We’d done it.
Walking out of the estate agents, holding two keys in my hand, my fiancé and I had officially bought our first house. I’d always thought buying your own home was the pinnacle of true adulthood. And I won’t lie, it felt good – like I had finally got entry to a secret club. Little did I know, every plan I had for 2020 was about to start splintering away from me.
Like most couples, me and my fiancé had a life plan. We decided to get a dog first, buy a house, get married and then have children. By January this year, we had finally saved a 10% deposit, and we started stalking online for properties we loved. We found The One on the first day of searching, and made an offer after a few weeks of measuring every other property against it. The flurry of estate agents and solicitors kept us busy. It was exciting, I was lusting over beautiful homeware, and we had started packing our lives into boxes.
Then the country went into lockdown one week before we were due to move, pushing back our house buying process by two months. In that time, I was working from home as a copywriter, hearing stories every day on the news of people being furloughed and, worse, losing their jobs. I was thankful that the company I worked for was doing well – in fact, business was booming. Job security didn’t cross my mind at all.
My sense of safety evaporated in early May. A video call with the CEO of the company changed everything: they wanted to relocate the company, and they were going to be making people redundant. Call it a gut feeling, but I knew, immediately, my name would be on that list.
Even if I ended up redundant, we’d get by, right? A few weeks later, he returned home from work earlier than normal...
I tried not to panic. My boyfriend was still working for a telecommunications company as a repair technician and was designated a key worker. Even if I ended up redundant, we’d get by, right?
A few weeks later, he returned home from work one hour earlier than normal. “This is a nice surprise, what are you doing here?,” I remember asking. His answer was “sit down”. Now his company had decided to close their repair centre, and focus on others that had more footfall.
The rug had been firmly pulled from under us. We had a new mortgage, bills to pay, and everything we had been working hard for was at stake. The anger we felt consumed us. We’d done everything right, we both had good jobs, and had sacrificed a lot to be in this position. Yet this was the end result. It felt like we’d failed, before we had even made our first mortgage payment. We hadn’t seen this coming, it was out of our control. Now we had to race against time, before we lost the house we fell in love with. After a few crying fits and panic sessions, we calmed down. Rationally, we won’t be out of work for long, we told ourselves.
He didn’t have to go back to work, while I was still working from home, enduring a consultation process with no end date in sight. It sounds strange, but even though I didn’t have a new role yet, I felt I was in a better place than the thousands of furloughed workers in a constant state of limbo.
I’ve realised I can no longer measure my worth from my job, from monetary success, or from any other preconceived notion of happiness.
As someone who likes to plan everything, I’ve found myself having to relinquish the reins, and for the first time in my life, not be in control. The truth? I’m okay with it. Going forward we’re doing everything we can to find new jobs, and turn what still feels like a stranger’s home into ours. It may take longer than we envisioned, but this life lesson will stay with me for a long time.
Most people measure their success from what they achieve in their life. But I’ve realised I can no longer measure my worth from my job, from monetary success, or from any other preconceived notion of happiness. I’m more than having a successful career, and I’m more than being part of the mortgage club.
Being made redundant can feel like you’re starting from scratch. But for both of us, we’re seeing it as a new opportunity that has given us a fresh dose of motivation. We’re drifting into an unknown future for the time being, but strangely, we’re excited about what will come next. And we’re taking comfort in the fact we’re just one family among millions trying to navigate this strange new world.
Rachel Giovanna Capper is a freelance writer. Follow her on Twitter at @rgi0c
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.