How Funmi got her groove back!
I sat on the floor in my living room, surrounded by a couple of job application forms, copies of reminder letters of bills, my mobile phone – checking constantly for the latest vacancies on recruitment agencies, my Bible, a copy of my daily devotional – trusting that a word will jump out at me that will change my circumstances, my TV turned on, binge watching one of my favourite channels. This has been my routine day in day out for a couple of months now, sincerely praying that my life will be back to where it was before now, if it couldn’t be better.
On this day, I was reflecting, something I love to do often as someone who is quite meticulous. My reflection was fluctuating between how I got to where I was at the time, and where I would love to be in the nearest future. I remembered a request I made to someone quite close to me… I was broke and needed to get some essentials for myself, so I asked this person (whom I thought I was qualified to ask for help from) for a tenner. The response was, “so as well put together as you are, you don’t have a tenner to your name”? Don’t you think you need to find something to do?”
Wow! I just could not believe what I had just heard, I was dumbfounded, more so as I wouldn’t normally ask this person for this kind of favour. How dare this person say that to me knowing that I was not always in this situation, life had happened. Besides, I surely was “finding something to do”. I was just trusting that the something will find me too soon-ish.
Whilst I was reminiscing about this incident, boom – the light bulb moment hit me! I am the CEO of my life and I should not expect anyone to deliver to me the duties that the role demands. No man owes me anything and if they do decide out of their own volition to give me something, then I am the blessed for it. I decided that whatsoever it took for me to get back on my feet, with the help of the God that I served and in whom I trusted, I will do. As a Christian, I was not aliened to confessing who I was in Christ, but I needed to be intentional – even more – about winning in the face of this adversity.
I loved my job and had been working in the same organization for a little over ten years. I had consistent excellent appraisals, and I there were no issues whatsoever – well, not that I knew of – with my boss or any colleague. I had settled so comfortably into this work family. In fact, I brought in some of my own family members and friends to work part-time during the holidays, and they had nothing but love for this organization. It was initially supposed to be a two-week contract as a customer service officer, to cover for someone who was on annual leave. However, just before the two weeks elapsed, another lady was going on maternity leave. Then my contract was renewed, and it so happened that I continued in the role for another two years.
The two years soon rolled into ten within the same organization, but working in different capacities. From customer service officer to finance officer to management accountant and then financial accountant. It was a seamless transition into each of those roles. I yearned for them and worked hard to attain those heights. My love and commitment blossomed for the fact that they were big on making social impact and the organization’s ethos was built on core values that aligned with mine, and the salary at the time was perfect for me. What more could a girl want? It seemed like I was now reaching the pinnacle of my career.
As is customary with entering into a new year, I had prepared for the crossover church service; written out my new years’ resolutions, prayed, sang (I was in the choir) and danced into the new year. I was hopeful and expectant to continue to receive the grace and blessings that I had enjoyed in my life and career. I entered into 2011 with a new zeal, passion, and renewed commitment to my goals. Mid-January of that same year, I got summoned to a meeting by the human resource department of the organisation where I worked. There had been talks and speculations going on about the possibility of another restructuring in the organisation. Yes, there was one about 4 years before then, when there was a merger with another organisation, and this had resulted in my role being changed. It was a welcome change for me because it was a promotion. It was the day of the meeting and here was I sitting in this small room, facing two HR personnel. I surely didn’t know what to expect, could this be another promotion? Why not? After all, I have had it going well since I started to work here. Besides, just few months before this meeting, I had received an employee appreciation award in recognition of ten years of excellent service. The moment of truth came, lo and behold, after all the niceties about how I had been a valuable member of my team, and the positive impact of my contributions to the organisation, then came the sentence every employee dreads hearing, ” we are sorry to say that we have to let you go.” Oh! I didn’t see that coming.
That was it. I had just lost my job.
I had been made redundant from my lucrative role in a much-loved organisation. I walked out of that meeting room not quite sure how to react. I am not usually a dramatic person so I wouldn’t have initially expressed any obvious emotions. What I had just heard hadn’t quite sunk in, all I could do at the time was stare into oblivion. This graduated into bewilderment as the next couple of weeks rolled by. The reality began to dawn on me that I was actually not in employment when the flow of income had stopped coming in. I began to acknowledge the situation as my reality. Sometimes I was angry at myself and others – expectations from them, hopeful that things would soon turn around for the better. It was not a good place to be as I began to fear the unknown.
As more than a year rolled by after redundancy, and having used up my redundancy package to foot all necessary bills, I began running out of cash. I found myself at the mercy of applying for benefits (jobseeker’s allowance) at the jobcentre. I hated going to “sign on” – as it was called then – every two weeks or so for money.
Having worked so hard for fifteen years, I was forced to sign up for unemployment benefit. That was not my idea of progress. I remember how I once went to “sign on” at the jobcentre and the career adviser, a young guy of African descent, looked at me and said, “With all these experiences of yours (looking at my CV), you should be looking for people to work for you, not looking for employment.” And to make light of the situation, he added, “Oh, please, remember me when you get to that level; I might be needing a job.” Then we both laughed, and I said a big “amen”. Who wouldn’t? Do I blame him? After all, I had been on a £35k per annum salary and here I was signing on for £100 plus a two-week allowance!
