When I graduated college, I was on top of the world. 8 months later, I got fired.

When my boss fired me, I said "Yup, that makes sense," and gathered up my things to go.

He didn’t mince words and neither did I — we wished each other well and that was that. I had been eating tortilla chips at my desk before he called me into his office, and the thing I remember most was my face flushing at how loud the bag crinkled as my coworkers watched me pack my things.

My firing didn’t come as a surprise to anyone. My team and I had struggled for months, and it was obviously due to my inexperience and subsequent unhappiness working in an environment fraught with stress. In fact, I’d already interviewed for a few different positions and was planning to leave the company soon.


Taken in that context, the dismissal itself shouldn’t have been much of a blow. If anything, this is a blessing! I told myself as I took the elevator to the ground floor, thinking of the severance pay and unemployment benefits that I would receive. I feel liberated. And then I stepped out onto the street in the Financial District of New York and immediately, uncontrollably, started to cry.

This isn’t a thinkpiece on millennials, but I’d be remiss if I failed to acknowledge that I am one.

I like selfies and Instagram and I have at some point in my life received a participation ribbon for something. More importantly, like most of my (white, middle-class) peers, I was raised to believe that there was nothing I couldn’t accomplish if I worked for it. You may know that this is not true. I, until recently, did not.

I’ve never felt entitled to success, but I misguidedly learned that my work was. I got just about everything I worked for in college  —  good grades, competitive internships, a job offer before graduation  —  but only because I was busting my ass to get them. I had a resume out the door, as did many of my bright and successful peers. Many of us seemed to land the trifecta of expectations (Job! Benefits! Apartment!) pretty quickly. It seemed like all of those you-can-do-it-isms were true. And then a whole bunch of us got fired.

If you’re planning on raising a kid, I highly recommend not letting them get to 22 without experiencing at least one real, crushing failure in their life.

It knocks you for a loop. I interpreted my firing as a sign of some immense personal flaw, something of which to be deeply ashamed, a mark of my incapability as a worker and as a person.

The reality was much less dramatic: I just wasn’t the right person for the job. I’d been hired to replace a woman with an MBA and 10 years of job-specific experience at a fast-paced corporate marketing agency. I, on the other hand, was a liberal arts undergrad and aspiring writer whose foremost strength lay in using my personality to make up for what I lacked in managerial skill. I thought I could do any job if I tried hard enough. But there are just some jobs for which you need more than a good work ethic, and I learned that the hard way.

Looking back, I wish someone had taught me how instructive failure could be in figuring out where I was headed. Rather than fear-mongering me about the job market, I wish someone had told me that periods of unemployment are to be expected, no matter how hard-working you may be. I wish I’d known that, if done right, joblessness can be something that I use to my advantage.

Being unemployed taught me how to function as an individual instead of an employee or a student for the first time in my life.

I got to see what a week might look like without a boss or professor’s expectations shaping my schedule. I gave myself the flexibility to work during hours that I felt productive and to take breaks when I hit a slump. And most importantly, I proved to myself that I had planned well enough to live comfortably for a period of time on a deficit budget, which meant that I didn’t need to pressure myself into taking a job that made me unhappy for fear of being unable to pay the bills.

The whole experience gave me confidence in my own capability, allowed me the opportunity to recalibrate my early career with a clear perspective, and helped me redefine success in the context of my own happiness instead of someone else’s.

What I ended up learning while I was unemployed is that I'm not cut out for office life, and that there are other options.

I liked living on my own schedule so much that I decided to find a job that would let me keep doing just that, which is why I'm now a full-time freelance writer and marketing consultant. I manage my own workflow and determine my own location, which is why I’m currently writing this from the southern coast of Spain. If I work 40 hours for 50 weeks like a regular employee, I’ll actually make more money this year than I was making at my old job. But the best thing about my work is I also get to toggle my hours up or down according to whether I need more money or more time to live my life.

All that came from being granted a period in which I had absolute freedom to explore what I really wanted and was capable of. But I never would have leapt into the abyss of full-time self-employment if I hadn’t been pushed.

So that’s the answer, friends: If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Or try something else. Or take some time for yourself. Falling short of success is a part of life at every stage, even the times when you feel young and fresh and promising. So you failed  —  get up. In most cases, the likelihood is that you have everything you need to pull through it just fine. And once you do, you’ll be that much stronger for it in the end. I certainly am.

This story was originally published on Medium in 2016 and is reprinted here with permission.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
True

Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

Keep Reading Show less

In the hours before he was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, then-President-elect Biden was sent a letter signed by 17 freshmen GOP members of the House of Representatives.

In sharp contrast to the 121 Republican House members who voted against the certification of Biden's electoral votes—a constitutional procedure merely check-marking the state certifications that had already taken place—this letter expresses a desire to "rise above the partisan fray" and work together with Biden as he takes over the presidency.

The letter reads:

Dear President-elect Biden,

Congratulations on the beginning of your administration and presidency. As members of this freshman class, we trust that the next four years will present your administration and the 117thCongress with numerous challenges and successes, and we are hopeful that – despite our ideological differences – we may work together on behalf of the American people we are each so fortunate to serve.

After two impeachments, lengthy inter-branch investigations, and, most recently, the horrific attack on our nation's capital, it is clear that the partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans does not serve a single American.

Keep Reading Show less
True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.