Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Losing My Job: Stress, Coping, and How I'm Moving Forward

On December 1st, 2014, I lost my job as an Assistant Designer in a division at the mass market Children's Wear company I worked for here in NYC. I won't name it here specifically for professional reasons, though those of you know know me personally know where I formerly used to work, and honestly it doesn't matter. The lay off, was due to a full on company restructure that will change the face of the company. My department was eliminated quickly and swiftly seemingly as if we never existed. Initially it was devastating. It was right after Thanksgiving holiday weekend, and I was hoping to start fresh and new and complete our soon to be due season line. It happened in the morning, and one by one everyone in my department was gone. We packed up our desks and had to just go.



I said my goodbyes. I held in the tears. I promised everyone I would be strong and move on with my dignity intact. I felt hurt, because I dedicated so much of my time and effort into being the best employee under the sun; often putting in extra hours to clean and organize our fabrics and trims (something that was IMPOSSIBLE to do during working hours), and to complete CAD projects (design projects done in Adobe Illustrator for our Sales Team) before the next day so I wouldn't be annoyed by everyones constant demands.

I was in fact, one of the best, and my superiors weren't shy in saying that. The company president was sad to see me go, and I bet if she could have had a real say in the matter, we would have stayed, but she is obligated by her superiors to "trim the fat" and eliminate who they say should be. I thank her sincerely for writing me that shining recommendation she did for whichever company takes me up next.

Once I left, that whole week I sort of spiraled into a minor depressed state. I was uncertain about the future. But on the other hand I was happy I was let go because...

I really didn't like working there as much as I tried to convince myself that I did.

I loved my co-workers. I loved what I did, helping to (and sometimes fully) design dresses and legging sets for babies and little girls. I was looking forward to designing for the Holiday season, which was the next season coming. I had dozens of new ideas and we had so many pretty fabrics to work with. I always tried to focus on the positive...

But the bad was what it was...bad.

I had a lot of issues with the Sales Team. I always felt as though many (not all but many) did not value the designers as much as they should. Often times they couldn't tell which designer in the company designed what garments. They often nitpicked at designs and tried to change them without full knowledge of the concepts or ideas behind them. They gave our design teams so many headaches. Personalities always clashed, often needlessly. There were the neurotic, sometimes, condescending towards their inferiors. The rampant disorganization that would follow the most minor misunderstandings.

I always made it a point to be extremely organized with everything I did in that company, but I often felt like it was not reciprocated by some others. And at the end of the day, it was the design team that was at fault for any and all mistakes made. I also felt as though I was unimportant to some of the sales team VP's, like because I was an assistant, I was incompetent and naive. These are the personality issues I mainly struggled with. It was obvious in the way they spoke to me in condescending tones, instructed me on things I already fully understood, or the way a few of them often unacknowledged my existence (or picked and chose when I existed, usually when they needed something.)

It infuriated me to no end.

It also didn't help that I was one of the youngest full time employees. For the longest, everyone thought I was just an intern, thus the unwarranted disrespect. They didn't fully understand my high level of responsibility and position.

These issues often caused stress within myself and my own team members. These issues also caused an emotional domino effect which then tricked down into everyone else on the team. It was stressful and unfair to all of us. I didn't want to blame anyone else but those above us for causing our collective upset. I swear it made all of us sort of bi-polar. One minute things would be alright, laughing, joking, fun, the next? Anger, frustration, explosions of negative emotions. I never knew what to expect and it caused me to be on edge every single day.

It made me extremely sad because I didn't want to hate anyone I worked with.

I know in a professional environment, no matter where you are, no matter what you do as a profession, things like this are always going to happen, but at the same time, why just let it happen?

Everyone is always saying "well you know that's just how it is in this industry" instead of speaking out against the nonsense that makes everyones work environment sour.

I spoke up about my frustration on a particular incident once because I refused not to sit idle while I was completely ignored for my efforts to fix a problem. I sent an email to those involved. I admit it was somewhat passive aggressive and I wrote it at my breaking point, which I really should not have done. It wasn't as well received as I wanted, and I believe it did nothing to help the situation. I felt as though no one involved really read what I was saying, which was basically to be more organized in the way you conduct things because it falls on me and my team and causes us problems. I think everyone just read it as me trying to lead beyond my years, and saw it as a threat, which I did not intend to happen at all.

