“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

“Please come up to the fifteenth floor” said my boss. “OK” I said, and I hung up.

I had survived many mornings of lay-offs. But 30 minutes later, I was standing on the street. Unemployed.

At first, I felt shame.

Shame that I didn’t care that I had lost my job. I didn’t have a mortgage or people who depended financially on me. I had my health, education, and a family who could support me.

I was invincible.

But I wasn’t.

“Have you lost your job?” said my mother, suspicious of my ambiguity and mid-morning call. I couldn’t bring myself to answer her, and she knew it. “Come and meet me at 3 p.m. and we can go for tea.”

Early that evening, my sister walked up the stairs outside my bedroom and was surprised to see me. I usually worked late.

“I… I…” I knew I had to tell her, I looked down. “I was made redundant.” 

It was the first time I had said it. “Oh, don’t worry,” she said with false optimism being kind, “everything is going to be alright.” She gave me a hug.

I started to cry as she walked out my bedroom. I cried all evening.

I cried because I felt I had done nothing for my family, and then, when I had failed, my family showered me with love and kindness. What made me cry was not the humiliation of losing my job, but the grief caused by unconditional, undeserved love.

I want to live my life with gratefulness to and awareness of the people who love me. 

I don’t only want to miss the water when the well runs dry.

— Cordelia Shackleton