On Self Care

I was laid off two week ago from Shopify along with 20% of the company.

I previously talked about what I was doing to find my next position. But I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about what I’m doing to take care of myself.

Getting fired is one of the more stressful things that happens to people in their lives. People rely on their income to live, to thrive, to support their family. Losing that is stressful, and as long as you don’t have a stable income, it gets even more stressful.

I was spared part of the stress involved in a typical firing. It can often be personal—you’re getting let go because you didn’t do the job to their satisfaction. An employer can try and frame it as your problem, but in most cases it was a mismatch, or they didn’t utilize your strengths. It’s as much their fault as yours, regardless of what they actually say. In this instance, though, I was laid off with 20% of the company, so it really isn’t personal.

Because working is such a large part of your life it can be hard not to intertwine your job with your identity. I was a Shopifolk, along with thousands of other excellent people, and now I’m suddenly not.

I’m a lot of other things too, but that was still a big part of my day, and helping Shopify become the best company it could become took up a lot of my thoughts throughout the day.

So what am I doing for self-care? How am I recovering from this blow, and what am I doing to take care of myself?

There are three elements to what I’m doing:

  1. Financial health
  2. Physical health
  3. Mental health

Financial Health

First, financially, what I’m doing now is what we put in place a while ago when we set up an emergency fund. We calculated the minimum we’d need to live off of monthly, and saved up. First one month, then all the way up to a year. So when the news first came in, we knew we could weather it.

If you haven’t done this for yourself, please do. Especially with the high yield accounts that we have today. The peace of mind you’ll get is enormous, and your future self may thank you.

In that vein, I also paused all regular donations, and unsubscribed from everything unnecessary. I’m looking forward to continuing to support the causes I normally do, but I won’t be able to in the future, if I don’t support myself first now — like the oxygen mask on the airplane.

Physical Health

For my physical health, I’ve been running and exercising daily. I’ve been making sure to start my days as if nothing had changed. Get up early, exercise, make breakfast, and get to my desk every morning. I’ve been working the same hours I regularly do, nine to five, or six, or seven.

I’ve even been taking some time to explore new recipes. I’ve been developing heart-healthy recipes and have collected a nice amount now.

Mental Health

That structure of the day, and the exercise, are keys to my plan to maintaining my mental health. It’s easy to slip into negative loops. Action and structure is what helps me stay afloat, and focused.

One of the most influential books on my life was Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. He is the father of Logo-therapy, which put forth the idea that man’s primary drive is for meaning. He brings an analogy from architecture: If you have a weak arch, you apply pressure to it in order to strengthen it.

Thus it can be seen that mental health is based on a certain degree of tension, the tension between what one has already achieved and what one still ought to
accomplish, or the gap between what one is and what one should become. Such a tension is inherent in the human being and therefore is indispensable to mental
well-being… If architects want to strengthen a decrepit arch, they increase the load which is laid upon it, for thereby the parts are joined more firmly together.

Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl

I achieved a position as a senior software engineer at a FAANG equivalent company. I have so much more I yet want to achieve. The structure I’m applying to my day is that pressure, to keep myself focused and strong.

Another thing I did to help myself was to write a post about getting laid off.

Accepting that this happened was the best thing for me to do. Focusing on what happened and dwelling on resentments was a poor use of my energy. What I can control is how I approach my job-hunt. So I meditated on how I wanted to present myself, and I wrote.

The softest substance of the world
Goes through the hardest.
That-which-is-without-form penetrates that-which-has-no-crevice;
Through this I know the benefit of taking no action.
The teaching without words
And the benefit of taking no action
Are without compare in the universe.

Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu, chapter 43

It takes a lot of energy to make a river flow upstream. But if you let a river flow how it wants, it can cut holes through mountains.

I decided to put my energy into flowing along to where life was offering new opportunities where I can thrive.

Also for my mental health, the first days after the news, I took off a few days. I shut down my computer to process. Ilana and I went out into the countryside and explored spring farmer’s markets. We made new friends, and soaked up the beauty of spring.

Now I have a routine. I’m taking care of my health. I have a schedule when I work, and when I don’t. I want my days to look now like they will when I land my next position.