To rock bottom and up

Did you ever have an idiosyncrasy as a child? I did this rather ridiculous thing as a child, where I saved the best for the last. It started off by saving the best bite of food for the end. Slowly, that habit bled into other parts of my life. For example, if someone gave me a candy, I wouldn’t eat it right away. I’d save it until I really needed it – I would wait for the right moment so that I could maximise value. A pick-me-up, you could say.

Somehow, that habit stuck with me through my childhood and into my adult years, except now I “save” different types of things, I’ve levelled up. Some of the things that I’ve “banked up” are: certain feel-good books or TV shows, a vacation, a hair transformation, pottery classes, a visit home, and lazy days (to name a few). I’ve been saving these items on my list for when I truly needed to redeem them – on really bad days. Naturally, each item on the list had a different emotional value, almost like a coupon. The item I redeemed had to correspond with how much I needed it. For example, when I had my heart broken years ago, and (albeit basic) I redeemed my “hair transformation” coupon, just like every other teenage girl. The books and TV shows were lower value, for hard days, but the vacation, on the other hand, was probably of the highest value and saved for rock bottom.

Anyway, the reason I’ve yapped on about my little system is because I found myself using up all the coupons I possibly could this past year. When I say it was a hard year, I truly mean it. Hard enough that I can only really describe it in terms of this coupon metric.

I started a shiny new job in January 2020, only to be laid off three months later like millions of people in the world. The lockdown, which started off as a fun, temporary homebound adventure, soon became a solitary nightmare. To make things worse, I was separated from my family and close friends by time zones, thousands of kilometres and an international travel ban.

The next six months felt like a rollercoaster of emotions. Everything seemed new and alien, yet every day felt the same. It was like being in the Jake Gyllenhaal movie Source Code, where he was stuck in a time loop, except “saving the world” looked very different for us. He had to defuse a bomb in 7 minutes, and I had to wear a mask and stay home. Over that period, I redeemed all my banked up TV shows, books and lazy days. I even went to the extent of dying my hair burgundy (yikes).

After sending out over 200 job applications and hearing back from merely a handful, I hit rock bottom, with my self-esteem and mental health at an all time low. I was hopeless, haggard and homesick. That’s when I decided to redeem the biggest coupon of them all, one I’d been saving for two years: a visit home. Despite the risk of not being able to enter Canada again, I decided to be with my family and take time to find myself again.

April 1 marks one year of unemployment for me. Although things haven’t gotten much easier, I’ve definitely gotten better at dealing with them. I am grateful for all the growth and learning, even though it came at the hefty price of all those coupons. It was worth it.

It’s April now, I look around and the cherry blossoms are blooming once again. Spring comes with renewed hope. The great thing about hitting rock bottom is that there’s only one way left to go, and it’s Up!