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What’s Worse, Job Loss or Relationship Loss?

In 2008, I went through the most dramatic breakup I ever experienced. Long time readers are very familiar with my ex who lived with me for about a year. I’ve told stories on this blog of our tumultuous time together. As with most relationships, there were good times and bad times, but in the end, I grew frustrated with the bad times, acted out, and she moved out and broke up with me accordingly. The breakup wasn’t anything compared to the aftermath, the struggle of getting over what happened and moving on. If I had to guess how long it took, I would say 2.5 years is about right.

In 2009, I was an editor at VIBE. I loved everything about my job from my coworkers to my responsibilities, but all of it came to an end at a moment’s notice on a random day in June. That’s when I, along with the staff, were told VIBE would be closing. As most know, VIBE is back up and running, but I never went back to the company in a full time capacity. Instead, I attempted to establish myself as a freelancer while also finding some temporary stints of employment for various media companies, the most recent of which was last year at The Huffington Post.

When I talk about my brief time at my last job, it is kind of like talking about the breakup with my ex. Except, unlike the breakup with her, which I saw coming, I never saw the lay off coming from The Huffington Post.

When I got the job, it was something like a dream come true and to this day, when I speak about my interview with Arianna Huffington herself, it sounds like I’m speaking of a dream. The interview went well, I was hired on the spot, but six weeks later, the editor who oversaw me and my work decided to let me go. I don’t have a problem revealing this, because it’s neither the point of this post nor anything I should be embarrassed about. When you’re hired as a writer and the editor who oversees your work doesn’t like what they see, for reasons entirely they’re own, you just might be shown the door. That’s what happened to me, or at least, that’s what I’ve always understood happened to me. The real reason, if there ever was one, was never explicitly explained.

But still, it hurt; it hurt a lot. The reason I compare it to the feeling of the breakup with my ex is because it was the last time I felt a similar type of pain. I was sad, confused, and embarrassed. But it wasn’t the feelings that were similar so much as how the feelings were affecting me.

In the initial weeks and months after I broke up with my ex, there were many sleepless nights spent thinking about her and what I lost. I remember going to bed upset because I knew I was going to wake up two or three hours later with thoughts of her. There was also a time, I can now recall clearly, where I thought I was over her, finally opening myself up to other women until I slept in a new woman’s bed and awake from dreams of my ex.

None of this made me sad so much as it frustrated me. My dreams revealed a hard truth I didn’t want to admit during waking hours: I was still not over my ex. Even as I was actively dating various women, some of whom cared about me a great deal and I, them, it was still not enough. I knew a lot of that had to do with the fact that all the while or for a great deal of time, we agreed not to speak under any condition. The only time she broke that code was to tell me she was pregnant, which she did because she didn’t want me to find out by running into her coincidentally.

By the time I landed at The Huffington Post, I felt my personal life was reaching some sort of home stretch. No longer was I thinking about my ex or dreaming about her. I was dating with a clear head and a clear heart. My dream job was in one hand, my other hand, open, willing to hold another’s. Things were great until that day I was blindsided and told I was being let go.

Once again I was back to sleepless nights, I was back to this valley of anxiety where my deepest worries dwelled. I was accustomed to losing a job before The Huffington Post, just like I was accustomed to a breakup before I broke up with my ex. But in both instances, this familiar happening in my life felt unfamiliar, they both felt different and far more significant than any similar incidents that came before them.

Having experienced both a dramatic professional loss as well as a dramatic personal loss, I have thought for months, what is worse or harder to overcome? I know these two losses may seem drastically different to someone who has never experienced both or never experienced one or the other, but I have and I can confidently say, they are very similar, especially if the person who broke up with you was someone you loved and the job that let you go was a job that you loved.

But still, which loss fees greater? It’s a question I’ve asked myself largely because I’ve noticed the similar ways in which people discuss both losses. I’ve had friends lose jobs or try to get jobs, I’ve had friends of mine lose relationships or try to get into relationships. The characters and the contexts of the losses are different, but the sound of their frustrations with either or have a similar tone.

