Untethered and Longing to Belong While Unemployed

How do you know I’m out of sorts? I took a photo without lipstick on.

I’m warning you now. I’m grumpy. My life has been filled with uncertainty since I was laid off in September. Turns out that I desire routine, purpose, social contact and—who knew?—financial stability. The resulting stress has caused me back pain and a clenched jaw, in addition to some low-grade depression.

Last week I returned from a short trip back to Philly to visit my family, and also went to Brooklyn overnight to spend time with my best friend and her family. All of this time spent with those I hold closest, in places that feel familiar and safe…. I was left feeling unmoored.

The feeling of disconnection from purpose and home

For the past eight plus years, I’d happily identified as an Angeleno. But this trip made me wonder whether I should remain in Los Angeles when those I loved most were so far away. My mom reminded me that this distance had existed for years. Until I lost my job, I was very happy on the West Coast. She’s right, of course. In my 47th year, there are likely also hormonal reasons for my emotional state. But knowing those facts doesn’t reduce the anxiety.

I hadn’t thought before about how a permanent job can provide a sense of being needed. While I’m currently working a contract position, its short-term nature doesn’t provide the feeling of being part of a work family. And without that feeling, I’m craving the presence of my family and best friend.

It was a strange feeling, returning to LA. Usually, when the plane begins to descend to LAX, I feel relieved to be home. This time, I felt disconnected from the city, as though I was new to it again (although I’ve lived here 9.5 years). For days after, I found myself noticing all of the things about the city that irritated me instead of what I loved about it. It was like glimpsing seemingly greener pastures while in a stable relationship, and suddenly only noticing my partner’s annoying habits. And I found it difficult to determine how much of this feeling was temporary.

Moving from unhelpful thoughts to healing reminders

So I forced myself to think about the things I love about living in LA. I have a great group of friends and frequently take advantage of the many things to do in LA along with them. The weather allows me to do a lot of fun things outdoors year-round. There are beautiful flowers blooming all year, and this time of year in particular, I can smell orange blossoms when I walk Izzy. There’s plentiful, delicious ethnic food to be had at very reasonable prices, so going out isn’t necessarily expensive. Within a short drive, I can be in a forest, on top of a mountain, at the beach, or in the middle of the desert. I’m lucky enough to rent a small cottage with a decent enclosed yard, where both Izzy and I can enjoy the sunshine. These are not small things.

Then I cleaned my house since it was looking a bit like the habitat of a depressed person (even if it kind of was, I knew that wasn’t helping). I lit a candle. Watched some inane reality television. And reminded myself of the Rilke quote, that “No feeling is final.” Finally, I told myself that if I don’t know exactly what I want at the moment, the only person pressuring myself to know is me.

Robyn Kern is the Tangentier. A long-time writer based in Los Angeles with a degree in screenwriting and an interest in mindfulness, many tangents led her here: a place where people can come to find and share inspiration, dwell in each others' passions, and learn how to surround themselves with what they love on the daily.


  • Rhoda Gansler

    I don’t think it’s unusual to feel as you do at this point in your life. I’ve been there too , especially after a trip”back home” to Jersey when I was living in LA. Sometimes it’s nostalgia, sometimes it’s just feeling sorry for yourself, especially since your job isn’t permanent. Give yourself time and be good to yourself in the meantime. This too will pass!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.