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How Losing Everything Can Give You Even More

“The real measure of your wealth is how much you’d be worth if you lost all your money.” ~Unknown

My parents passed down their values which I imagine is the same for a lot of parents who are fighting the good fight for their kids.

They taught me that material possessions weren’t going to make me happy, that I didn’t need to try to “fit in” to be happy, and last but not least, I was beautiful just the way I was.

That was great and it made sense to me until I started interacting with other kids. Particularly with kids who came from wealthy families.  Then it seemed that my parents had lied to me all along.

The messages I was receiving all around me were that I wasn’t pretty enough, that I had to change a lot about myself to be cool, and that I needed to start spending a significant amount of money on clothes.

I can only imagine it pained my parents to see me start to transfer closer and closer to my peer group. In college, I dyed my hair blond, started spending all of my spending money on clothes, and obsessed about what I weighed and who I was seen with.

I wanted to make sure everyone “saw” that I was fitting in.

After college, fitting in became secondary to the goal of proving that no longer was I just like everyone else. I was actually better. I would come home during holidays and cast judgment on my parents who continued to live a modest life, preaching the same values.

How dare they, I thought, try to tell me that the world is anything but a rat race to prove who is the prettiest, smartest, or wealthiest? They had lied to me, I was sure of it.

After college, I landed a status symbol job with a Fortune 100 company on the East coast, a nice apartment, and social circle that told everyone around me I’d made it. It was a life choice far from what my parents could understand.

The slippery slope of my choice is that people kept validating it. My coworkers constantly complimented my job, my apartment, and my clothes. The people in my neighborhood bragged about their high salaried jobs, their investment banker fiancés, and luxury vacations.

But I couldn’t shake the feeling that something seemed wrong. I wasn’t enjoying my time in the upper crust social strata.

My breaking point occurred in my late 20s while I was working late nights and weekends. I had made a promise to myself that I would literally do anything for my job.

This meant that I was willing to forgo looking for a life partner and starting a family, refrain from hobbies that weren’t related to work, and spend less and less time with my parents.

I was willing to become a humorless work robot.

I pushed to get recognition for all the work I’d put into my company, but I did not get the promotion to management that I thought I deserved.

I left the company for a better job and then got fired from that one. It was a wrong fit from the beginning, but I ignored the warning signs. My pride and ego wanted me to succeed and to show everyone at my old company how fantastic my life was after I left.

But fate smacked me upside the head on the day I was let go.

The day I was told I no longer had a job my instant reaction was relief. I wasn’t going to have to get up the next day and go to work at a job that I hated that paid me a lot of money.

Then I panicked.

How would I pay my bills? Who would find out? Was I failure? Would I have to move back with my parents?

I spent one month thinking about where I wanted to go and who I wanted to be. And I was surprised to learn that I really liked myself despite not having a job.

It was a stunning realization to learn that I had wrapped up my identity with work but that I was someone really great when all of that distraction was gone.

Since then my life has gone on a journey of self discovery.  With my newly found free time, I started writing.  It was a hobby that I had ignored for many years.

Writing started a chain reaction of self reflection.  When you write about yourself you tend to focus on issues you may otherwise ignore. I started becoming more honest with myself and in turn others.

Despite my fears that I would end up broke and jobless, I met an industry leader who was bright and sharp. He liked my background and took a chance on me.  He asked me to take a leap of faith for his company and in return he would take a leap of faith on me.

Now I’m working for a boss I admire, with coworkers who support me.  I leave work at a decent hour. I’m taking writing classes and regularly contribute to my blog. I’m mentoring young female writers.

I’ve picked up yoga, stopped drinking as much as I used to, and have been seeking out spiritual guidance.

And as I sat down for dinner tonight I thought about the things that I believe at this stage of my life.

The people I love are beautiful no matter their outward appearance.  Trying to fit in doesn’t really do the soul any good. And material possessions are much less important than we try to make them.

Now I look at my parents lifestyle and am in awe of how truly wealthy they are and how lucky I am for their wisdom.