That is one example of the rough couple of years that followed redundancy. It was tough. From one low paid role to another. I baby-sat friends’ kids, worked as a health care assistant on zero-hour contract, sold different things especially bags (oh how I love nice bags, I ended up giving some away as gifts). I had just started my events outfit then, Shabach Events, and had compered a couple of community and social events, albeit for free. Things were just not adding up and despondency began to set in.
As I re-lived these words that were spoken to me in my time of adversity, it released an anger in me – the kind of anger that propels you to do something about a situation. I could either choose to be bitter about where I had found myself or use the situation as a stepping board to be better. I chose the latter. I set out on a new adventure. I wasn’t going to let this situation get the better of me. I determined to seek new pathways within the adversity. I knew that it was time to make the best of the situation. I knew that there are valuable lessons to be learnt on this journey. I knew that I must not resign to fate. It can’t be over, oh no, it can’t. I decided to start all over again. I went back to college. Not only did I retrain as a learning disability nurse, I am now a certified life coach with specific focus on Transition and Accountability. I have also just authored my first published book, ‘Adversity to Adventure: How to Connect the Dots When the Unexpected Happens.’
Going through adversity has taught me to respond to situations rather than react. I have seen that this puts you in control and makes you able to master the change. When you react, change leads your life but when you respond, you lead change in your life.
One of the best ways to push through adversity is to learn to laugh at yourself. Do not take yourself too seriously and be miserable because life is happening to you.
Proverbs 17:22 exhorts, “A merry heart does good like a medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.” Laughter is truly the best medicine. It is your body’s way of coping with stress, releasing tension and resetting your brain to be more positive. A good chuckle will release endorphins and dopamine, nature’s feel-good chemicals. You have to tell yourself resolutely and consistently, “I am not going to allow this situation to deprive me of my joy. It is only but a phase, and this too shall pass.” One quote that I have always lived by is this
“It is your attitude more than your aptitude that will determine your altitude”.Zig Ziglar
It is so true that one’s attitude can either be an asset or a liability. Your attitude can lift you up or bring you down; it is what makes or breaks you. A positive attitude is a game changer amid adversity. It surely did help me through my down moments. It opened doors for me even whilst I was still trying to understand the phase I was going through. When you have a positive mental attitude, you might not be able to do everything, but it will help you do anything better than you would if your attitude were negative. I believe one of the keys to happiness lies within the management of your expectations of people and circumstances. If you do not have expectations, you can never be disappointed. An unfortunate pitfall of having high expectations in certain circumstances is that we prevent ourselves from enjoying the experience altogether.
If you feel this way in your life, you need to readjust your expectations. Do not expect things out of situations; just go into them with an open mind. This will allow you to fully immerse yourself without the pressure of living up to preconceived notions. When I look at the summary of my journey: from a well-paid job as of 2011, to job seekers allowance in 2012, employment at 30, made redundant at 41; Financial Accountant till 41, a Health care assistant at 43, starting all over again, back to college at 45, back to University at 46 and finally graduated with honours at 49. I did not dwell on the “why me?” I focused on the “What next?” I was living life through it all, but a new me has just emerged at 50.
The most beautiful part of going through this transition was the ability to own my journey. Looking back, I am glad that I did not let the situation define me but that I chose to define the situation. I was intentional about making this unpleasant situation an exciting experience. I made it an adventure. I sought the gold in the adversity. There is something about winning in the face of adversity, resurrecting what has been declared “dead,” experiencing a shine after you have had the dullest season of your life. There is something about that glow that manifests when you get your groove back. There’s power in birthing purpose through your pain.
Redundancy was an opening for me to soar. That is my testimony, but not without taking the action to possess what was already waiting for me. As a certified practitioner of coaching and Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP), I now work with women who have had setbacks in their life journey, go through the process of moving on from being stuck to getting back on track. I see myself as a bridge who helps to connect people who are at crossroads reach their destination. My mission is to help as many women as possible re-ignite their passion, re-activate their dreams, re-kindle their zeal for the things they love, and release the gifts within them to live a life of impact. It is my vision this year, 2021, to help at least 500 women rise from a place of hopelessness and begin to live a purposeful life. “I have resolved to live, not just endure each season of my life.”
Funmi Akinsanya-Alake is a Transition & Accountability Coach, and author passionate about helping as many women as possible re-ignite their passion, re-activate their dreams, re-kindle their zeal for the things they love, and release the gifts within them to live a life of impact.
Alongside her passion for coaching, she works as a registered learning disability nurse, championing and advocating the rights and well-being of people with learning disabilities. Funmi has previously worked with the past Mayor of her local borough in the UK as a Disability Champion. One of her top mantras is, “Don’t stay bitter, get better.”
Her book, “Adversity to Adventure – How to Connect the Dots When the Unexpected Happens” is available on Amazon.
#career #transition #triumph #adversity