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Working Through It
Back in April, I took a risk and left a toxic work environment. I didn’t have anything lined up — no new job, no freelance work — only a small savings to get me through a few months.

After I left, I spent a lot of time by myself. What now? What do I want to do next? Do I still want to be a designer? Should I switch my focus? Pursue a career in front-end development? Do I want to stay in Chicago? Needless to say, I felt lost. I didn’t know who I was or what I was interested in anymore. I felt like a shell of a person that was learning how to be a human being again.

I started scouring job boards and applied to any job that seemed interesting, which quickly spiraled into applying to every job and any job. At the time, I didn’t realize it, but I felt like I had something to prove—to my family, to my previous employer, to myself—that this wasn’t a mistake. If I could manage it, I was determined to get a job within a month or two of quitting. 

I got a couple interviews, which helped my ego, and then I got a lot more rejections, which did not help my ego. By July, I found myself interviewing two to three times a week for different companies. To someone outside of this, that probably sounds impressive and it sure felt like it! I was wanted and “in demand”. However, I wasn’t interested in a lot of these jobs. Some were very clearly bad jobs and I ended up saying no to a lot of companies and took myself out of the hiring process. I found myself in the final round of interviews with a company I was excited about, but all I could think about was, what do I do if this doesn’t work out? 

During this time, I was starting to get over the fact that I had quit my job. I was still recovering, but I didn’t recognize that I needed more time than I gave myself to actually heal. I hadn’t yet taken the time to unlearn a lot of the toxic things I had absorbed over the last year. My doubts, my negative thoughts, my insecurities… they were all still there, only masked under the distraction of interviews. I started losing steam. The high of interviewing and feeling special was beginning to wear off and I was pushing myself into burnout territory. In the end, I didn’t get the job. I cried about it a lot. I needed this to work out so badly. How was I going to pay rent next month? 

Eventually, I collected myself and made a new plan. I decided that I wasn’t going to send out applications anymore. I needed to be more selective with where I put my energy, which is easier said than done. My days became more structured. I started dedicating time and space for making work for myself again. After a lot of self-reflection, I started to shift my mental focus and decided that I owe it to myself to work somewhere where I feel safe, respected, and valued. 

I wish I could end this nicely. I wish I could say, I worked hard, everything worked out, and I’m doing great! But instead, I have days where I get paralyzing anxiety about how I’m going to pay my bills. I get depressed sometimes when I think about where I’m at and where I think I should be compared to my peers. I am still very much in the process of getting to that better place, and I’m learning how to heal.
Hanan Shoubaki is a Freelance Designer living and working in Chicago, IL. She can be found on social media @sleeepybun and her website. Oh, and she’s for hire — open to freelance or full-time opportunities!
Art used in this issue: “Street in Italy” by Tina Blau-Lang
Desk Lunch is a community for all creative people of marginalized genders.

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