Photo by Alice Popkorn

Avatar of Jennifer Wright

About Jennifer Wright

Jennifer Wright lives in Los Angeles and writes Wine Will Fix It, a blog about one woman's journey from socialite to yogi.

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  • JFPisa

    Excellent post. Too often people become defined by their jobs, obliviously defined by their jobs. They get so wrapped up in it, thinking that it is the most important thing, that they forget what it’s all about. I too lost my job about a year ago and have since returned to school to start a new career – a career without cubicles, a career that doesn’t revolve around emails. Without a doubt the best thing that ever happened to me. Once the shroud has been lifted you can’t believe that you were that absorbed, that totally off-track. Keep ‘em coming.

  • http://winewillfixit.blogspot.com Jennifer Wright

    Congrats on moving into a career without cubicles or emails! It sounds like everything happened just as it should for you. It’s funny that people don’t believe you when you say getting fired is one of the best things that ever happened to me. But it really its!

  • Sarah

    Jennifer, I loved your post! I am going through a similar experience and lam learning that life is about doing what I like and not about what I own or my relationship status.

  • ADKerley

    One Art by Elizabeth Bishop

    The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
    so many things seem filled with the intent
    to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

    Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
    of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
    The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

    Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
    places, and names, and where it was you meant
    to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

    I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
    next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
    The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

    I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
    some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
    I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

    –Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
    I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
    the art of losing is not too hard to master
    though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

  • http://christainnewyork.com Christa Avampato

    What a wonderful post! Thank you so much for sharing this story. I had a similar journey and realization when a fire broke out in my apartment building about a year and a half ago and I lost everything. It started a journey of self-discovery that is unfolding every day. Despite losing so much, I ended up much richer in spirit and gratitude for having that experience. Cheers!

  • Avinash

    Thank you so much for sharing this, your post made me realize some of the signs which I had been ignoring for long but I knew in the back of my head were important.

  • Anastazia

    WONDERFUL!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you for sharing your story, and bearing your soul …. Such a relief to feel I’m not alone in this sometimes crazy journey. Thank you for putting this out there for all of us. Namaste and many blessings :)

  • http://winewillfixit.blogspot.com Jennifer Wright

    No one is alone in this crazy journey. This has been the biggest benefit of the internet for me – connecting with people who are honest about their own struggles. It makes me feel connected to a whole population I will likely never meet.

  • Anonymous

    Ha, wow! My life went along those lines. I’m currently in that period between jobs, facing myself, and writing. :)

    You woke up to meaning! Congratulations!

  • Anastazia

    What great thoughts ….. I’m just really grateful to you. Thanks for doing this (service) :), and very best wishes.

  • http://winewillfixit.blogspot.com Jennifer Wright

    That’s incredible. I can’t even imagine working through such a loss but sounds like you have gained strength through that experience. What a weird and wonderful world we live in :)

  • http://twitter.com/AlannahRose Alannah Rose

    What a fantastic journey–good for you for realizing that the things you were chasing were not fulfilling. So many people spent their whole lives doing that and never figure out why they’re so unhappy.

    It’s so hard to feel all that pressure for what society says we’re supposed to have. There’s just no way to keep up and still be happy. I enjoy carving my own path through life and finding people who support me and appreciate who I am, no matter what I’m wearing or where I work.

    Great piece–thank you for sharing!

  • Anastazia

    Wow, maybe there should be a club for us gals “between jobs, facing myself, and writing”!! Let’s hear it for being brave enough to take a hard look in the mirror. :)

  • Anonymous

    I was recently laid-off from a place where I got to see people get hired as bright, opinionated and creative people; only to become “whatever the job asks — no opinion otherwise” robots. We used to talk about individuality and freedom, and I didn’t let the job change me while they did. (I never do. I’m never anyone else but me.)

    Our conversations eventually stopped happening because they couldn’t turn their faces from their monitors. They stopped taking breaks, then lunches, just to do more and more work.

