Re-Routing: Using Lockdown To Reassess

Direction. It’s something I’ve always needed in order to feel positive and enthusiastic about my work and my life. Whether it was knowing when the next exams were, or imagining moving to London and getting my dream job, I always needed a plan.

You can imagine then, the confusion and pure fear that erupted two weeks into lockdown. I was fired from my job, having spent the last two years in sales and business development. With teary goodbyes, I knew that it was the economic circumstances that had led to such an abrupt end, but I still couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d failed. ‘Fired’ is such a final word, with so many deep-rooted connotations. My Mum sweetly changed it to ‘let go’, but inside that didn’t feel much better.

I wallowed, hoping that if I let myself have this time then I would miraculously work something out when the week was over. Of course, I didn’t, but instead combined my wallowing with job applications, hundreds of them. I wrote paragraphs and paragraphs on my ‘skills’ and my offerings, only to feel chipped and cracked by every automated rejection email. This was the same for thousands of people across the UK, and the rest of the world. Whether fired, furloughed or working on the frontline, everyone suddenly feared for the future, unsure what the world would look like in a year's time.

Whether fired, furloughed or working on the frontline, everyone suddenly feared for the future

After all, this is a global crisis and I began to actually believe that there was nothing that could have been done to change things. I guess I finally accepted that the world had changed, so I would have to change too. My plans were no longer set in stone; not many others’ were either. Things were crumbling, and once I was set up with Universal Credit and the near future was secure, I tried to come up with a game plan. All of the jobs I’d applied to in London pre-lockdown had been withdrawn until further notice. It seemed my career in publishing was on indefinite hold. Instead, I began discussing how best to use this year. The job market was unlikely to recover in the next twelve months, so what was the most effective use of my time?

I was re-watching Gilmore Girls (my go-to comfort show), when I had my moment of clarity. It was the episode where Rory graduates High School, and all of her options are wide open. She’s standing on the grand staircase, reflecting on all of her hard work and everything she learned there. It got me thinking about education, and how fulfilling I find it. Fans of the show may also know that Rory was a writer on her school paper, and accepts a place at Yale as a journalism major.

The job market was unlikely to recover in the next twelve months, so what was the most effective use of my time?

I began to think about journalism - newspapers and magazines had been a part of my life since I was fifteen. I always thought that by creating stories, interviews and designing layouts, I was helping prepare myself for a career in publishing. But, why had I never even considered a career in journalism itself? While books hold a very dear place in my heart, the process of writing features, editing, design and general story hunting is thrilling to me and oh-so-satisfying. My job in sales was even selling PR software - I’d been hooked on the news for the last two years. I was the Features Editor for my university publication and have continued to write freelance and blog alongside whatever job I’m doing. It felt as though this whole other path was staring at me, having revealed itself. Almost like the scene in Labyrinth, when the little worm helps Sarah to find openings hidden in plain sight, declaring “you just ain’t looking right.”

After looking at my options and speaking to a few friends and journalists in the industry, I applied for three MAs in London. City, University of London invited me for an interview a couple of days after and I was offered a place on my dream course. Two weeks after watching Rory graduate, I was on a whole new path of my own, excited for the year ahead and feeling more switched on than I had for a long time. It took me realising that there’s no ‘right’ path, no ‘right’ time or age, and no ‘right’ place - it’s just whatever is right for you. I never thought I’d go back to school, and if you asked me at sixteen what I thought I’d be doing at twenty-three, I’m sure the answer would have been some swish job in the city. But, it’s not what I want anymore, I’ve changed, circumstances have definitely changed and I’m happier about where I’m going.

Our options are open, even when it doesn’t feel like it

The need to map out my entire life has gone, and I truly believe that now is a great time to reexamine your map. Take it out, dust it off and look at it from all angles. Does it fit the person you want to be in a year, five years, ten years from now? If not, use this time to rewrite it and most importantly, don’t be afraid to leave parts blank. It’s a weird time, and all you need to focus on is the now. For me, education is the best use of my time, learning valuable skills and insights into an industry I am so excited about becoming part of. For others, it may be moving home and starting a small business, or learning a new skill. Getting temporary work and saving for when you can travel again, or volunteering in a sector that you’re passionate about. Your options are open, even when it doesn’t feel like it - it just takes some adjustments. Our future is bright, because if anything, this crisis has taught us how to persevere and hone in on who we are.