Everything you tried to do to be productive and lead when others did not was seen as a threat all the time and it was so frustrating! The female ego is nothing to mess with. Most employees at the company are female, about 80%. Not to attribute this to anything negative, but it was something I began to realize and realized it wasn't the first time I've seen this.

Again, I was extremely upset by how it all transpired, and in the end we were back as square negative 1000.

As the weeks went on, things always felt very wrong. The atmosphere was volatile. Everyone seemed to act very fake. I did too. I pretended like everything was okay. I put on the fake smiles. I laughed at the jokes, some genuine, but always overshadowed by fear and unhappiness. I came to work everyday afraid of what what going to set someone off. It was like walking on and minefield. I tried to be quiet in my mannerisms. I drove myself crazy trying to see the future - trying to solve problems before they could occur. When something went wrong, I blamed myself. I blamed myself for not seeing it before it happened.

I was losing my mind. It was ridiculous as I recall it now.

I didn't know how to communicate my unhappiness to anyone, and I felt like it didn't matter. I could have told everyone how I was feeling, but would it have really changed anything?

I knew what was happening was unhealthy, but what was I to do? I thought about leaving every other day. There would be the good days, the very good days, the awesome days, the productive days, but then the awful, rotten, terrible days would erase those happy days from existence. It was a vicious cycle.

I thought I could keep afloat. I managed. I tried to forgive those who caused me grief. I shelved my emotions and let them go at home. I cried sometimes in secret (sometimes it wasn't so secret.) It also effected my relationship with my significant other because I would often go on for hours telling him about my stress and brought him down into it. It was unfair and terrible.

Then just like that, it was over. I didn't have a choice or a say, it just ended.

I was relieved.

I thought to myself, wow, I never have to deal with this particular arrangement again. We were like caged birds, happy we were fed and kept alive, but in the end, we were in a cage unable to fly freely.

I could begin anew.


And here I am now, one month later. I've slowly managed to turn all of my stress and unhappiness into motivation for the future. I refuse to put myself in a position like that ever again and just sit there and live with garbage just because the pay is good.

No I am not giving up on the industry even though it has caused me some grief. Even saying all this negative stuff, it could have been much worse than this. If I had worked as an assistant for any other team in the company floor, my life would have been much more hellish, trust me. I was part of the best around, and regardless of our struggles I will never forget anyone on my team and how much I valued them for their strengths. I could forget the shortcomings, and learn to get rid of my own with time and maturity. I will take the two years of experience and apply it to everything I decide to do in my future.

Currently I'm applying for design positions in various companies in NYC, all Children's Wear. I'm dabbling in the idea of becoming a Pattern Maker too, but ultimately, designing is what I do best. So far I haven't gotten any responses but I'm not giving up.

In my downtime, I'm also working on my own personal business endeavors. I'm working on a five piece lolita design collection consisting of a High Waist Skirt, an Underbust Jumper Skirt, a One Piece Dress, and two headdresses. All the pieces are sold and they aren't even completed yet! Following this I have several projects in work that will keep me busy well after I can manage to secure a steady job. I'm not in a rush to go back. I have some savings and I live with my parents. I'll be okay for a little while.

My ultimate goal is to be self employed, running my own design company from home. Myself, and my best friend and business partner Jennifer are both working toward this with our brand Lilith et Adalia, which we already have four successful sales on Etsy as of March 2014. Initally we only did Children's Dresses, but we are branching into Women's Wear and other items like skirts, tops, and accessories. We hope to revamp our entire shop by the end of the year, and I'm using my downtime to my advantage instead of a disadvantage.

However long it takes, I refuse to give up on our dreams. I learned a lot from my hardships. That's all you can do in life. Learn from the bad and move on. Yes, the past gripes at me from time to time. Yes I have the occasional nightmare or strange dream about being back at work in my former position and stuck in a time warp, but it will pass.

In time, it will all pass.

Thank you for reading.

2 comments:

  1. That sounds like a really stressful time, both the job and getting laid off. It's great you're able to turn it into something good though, and I hope all your ventures are a success!

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    1. Thank you very much for reading and kind words! <3

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