    When I tried to make them aware of how they were changing, hurting themselves and becoming their work, they started resenting me. Whatever friendships were building stagnated, and died. On my last day after the lay-off, the depth of our conversation about respective futures couldn’t go past, “can I have your chair?”

    Sad.

  • Maggie Mitchell

    things that make me proud… my totally honest, beautiful and intelligent friends. well done ms wright, well done

  • http://www.veganadvantage.com Sylvia Black

    I loved reading this story. I identify especially with the desire to be prettier, to seek approval based on appearance. It’s hard to get away from that when you’re surrounded by people and by media who are so focused on physical beauty. And when that’s one of the main things people notice and compliment you on, you start to think it’s the most important thing. Sneaky, isn’t it?

  • http://twitter.com/IsaacWyatt Isaac Wyatt

    Tyler said “It isn’t until we’ve lost everything that we are free to do anything” in the movie Fight Club.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=728648028 Charlene Wood

    Thanks for this article. It is very timely for me. This is the first time I’ve been unemployed since high school. That’s almost two decades ago! My initial reaction was relief at having escaped the utter tyranny that was my former manager. And then the grip of absolute panic and anxiety set in as I realized I have two teenage children to support by myself.

    Earlier this week, I had a bit of breakthrough and realized I had prepared for financial difficulties so that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that I had defined myself as a breadwinner and provider. And that encompassed a lot more of my personal identity than I had realized. It wasn’t until it was stripped away did I realize I had set too much importance on it.

    Everyday, I’m looking for good job opportunities and being open to seeing unusual ones or even making opportunities where no one else sees them. I have some much needed time to reconnect with my children, and better my relationship with my friends and boyfriend.

    Now that I can take some deep relaxing breaths and truly look at myself and my life, I realize I love me. My children love me. My friends love me. While it would be nice to have a job where I am happy or feel important, I don’t NEED a job to feel those ways.

  • Ppelayo

    What a great piece! wish all would read and really capture the message. sometimes it’s hard to see outside of what you are living, and when you are wrapped up in acquiring material things, you don’t want to hear talk of how stuff doesn’t bring happiness. But what really fulfills you and your spirit is definitely nothing related to material things.

  • http://winewillfixit.blogspot.com Jennifer Wright

    Agreed! It took me some alarming wake up calls to get there but I’m on the right path now.

  • http://winewillfixit.blogspot.com Jennifer Wright

    “While it would be nice to have a job where I am happy or feel important, I don’t NEED a job to feel those ways.”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself!

  • ariess

    when less means more

  • http://twitter.com/sriniovasan srinivasan sankar

    Congrats Jennifer! and Thanks a lot for sharing the post!

    Good luck!
    Srini

  • http://lifeclearyethazy.wordpress.com/ Lifeclearyethazy

    I’m out of work in 1 week and just totaled my car. This post really helped out

  • http://www.actioncompassion.com Larry L.

    Great story! :)
    I went through something very similar as well although my trials were not the same on the outside as yours…

    I share my story too online and it is amazing how many people can connect this way

    would love to contribute as well if there is ever a chance

    my writing can be found at

    http://www.actioncompassion.com

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi Larry,

    My name’s Lori and I run this site. If you’d like to contribute a post, I would love to read it! You can find the submission guidelines here:

    http://tinybuddha.com/get-featured/

    Have a wonderful afternoon!
    Lori

  • http://alwayswell.wordpress.com Sandra Pawula

    Jennifer,

    What a beautiful story! We each need to go through our own trials and tribulations to find the truth for ourselves. True wealth is within and we have to discover it for our self.

  • Nicole

    That was a wonderful read. Insightful. Much appreciated. Happy I opted to break curfew and take on the read!
    Nicole

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  • dolphinnightmare

    if you dont care about money then please. I just lost all my savings, and about to lose the job within few months. Im pretty sure i t dosent mather what ever youre view of life is, if you dont ha ve money youre stuck. It seems that only way to get thru in this life is either have heaps of luck and good contacts, or you have ability to save youre ars and run over everybody.

  • James T.

