“Bouncing Back after My Plans for the Future Unexpectedly Changed,” Ensign, July 2020
At the start of January, all signs were pointing that this was going to be my year. While on a trip back home for the holidays, I conscientiously wrote down my goals and resolutions with an optimism that created even more excitement for the coming year.
Then, three days after returning back to work, my boss asked me to come into his office and fired me without warning.
In one short, simple conversation, my future no longer felt very bright. In shocking moments like that, it’s hard to find words to describe the chest-tightening fear of facing an uncertain future. In a group text with my parents and a brother whom I had just had lunch with that same day to celebrate his first day at a new job, I simply wrote, “Well, in other news, I was just fired.”
I was devastated.
In the days that followed, I felt the eyes of my family and friends and roommates focused on me as I did my best to be strong and appear hopeful. I applied for job openings both near and far, trying to keep an open mind to what Heavenly Father would ultimately want me to do. I looked for the lesson He wanted to teach me during this time. I expected to bounce back quickly, but panic settled in as job opportunity after job opportunity fell through for me.
As a 27-year-old single woman, much of my self-worth and identity had centered on the success of my career. With that loss, I felt defeated, frustrated, and broken. Some days it took every ounce of strength just to get out of bed. Other days I looked in the mirror and accusatorially asked my reflection, What is wrong with you?
Activities that used to delight me no longer brought joy to my life. I started closing myself off from people, even though I was usually outgoing. I retreated inward where I felt safe from the unpredictability of life. I avoided others in an effort to save myself (and everyone else) from the growing despair and disappointment I saw in myself. I was afraid they saw it, too.
I felt myself unraveling throughout those three months and longed for refuge from my storm. I craved peace and understanding and strength to keep me going every day. Despite my difficult trial, I was determined more than ever to hold on to my relationship with Heavenly Father. If I couldn’t have the things in life I so desperately longed for, I knew that at the very least my connection with Him could be not only maintained but greatly strengthened. And I learned so much in connecting with Him.
During this difficult time of life, my repetitive and lazy prayers turned into genuine conversations with God as I poured my heart out night and day in search of comfort and direction in my life. The temple changed from something I had always squeezed into my plans to a place I always wanted to be because I’m less likely to feel the never-ending, biting thoughts of the adversary inside.
I did my best to stop thinking as much about myself and looked for ways to serve those around me. I would take food to a friend during her lunch breaks. I visited the sick in the hospital. I spent quality time with my beautiful grandma. I gave rides to a struggling sister in my ward. These experiences, along with others, were unique opportunities I never would have had if I had been employed full-time.
But above all, the people who were important to me, who loved me, never left me. Despite how low I felt, they never stopped loving me or seeing great worth in me, even when I believed I had failed. It still brings me to tears knowing that many of them prayed every single day for my success. I had people cheering me on in ways I never realized.
My experience isn’t unique. Others have also faced the unexpected. They have lost a job, or a home, or worse. Navigating through these trials, especially as a single adult like me, can be a frustrating and lonely experience. It can be easy to feel hopeless and alone, especially when it seems like everyone is succeeding in life but you. However, the lessons I’ve learned tell me that we need not feel this way.
When talking about the unpredictable journey of mortality, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “There are many bends in this road. There are hills, valleys, and detours. There may even be metaphorical spiders, trolls, and even a dragon or two. But if you stay on the path and trust in God, you will eventually find the way to your glorious destiny and back to your heavenly home.”1
No matter how our plans for the future may change or how many uncertainties we will have to face, we can take comfort in knowing that Heavenly Father loves us and that He has a plan and purpose for everything we face in life. His hand is forever outstretched to give us courage and lead the way (see Doctrine and Covenants 136:22). We need only reach out and take it.