Uncertainty is such a challenging thing to cope with.
It’s definitely unhelpful with feeling groovy!
Many years ago, I experienced a period of great uncertainty in my life, and it was not fun, I can tell you.
I was frustrated, I was angry, I was upset.
My frustration, anger and upset became compounded when I would express my feelings to others, only to be met with people telling me I should 'be grateful for my circumstances'.
That kind of response is dismissive, it is patronizing, it is unhelpful.
It’s definitely unhelpful with feeling groovy!
You see, the situation I was dealing with was a horrible office job, and I was unable to find a better opportunity because the economy had tanked (this was around 2008/2009) so there were few jobs available that were close to home, that fit my values, that offered better pay, which is why some people thought it was okay to dismiss my feelings of upset at my circumstances with the order to 'be grateful I have a job'.
I was carrying a huge workload that eventually gave me burnout and a nervous breakdown, compounded with a pay cut under the disguise of 'state budget issues'.
Yep, overworked and underpaid.
Definitely NOT conducive to feeling groovy!
To add insult to injury, our office was moved to a location that put me in ISOLATION and my misery was multiplied.
Uncertainty + Isolation = MISERY to the Nth degree.
NOT a good formula for feeling groovy!
I'm not sure how I was supposed to be grateful about ANY of that. How should I be grateful for a pay cut, grateful for being burned out, grateful for being isolated? So I learned to keep my feelings to myself, which was not a great idea, as it built up a lot of anger and resentment.
The uncertainty of when I would be able to remove myself from this situation was a large part of my troubles, and being isolated from others, all day, nearly every day, was more than I could take.
I’ll be honest - there were days I was literally screaming at this work situation...I may even have done a little damage to my vocal cords with my screaming in frustration, but I’m not a professional singer, so I’ll live with that. 😉
I KNOW it's not easy to keep up one’s spirits when facing a challenging situation that is beyond your control with no firm end date in sight. Facing the uncertainty of when my horrible job would be over, multiplied with the isolation I endured nearly every day, was one of the most challenging things I have ever dealt with, and it went on for two years.
But this is where my Creativity came into play, to help me work through my frustration, my anger, my upset, in the form of an art book.
While I continued searching for a new job, I began to create an art book that I refer to as my "Office Art Book." I created it as a way to turn my cubicle inspiration board into something portable, should I happen to find a new job. I could just grab the book and GO!
But how did I cope with the ISOLATION?
I began a blog, and an online creative community was forged...
I connected with artful creatives from places as far as England and Australia. I occasionally shared about my office woes and got support and camaraderie and sympathy in return.
Though many bloggers I connected with were located far away, their connection and energy was real, the sympathy was helpful and the support lifted my spirits.
Then one fine day, I got the news the program I worked for was going to be permanently closed...which meant I would no longer be working under the horrible circumstances...and there would be unemployment if I was unable to find another job before the last day of work.
There were only four months between me and FREEDOM!
I Can See Clearly Now
I had an end date! The uncertainty was OVER!
I hinted at the good news on my blog by sharing the song “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash since I couldn't share the final end date publicly until the actual announcement was made...and I had a hand in writing up that announcement, oh the irony!
Through the last months of employment, elements of the isolation continued but I now had an online support network of creative bloggers, which helped.
But I began to wonder how I would cope with the last weeks and days of work. I sensed I would get agitated waiting for that final day, and I needed a way to keep my spirits up during those final weeks.
I hit upon a creative idea…
I would put out a call to my online blog community and ask for some MAIL ART to be sent to the office address, with a firm deadline, to ensure I would receive every single piece of mail before my final day of employment.
As the last weeks and days of my employment unfolded, I received wonderful postcards, and little gifts, much of it I still have to this day.
I was so happy with each piece of mail art that arrived, happy to know that people in my blog community were rallying behind me to pass the ‘finish line’ of that last day at the horrible workplace.
I began to feel groovy again! It wasn’t so hard to go to the office knowing there just might be a surprise waiting for me. There usually was.
I continued to add to my Office Art Book, which also became a record of the awful days of employment. I still have it though it’s been over 10 years since those events occurred.
Here are some things I’ve learned since that awful office job:
- I’ve learned that COMMUNITY can be created anywhere, at any time, even online!
- I’ve learned that CREATIVITY can go a long way toward lifting the spirits, whether YOU are the one being creative or by watching the creativity of others.
- I’ve learned there is always a way to be CONNECTED, whether it’s being connected to a community of kindred spirits or to your own Creative Instincts.
Let me leave you with a favorite quote from one of my favorite characters in the film The Matrix:
The Oracle, played by Gloria Foster:
“We're all here to do what we're all here to do. I'm interested in one thing, Neo, the future. And believe me, I know: the only way to get there is together.”
If you’d like to watch a flip-through video of my Office Art Book... here you go!