    This sounds exactly what I am going thru. I lost my job of 17 years because I thought I was better than I was and I walked away and laughed thinking I could get a job anywhere I wanted. Now its a month later and I cannot find anything. All friends …at least I thought they were my friends turned there back on me. I cannot find even a basic job because I keep getting told I am over qualified for the job. I am penny less and don’t k.ow what is going to happen from here. I am changing my outlook on myself and starting over. It’s hard but….only if I would have looked at myself differently over a mnth ago. Know I have to fix it all by myself. I am looking at it like this…. Sometimes you have to drop to your knees before you are forced.

  • http://www.how-to-be-happy-again.com/ How-To-Be-Happy-Again

    Nice article.  Thank you for sharing.

  • rox*

    I was 25 with two beautiful girls about to start grade school. we just bought a 3,000sq ft home with amazing views, my husband was making a good 6 figure income with a dream job of creating art. I was a stay home mom who shopped and decorated our beautiful life.
    About three years ago my husband lost his job, I’m now 35 and our girls are 13 & 14, we lost our home we lost our cars, we lost our “friends” we haven’t had cable in two years and we had to ride the public bus for a year, we walked a mile to the public library to use the Internet for that year. My kids appreciate now the things they took for granite then and we laugh at how life has changed so much. But we know we are so much stronger than we ever would have known.
    Knowing our marriage and family can live and laugh and keep our sanity during theese times is a true gift from God!
    But now that we know I’d like to have it back now!!!!?? ;) Please God restore us!!

  • Sumisu

    I just recently lost my job, I was fired for a job that didn’t fit and ignored the warning signs too. I was there for a year and a half, and I feel that I have finally woken up for the first time in a year and a half. I want to move and start my life in another state, and of course I am meeting resistance from my family. We all live in the same town, I am the only one besides my mother’s brother that left the state. I feel torn – I want to do what my mother wants me to do (which I know is go home) and then I want to take unemployment and start a new adventure.

    Needless to say I am still confused, but this has helped a bit, thank you for writing it. I am a writer myself, have been for almost 15 years – and I realize how much my former job took that away from me. I was so depressed walking in every day feeling stupid and worthless. I didn’t realize how much I was doing well and also how much apparently got screwed up. I was stuck in a void. I don’t know, I feel optimistic about moving somewhere new and starting over. Normally I would be terrified, and honestly the only thing that has made me feel somewhat terrified is my mother saying it’s a mistake over and over.

    I guess I feel like this is a chance to really succeed and figure out things on my own. I just don’t want anyone taking that away from me anymore.

  • ANONYMOUS

    Very Nice story but I consider you lucky with your turn of events.
    I am 42 and I really cannot see the light anymore. Had it all until my 37th and decided to move with my wife who later on became my Ex. Five years now and I experienced 2x unemployment (still am) lost my fortune and realized that 99.9% of people only know you when you are up. I don’t know if I make it to the next day and even if I do, what does it have installed for me. Shame

  • Lost in the D

    Well unlike most I too lost my job, then the eviction, my car was repo, the lights were turned off, soon the gas will be too. I am lost with no where to go and with 3 kids and a grandchild. What do I do now, I have nothing or anyone.

  • tyrun

    U right

  • Dinesh Babu

    I think this is a better fate we give ourselves. I think this makes our fate turn into free will. I have been the same. I wanted to be so many things. I wanted to be a filmmaker, writer. And then I took to writing as a part time job, then I had a start up going.

    I struggled for two years to steady the business though I hardly wanted to do it. Last year, I found the going good. I had earned pretty well through my Australian client and a client here. This year all seemed to go downhill. At 26, I think I am more matured and hence I could take everything in my stride. It was so easy.

    I have been into a lot of spirituality since recent times and that cushioned me before it all happened. Now, I feel I am a lot more than I was. I, sometimes, don’t even enough to eat but that’s not worrying me anymore. It’s never a crisis. It never was and it never will be.

