Recently Unemployed? It’s Coffee and Eggs with a Side of…
When you’re let go from a job, it’s a mix of emotions: it turns your eggs upside down, your coffee sour, and within a split second life feels unsettling. However, if you’re burnt out and already half past gone the initial moment is actually nothing but complete relief. Rent and other expenses pound on the mind, screaming “be responsible!” but you realize this unfortunate incident may actually turn out to be a blessing.
That morning I was just another employee, but the following morning, I woke up as the CEO of my own life. Working overtime and completing work on weekends added up like 2+2=5 does. It just doesn’t. The wobbly work-life balance that my employers had masked as company culture and the salary that never came close to covering the cost of stress I had accumulated, was just a downside. The true nag was that working around the clock for another man’s purpose rarely gave me the breathing room to think about new goals and where I needed to self-improve. It sounds like a bunch of cliches that you’d scribble down answers to in a 5-minute journal before bedtime, but if you ask me, this is what keeps us from making the decisions we regret and buying expensive sports cars in our fifties.
In light of the recession, unemployment has become a familiar subject to more than just a lucky few of us. If this includes you, take comfort in knowing that the following morning all I had longed for was a world record Netflix binge-watching session. It was a rare opportunity to completely slum it out without feeling ashamed of being a couch potato, but I knew better than to waste my days, weeks, or even months away. With all the self-discipline I had built up working into the wee hours of the night, I decided to step away from the TV and make it my personal mission to take on the largest assignment I’d been tasked with in the past year: to re-examine what I stand for and where I’d like to go next.
“I’ll go on a tour of a local art museum”, I thought to myself! I’ve always had a thing for museums, so I knew only good could come of it. A quick Google search later, I had booked a tour at the Rubin Museum and found my unemployed-self out of the house.
The Rubin Museum sits on a quiet street that’s adjacent to one of the noisiest streets in Tel-Aviv, Allenby Street. I’ve passed that street as many days as I’ve lived in Israel, but up until that day, I never had the luxury of time to explore it. Upon first glance, the Rubin Museum looks small. However, if size were a measurement of experience within and not the mass of a building itself, then this museum certainly maximizes every square inch. While it’s obvious the Rubin Museum is dedicated to the artwork of a man named Rubin, up until arrival, it wasn’t as plainly obvious to me that examining another’s career (who had gone through it all), was the perfect way to reflect on my very own career.
Rubin’s early work, which was inspired by his immigration from Romania to Israel in the 1920s (what was back then Palestine), was painted through the lens of a man exploring and observing the differences between his past and present place of home. His early brushstrokes were what you’d expect of someone just starting out in their career too. While I later learned that his “amateur” technique was a playful way of representing the early stages of a newly built country, for a while, my naive English-speaking self thought the Hebrew-speaking tour guide had said it was because Rubin hadn’t received schooling yet.
My Hebrew is still a work in progress, so throughout the tour the facts were a bit hazy. But that was okay. That was the best way to have an unbiased opinion of his artwork.
Rubin’s work that followed his earliest paintings showed immense technique. It was precise, but like what I’d seen from others. In other words, it was beautiful in its perfection, but not in its originality. It was the inner Socrates-wannabe in me that had me thinking: while sharpening skills and gaining experience at school or work is important, without fresh ideas, there will always be something missing.
It wasn’t a lack of work ethic and creativity that forced me out of a job, it was the lack of experience I had on my resume that worked against me in the end. Looking at Rubin’s art in relation to my own journey assured me that no matter how much schooling or experience an employee has, imagination and individuality is sometimes more powerful than being refined.
It wasn’t until the second floor that I realized this “theory” of mine was less of a biased opinion, and more of a fact. The last portion of the tour is when Rubin’s passion finally takes the wheel. It was like the work of an entirely different human. While my Hebrew comprehension is limited, once the topic of passion comes into play, I can understand the words of any language. I didn’t need a translator to understand Rubin had finally made art that was done out of pure joy instead of for money. It was no longer about playing it safe and making a sale for Rubin, but rather about having the freedom to make art that represented his true artistic soul. It was his raw talent coming out years later and so no matter how much he had learned in school, producing bold work that wasn’t yet labeled “brilliant” by the masses, had made the strongest impression on me and the others on the tour who were ‘ooo-ing’ and ‘ahhh-ing’ throughout it all.
While I woke up that morning on the left side of the bed, worried about how I had just lost my job, the second I stepped into the Rubin Museum I knew I was entering on my right foot.
Having the courage to chase our passions and believe in our abilities, will bring about the greatest rewards. As I move into the next phase of my career, I can see that every step of the journey will come with its own set of learning curves and will evolve through time. Bumps in the road are to be expected if not necessary to get us where we’re meant to be. However, to overcome that, I believe we must remind ourselves of our worth and maintain our originality.
When you’re often put in situations to doubt yourself as a young professional, having faith in your raw talent is invaluable. That’s what I learned that day at the museum and is the trick to standing out in a sea of professionals.
So now that I’ve had the time to think about what I want to do next and a sprinkle of inspiration thrown my way, I’ll go have my breakfast with eggs sunny side up, sweetened coffee, with a side of the world as my oyster, as I chase my dreams. What about you?