I was a part of the Great Resignation of 2021.
And the only reason I was able to partake in it was because of the community I had around me.
The Great Resignation, also known as the Great Reset, is the onset of rapid job turnover initiated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that over 4.4 million people left their jobs last September. The reasons behind their exits vary, but a centrally recognized theme was the pandemic. It helped many people re-prioritize what living a fulfilling life meant to them. With high mortality rates caused by COVID-19, many people found that their nine-to-five jobs were not what they wanted to spend the rest of their lives doing. Many wanted to prioritize their health and well-being over work. Unsurprisingly, I was one of them.
Like numerous others, the pandemic taught me that life is short and precious. Cliche, yes, but when you re-evaluate that overused idea, it makes you really question whether the life you are currently living makes you happy. If you find it does not, then you need to develop a way to situate happiness as your number one concern. Around October 2021, I made the conscious decision to make happiness my priority. However vague this goal was, in my attempt to achieve it, I came to understand the true impact of the people you choose to surround yourself with.
So, picture this: I started working at a place where I saw immediate signs of burnout and rapid employee turnover. Right away, I sensed that there was a reason for this rapid turnover rate—a workplace environment type of reason. This realization led to the manifestation of a top-tier support system that I am proud to shout out—my sisters, my friends, and my roommate. They will easily testify that the only words out of my mouth during that period of time were “I hate my job.” They unexpectedly became therapists and emotional ventilators for me to rely on.
As repetitive and somewhat annoying as my complaints were, they always understood where I was coming from. They were patient and active listeners. This community around me was sympathetic to my situation and held me accountable in pursuing what I wanted from my next position. They offered me suggestions, relaxation techniques, and advice for handling my situation while I figured out the best way to change it. And it wasn't like my complaints were unfounded! My community was able to advise me so well because I always entered my conversations with them with tangible receipts. With every Facetime call, I was never hesitant to complain about a project manager with an attitude from the darkest depths of the deep sea or long hours that left me craving a social life on the weekends. I was drained.
Three weeks into the job, I apologized to myself for not seeing the warning signs during the interview process. I forgave myself, though, because I knew that moving forward, this would be a hard lesson I could not fathom needing to repeat. I was actually proud of myself for reaching out to my immediate community for help with this hardship I was facing. I tend to be a person who waits to overcome her obstacles herself before reaching out to someone about them. This is an issue that plagues many Black women. We are often pigeonholed as strong women who shoulder others’ burdens and do not share their own. And more times than not, we continue to perpetuate this ideology within ourselves. As a recovering ‘shoulder my own burden’ type of individual, I want to urge us as Black women to let go of this tired idea and reach out. The power of reaching out can be the difference between having a mental breakdown and devising actual solutions to your problems.
My strength to participate in the Great Reset came from the community I surrounded myself with. They were amazing listeners and open to hearing me out in my time of struggle. Plus, my community is filled with determined individuals who pursue happiness first over anything. Even when we were tired, together we were never hopeless. With their help, I found the strength to evaluate the circumstance I was in at that last job and determine that the future would only be filled with stress and constant anxiety I didn't want.
With hindsight being 20/20, I realize now that I used to take the support system that helped me during this challenging, transitionary period for granted. They always told me to reach out if anything was bothering me. Still, like many, I stubbornly held on to that common archetype for Black women, which can be detrimental to our well-being. However, I now understand: my community, over anything, is what provided a real emotional and physical escape from a situation that had the capability to destroy my mental health, so I shouldn't ever hesitate to reach out to them in times of need.
In conclusion, I want to share some qualities to look for when attempting to build your own community around you:
Surround yourself with individuals that do not mind providing emotional ventilation when the going gets tough. Sometimes, the best way to release stress is to unload verbally to someone.
Surround yourself with individuals who are active listeners. They will immerse themselves in what you are saying, but will also offer constructive criticism when needed.
People who can hold you accountable are the best type of people. Of course, the goal is to reach a space where you can keep yourself accountable—but until then, investing in accountability partners is a great way to strengthen both sides of the relationship and therefore strengthen your overall community as well.
Ekua Hagan, 6 Virtues and 6 Vices of Venting
Stefanie Pappas, Effective therapy with Black women