    In our culture, we get to ask the other at home, if they want something to eat or if they had something. (I think so it is with other cultures.) Now, my wife, mum-in-law or whoever is at the helm is not asking me. I don’t care. I tell my wife, “Look, if you don’t want to ask me or if you don’t want to serve me food at the right time, I am fine with that. I can go ahead on my own. I really have no problems.”

    But to her, that too becomes a problem. She wants me in her control. She doesn’t let me go out even to eat. She does (or makes) something for that moment and the next time the same happens. Sometimes, she tells me to leave the house or get lost.

    I somehow don’t bother. I don’t get angry for what she does. To me, it feels inappropriate that I leave at the moment. I just want the decision to be right. I know it’s transient. Even if I feel some anguish, which happens, when I am extremely hungry, doesn’t feel to me from inside. It’s a feeling “on the surface”.

    So I am not getting enough attention from loved ones or those concerned but I am kind of invincible in my personality. Your story adds to my feeling of strength and spirituality as what is right for me. I am searching for what my soul says. I am looking in. Maybe, it wants me in something different which I truly liked. I am letting life take me where it wants me. I am no more grappling with life.

    I know I am not giving up. I am just happier and the sense of well being never recedes. I know and I can see the horizons or beyond. I know what I am doing. I know I can wait. I know everything is fine and that something good is coming to me all the time. I was the one who stopped it on its way. Now, I am allowing it. It will find me. I am welcoming it.

    Thanks for the wonderful article. I feel energized again! Thanks a lot!

  • Zkazama

    I read this expecting you’ve suffered some sort of loss…you didn’t. You had a period where you didn’t have a job while most likely having money saved up to coast on. Lose everything? Fired, evicted, alienated by friends and family, sleeping out of a car for months with no formal education. That’s getting closer to losing everything. You just didn’t have a job for a few weeks and still was able to keep all your toys.

  • MonicaR

    This is very inspirational. I recently went through a similar situation where I was so miserable at work it lead to me being fired. People could smell my misery a mile away. To top it off I had a stalker at work. That was the icing on the cake! So inspiring to see another strong woman go through this and create an even better life for herself!

  • MonicaR

    Oh come on you don’t have to be homeless to have lost everything! Don’t make this woman’s loss and pain anything less that what it was.. A substantial loss!!! Just because u have gone through worse * Play the violins . Everyone has different lifestyles. She may have had a higher status than you in life. Everyone’s loss is different depending on your place in life but the pain is the same . Her job loss was the equivalent of you going homeless you were just more poor than her and had a poor social life. The pain and loss was the same to her as yours was to you!

  • Zkazama

    Are you one of those people that skipped directly to comments without reading the article? She lost her job FOR A SHORT TIME, then got one she liked better. No lapse in lifestyle, or loss of anything. “I had an awesome life then I got fired, lost it, went into zen mode, got a better job.” I agree that everyone has different scales of loss, etc. but this title is misleading.” How losing EVERYTHING…”

    There’s no loss here, and it doesn’t help or inspire people who have actually lost more than just a short time between jobs with no dip in lifestyle.

  • Jasmin

    very true pain is pain, loss is loss.

  • Cici

    Idk but I been going thru it. I had my daughter, a single mother. I had to give up my job, my schooling due to financial situations and having my daughter 24/7. Thank God I have an awesome landlord. I never focused too much on paying my bills. I mean I pay them when I can but I dont stress much about them. Its bizaare because it was hard to go from the life I was living to being at home and barely making it. I began blogging a niche I recently took up and I taught myself to crochet, but its definitely not where I want things to be. I have reflected on my self, questioned what I did so bad that I have suffered for about a year now. I see the growth in myself but really the only thing that keeps me going is that I cannot go backwards. Idk, I hope this turns around. I mean I really do.

  • bh

    Try actually losing everything. In a two year period I lost my Dad to an illness, two grandparents died, Got laid off, lost my home, lost my car. The person I was madly in love with left me . . . Now, at 50, I can’t get hired anyplace, I feel bad, health deteriorating and I am just damned hurt and humiliated. Now what? Give me a platitude to smooth this mess over. Maybe I am just done here.