When Life Throws You Curveballs

We all go through life hoping that it will run smoothly. We have this idea that the path to whatever we want will be easy to follow, streamlined, and void of any hurdles. Okay, sure, we might expect hurdles on a cognitive level, but most of us probably have this desire that maybe just for today life will run smoothly. When it doesn’t run smoothly and when we run into problems that seem like monsters, it can catch us off guard. I’ll list some of these monsters and then discuss ways to tackle them. The point of this post is to plan ahead in case these happen. You will invariably experience bumps in the road, and you need to have a plan for how to manage them.

1. You lost your job, got fired, or decided to quit. This one is a curve ball that many people have encountered. Obviously, these three are quite different from each other in terms of their circumstances. One of them might be expected, and the other two can completely blindside you. Scenario A: Your company decided to cut several employees, and you are one of them. You’ve worked at the company for a while, and it just doesn’t seem fair that they would cut you. Scenario B: Or, you could have made a mistake – or several – that cost the company. It may not be typical of you, and it surprises you that anyone would see you as that employee. Scenario C: You decided to quit your job because you found something that fits your dream journey and that better sharpens your skills and passion. What surprises you about it is how quick the change came about.

The common theme in dealing with these is that you have to be your own boss, your own HR person, your own brand, and your own company even when you are working for the other person. You need to get to know yourself and learn how to advocate yourself. What are your goals, dreams, and visions? What are you passionate about? What do you want to see when you get to the end of your life and look back on your work? You also need to have your own brand as a person. Obviously when you work for a company, you are expected to maintain the company’s brand, but you need to have a sense of who you are as well. The company doesn’t own you. Make a list of companies you would like to work for, network with professionals in those companies, keep your resume current, and even write cover letters ahead of time. Keep them in a file in your home. Even if you rewrite the letter at the time you apply, you at least have something to go by when you sit down to write them.

2. The class you need to register for in order to graduate is full. The way to avoid this one is to take the required courses early in your degree plan. If there is a course that everyone in your program has to take, go ahead and take that one early. Sometimes programs require you to take a certain number of elective courses, and all programs have specific courses that are required. If there are certain electives that are only offered during certain semesters, pay attention to that and plan accordingly.

3. You’re late for a doctor’s appointment, and you can’t find a parking space. To avoid this one, leave the previous place (whether it’s work, home, or lunch) in enough time to arrive to the appointment 10-15 minutes early. If it’s a new doctor’s office, you might find it helpful to drive to it a couple days before the appointment so you can get a feel for the parking setup.

4. You’ve moved to a new state and can’t stand the people. You know that you have to move. It’s a new job, a move for your family, a new place to live. There’s not really a way to know if you will like the people in the new location, but you can plan ahead for how to deal on those days that you just can’t stand the people. Not everyone in the new place will be the same. You can meet different personalities, which is a good thing. Even though there might be some people that annoy you, not everyone will be bothersome. Also, our level of tolerance for some people depends somewhat on our mood for the day. If we’re having a bad day, a lot of people may bother us that normally wouldn’t on a good day. Find those people who will be solid friends, and find them sooner rather than later. These are people whom you can talk to and not be judged or ridiculed. People who get you and don’t impose their opinions on you. (Granted, if you move to the South, people speak their minds pretty openly.)

5. You arrive at the gym at the only time you can go, and the workout machines are all taken. This might be one for Captain Obvious, but you might want to choose a different time to go to the gym. If you’ve just arrived to the gym and notice that all the machines are taken, don’t rush out the door just yet. Most gyms have mats where you can stretch. Do some stretches and take your time. You have to stretch anyways, and it might be that someone is almost done with one of the machines. By the time you finish stretching, one of the machines is bound to become available. You can also walk or jog on the indoor track, or you could pick a different type of exercise machine.

6. The pharmacy where you’ve had your prescriptions filled for the past several years no longer takes your health insurance plan. Health care is a beast. While it can be quite daunting to find the right plan, you also feel very accomplished when you have conquered it. Before your prescription runs out, make sure you have refills available. Call the pharmacy ahead of time and ask them if they take your health insurance plan. Also ask if they keep your prescriptions in stock. Plan to fill them at least a week before you run out.

7. Your new health insurance plan doesn’t cover the same doctor you’ve used forever. Call your provider and ask what doctors are covered by their plan. Do this as soon as you select the plan that you want. Once you have confirmed who is covered, go ahead and call to make an appointment with the new doctor. This will help you get established as a new patient. Fair warning, though: if your new doctor is thorough in his or her practice, he or she will ask you just about every kind of question they can about your health, including things that might be uncomfortable to talk about.

8. Through a series of complaints and interviews, you discover that a trusted colleague has betrayed you. This can be really tough. When trust is betrayed, you feel violated and deeply hurt. You try to think of how this happened and run through possible explanations, but you only end up feeling angry and bitter. While it is necessary to get to the bottom of why or how a conflict arose, it’s also healthy to restrict yourself from thinking about it too much. When we overthink things, that is usually when we come up with false explanations. This is when it is good to have a friend, mentor, or counselor to talk to, someone who won’t gossip about your situation, someone to whom you can vent about the situation. You might could benefit from conflict resolution skills and assertiveness training. At some point, you will need to have a conversation with that colleague, as long as you feel safe doing so. Make a list of all the things you want to say, run it by your mentor, and make sure you cover all points on the list in your conversation. You don’t want to leave anything out, because you don’t want bitterness and resentment to develop.

9. The new job you just got doesn’t allow long enough breaks for your appointments (doctor’s, counseling, etc.). Plan to take a day off occasionally and schedule all of your appointments for that day. Ask the scheduler of your appointments if there is any penalty for being late.

10. Someone steals your credit card. This one definitely makes you feel violated. One way to conquer it is to carry cash on you, or especially to places where your information could be compromised. Places that are vulnerable to credit card fraud are gas stations, grocery stores, drug stores, etc. Plan to bring cash with you and pay that way. You can also keep a prepaid card on you to use. This way, the card isn’t connected to your bank information, so if the number gets stolen, only the amount that’s on the card could be used.