“the state of being not or no longer needed or useful.”
Even three and a half years later I have not completely come to terms with that word in the sense that I still do not know how to describe my departure from a relatively well paid job in Higher Education. Was I made redundant? Did I take redundancy (it was theoretically voluntary)? Or did I just leave to pursue other avenues? On one level it really does not matter…but on another it does, and it really rankles me that it does.
Is it because I am ashamed to be a person who is no longer considered useful? Maybe, but I have never once regretted taking the deal that I was offered and while I miss my former colleagues I do not miss the job itself.
Is it because I used to be someone through that role? Well this feels a bit closer to how I felt, and to some degree still feel. I used to sit on committees, steering groups, advisory panels, management teams, even senior management teams. In the final analysis, though, when I think back most of these feel like they were a vast waste of time, and I think that is based in fact rather on sour grapes.
Is it because on some level I feel that people might be judging me if I say I was made redundant? If anything this is probably closest to the mark, and that is stupid really because deep down I do not think they do; and given that I do not really regret no longer being in that job it really is doubly stupid.
But in another sense it is not. Because that job defined me, and being in Higher Education defined me. It was a huge part of my identity, and not one I could shed. In my post about my pre-weight loss photo I talked about how I am struggling to catch up with my post-weight loss self, and the same was definitely true when it came to employment.
I used to dread the question “what do you do?”. For at least six months after my redundancy my first response always began “well I used to work in a University”…as if that still gave me some sort of legitimacy, it was certainly still a key part of my identity. I was still that working person, even though I was really glad that I did not work there any more. Then for the next six months I was aware of what I was saying, but still said it. I still needed people to know that.
This, I think, is why change is so difficult. Somehow we are not only trying to come to terms with change itself, but we are also constantly playing catch up in terms of how this impacts on our identity; not only how we see ourselves but obsessing over how others see (judge?) us too. If we do not somehow attend to the second part of this process we can get stuck into all sorts of ruts simply because we cannot either imagine ourselves in another situation, or living with or without something, and that heightens the risk for us.
I feel that I have been very lucky because I have had the time to reflect on the changes that I have gone through. That change, and peace of mind that has come from living an altogether calmer and slower life, is something that has been very good to and for me.
I still have to come to terms with that word ‘redundancy’ though.