In 2006, I worked as a business journalist and did fun things like flying around the world to interview executives and reporting about what really rich people do with their money. I had a 9-to-5 job and an awesome salary. Three years later, the financial crisis hit and I, along with thousands of other people, was out of a job. So, for the first few days of my unemployment, I did what any other right-minded woman would do: I went to all of the sample sales that were happening during the daytime in New York and bought a lot of shoes. Eventually, my dwindling bank account forced me to open up my laptop and scour the Internet for jobs.
There’s no activity more disheartening than searching for jobs. Except watching an episode of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” while you’re out of a job, which I did, and it sucked. I applied for 23 jobs, and after each rejection, I spiraled down a path of self-doubt, uncertainty and depression. I had no direction in life. I felt like I was underwater, and I didn’t know which way was up.
In my misery, I started to try new things. I learned how to cook. I took up tango dancing. I read Harry Potter in Spanish. I bought a harmonica so I could sing away my blues.
I dared to try all of these things that I never had the courage to do before. But my biggest dare by far was to abandon the job search and apply to art school, to a program called ITP. Never in a million years did I think I would apply to art school. But the next two years were the most fun, the most challenging and the most rewarding times of my life. I learned how to program phone apps, make robots, create art and do things that I never thought I was capable of doing.
When I lost my job, I was poor, eating cliff bars for meals and collecting free samples of eye cream from Sephora. Today, I am still poor, eating cliff bars for meals and collecting free samples of eye cream from Sephora. What’s different, however, is my preconceived notion of my career path and who I am. Hitting rock bottom was the catalyst for me to reinvent myself and try things I never thought I could do. Like, I used to want to be a journalist. Now, I want to be a NBA basketball player. ;p
So, we will all undoubtedly hit many setbacks in our life. But embrace them because it’s a good kick-in-the-pants to try something new. Your “failures” could turn out to be the best experiences of your life.
Anh Q. Ly
New York, NY