the earthy, wormy smell of spring, the warmth of the sun on your face after an arduous winter – since no one wins a special place in heaven for being busy with busyness in life.
A year ago today, I started on a new path, a new journey. As a result, I have had the privilege of meeting a whole new group of friends and acquaintances who have helped me with my transition. Even more wonderfully, I have been able to maintain contact with the many great people who were part of my previous work community. I was, am, and will continue to be, a very blessed person.
For everyone who is now experiencing unexpected and unwelcome change, I hope that you take some comfort in my words and experiences as I have taken strength from others’ examples. There are many paths to a life of meaning and purpose. May you find a road as beautiful and wonderful as the one that opened up to me.
We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come. – Joseph Campbell
About Susan Mifsud
Susan Mifsud is a 49 year old mother of two adult sons who has worked in university administration for the last 25 years. She is an active volunteer and advocate in support of the elimination of stigma and shame related to mental illness and addiction. Follow Susan’s story on HMC’s Supportive Minds blog or additionally follow Susan on Twitter.