They sound scared.

I know, because when both losses happened to me, I was scared, scared they signified a permanent state.

People talk about how things are going to turn around, but the fact is that’s not a fact. We just have to believe they will, which is hard to do on a daily basis. Yes there are good days, a great job interview here, a great date there, even those become less hopeful than they once were because we’ve seen these things pan out in ways that hurt us.

But if I had to choose one through which to suffer, give me relationship loss over job loss any day. The sleepless nights of a broken heart hurt, but my broken pride, I don’t even know how to explain it other than to say, I would not wish the anxiety of joblessness on anyone. Even if you find a way to find some self-employment, it’s nowhere near as satisfying as, say, self-enjoyment if you get my drift.

Meanwhile, there are people who have talked to me about longing for a significant other in their life. As patient as I am with all of those who vent to me their frustrations with a lack of a relationship, as someone who has not had a steady job for an extended amount of time since 2009, I can honestly say, don’t sweat the small stuff. If you have a job and no man or woman, trust me, you’re way better off than the person with a man or woman and no job because even when they’re with someone, they themselves feel incomplete.

This is not to say having a job gives us no right to fret over not having a special someone, but let’s think about this honestly here. Even when we’re ready for a relationship, we’re still being picky about with whom we get into that relationship. But when we want a job, people we don’t know are being picky about us.

I know it’s not a sensitive thing to tell a person who gets dumped or loses a relationship that at least they have a job they love but how’s the old saying go? It’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. The new saying should be, It’s better to have loved and lost with a job than to have loved with no job at all.

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  • Be

    At least when you lose a job you can throw yourself into work; that doesn’t really work the other way around. 

  • Be

     *Lose a relationship…throw yourself into work.

  • MDA

    “It’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.”*opens up iTunes and bumps Whodini’s ‘One Love'”

  • Kaybyer

    Good post. I agree with the commenter above. After a devastating relationship loss you can immerse yourself in your work. But immersing yourself in a relationship after a job loss is probably not going to be a healthy thing for you or your partner. I can also relate in that I haven’t had a steady, full-time, office job since 2008. I’ve been doing all types of side gigs, project work, consulting gigs, blah, you-name-it-I’ve-done-it, blah. Been doing OK but it’s a constant grind. So, good luck to you sir.

  • cancergirl08

    What a brave thing to share. So glad you did. Being a writer is one of the most subjective, competitive and difficult jobs in the world. But you’re a survivor. And this too shall pass………………….

  • Ebony Simpson

    Its basically good ole Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, security and stability then love and connectedness, You can’t f*ck on an empty stomach.

  • JustWondering

    Amazing post
    and personally I haven’t exactly had my dream job yet to lose it, though objectively
    the similarities in losing two pivotal parts now seems blatant.

    I wonder
    though whether a loose and I admit crude distinction can be made based on
    gender. Firstly, I want to apologise for the wide and slightly unforgivable
    stereotypical comments I am about to make, I do not assume to know the way  man’s mind works and all comments are based
    on personal experience and observations and only 21 years of life experience.
    Secondly, I apologise for the essay of a comment I am making. Please try to
    look beyond these to the question I am asking.

    You used the phrase
    ‘broken pride’ and from observations, a man’s pride when hurt is not easily
    healed, in fact arguably it is not healed until something is restored
    externally, for example if not the restoration of the dream job, an achievement
    of another dream job.  For women I would argue
    that our pride when hurt is less painful, we can continue on a daily basis and
    we can even heal without an external change, but even an internal change
    whether mental, emotional or psychological whichever takes your fancy.

    Could it be
    argued that based on the differing impact of a broken pride on a man and a
    women’s life that generally for the males the loss of a dream job is worse,
    while for us females generally a relationship loss is worse? Or is it beyond
    gender and more based on the individual?