What do you do? You stay home and try to enjoy the freedom, thinking of it as well-deserved vacations and that you’ll soon figure things out.
Time passes and you’re still forced to stay home. Bureaucratic procedures are slow and jobs are scarce. You freak out. You get bored to tears. You think you’ll go crazy. You’re afraid people think you’re a lazy loser.
Don’t despair! Sometimes the situation is out of our control and the best we can do is to stay positive and keep things in perspective.
I’ve been back in Belgium for a year now and my visa request is still pending. I haven’t found work due to poor language skills (French and Dutch) and being a non-native English speaker (which apparently is a deal breaker for private language schools, even though I have a degree and years of classroom experience).
If you’re independent and accustomed to taking care of yourself, this will be a challenge. However, it might also be a great opportunity to reflect and learn.
Sure I am blessed by having people supporting me financially and emotionally. I couldn’t have thrived for a year without them. And I didn’t get comfortable – I still look for jobs regularly and could finally start a Dutch intensive course.
Here is what kept me going this year:
Separate your worth from work
Since I was in University and got my first job I have always taken care of myself. So this year I have been struggling with something new: being supported by my boyfriend and his family.
I feel uncomfortable sometimes, like this is an unconceivable and unacceptable situation for me – a girl who has been independent and living abroad for years. I took a lot of pride in working, supporting myself and going after my dreams but suddenly I had no control over my situation and became somewhat unemployable (not fluent in Dutch or French and not a native English speaker).
I am sure I will overcome this situation by studying and improving my skills and also by exploring options and opportunities.
But this year was the longest I spent “doing nothing” and I can clearly see how it has impacted my confidence and sense of self-worth. Not having a job made me feel like a burden and sometimes useless. I felt bad when people asked what I did and was afraid of what they might think of me.
I felt frustrated about not making my own money and therefore not doing whatever I wanted with it – mostly travelling.
I felt like I had to have a routine, tasks, results, productivity and displays of success (an income).
I understood the way we are taught that what you do is a big part of who you are, but not before I obsessed about who I really am, since I didn’t have a job.
I know a lot of people and in the middle of my crisis I realized that I have no clue what many of them do for a living. The best realization though, was that I doesn’t matter what they do - they are who they are.
The lesson I am slowly learning is that my worth as a person is not tied to my job/career/income. Although I do want to (must) find a job that will help us build our life as a couple and eventually do work that I truly love and motivates me to get out of bed every morning.
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