My whole life, one the biggest fears I’ve had to overcome is being left behind. As much as my introvert nature wants and yearns for alone time, I want it on my terms, not because someone left me alone or went ahead without me.

When I was maybe 5 or 6, we belonged to a swim club. All summer, I was a fish…I begged my mom for just 5 more minutes to swim and splash and play. One more ride down the faded pink slide. One more drop off the high dive or bouncy dive board. I took group swim lessons with my best friend Meghan. We were inseparable. We spent swim time together, we had sleepovers, we vacationed together with our families.

At the pool, though, I was a stronger swimmer than she was, and when the instructor recommended I be moved to the next level class while Meghan repeated the same one, I froze. I would not go. I could not be persuaded to advance in my swimming, because I just would not be left without a friend. I would have been the one to move on, but it felt like she would be leaving me. The disappointment on my parents’ faces told me I was making the wrong decision, but they let me choose.

The thought of standing on my own, alone, was too much for my little identity to handle.

This theme reappeared in my life time and again. Waiting alone for my mom to pick me up after school or at the mall. Wondering if I would know anyone in my classes. Hoping that my summer camp tent-mates would be familiar faces. The anxiety this brought was overwhelming. I felt it on my skin and in my heart. It permeated my thoughts and nerves.

I was terrified of being alone by circumstance, not by choice.

So today, when I found out that one of the others that was fired with me got a job, my skin prickled and my mouth went dry. I am so very happy for my former co-worker. Truly. But that leaves me alone. A lone job seeker in the universe. Left behind, solitary, exposed to the rawness of still being unemployed.

On the precipice of panic, I search the void for a familiar face, a hand to cling to, a safe place to rest. Job boards scroll in my vision. Blurred company names and titles. Resumes and cover letters and prayers. The stiffness in my lungs is crushing.

Today the fine cracks in my carefully constructed world are showing. Do I let the cracks grow or patch them up (again)?

Today I just don’t know.