I always try to be authentic, and sometimes my authenticity can come across as salty. I would be lying if I said I haven’t had my fair share of days being bitter and salty about not having a job, but today I feel mainly gratitude.
Life can turn in unexpected directions sometimes. Rather than waiting 30 years for us both to retire, we are spending almost all of our time together because (through various circumstances) we are both jobless. I never expected this season to last so long. We are both college-educated and have marketable skills. We apply for jobs constantly, and we receive rejection responses almost every day too. As soon as I open an email that starts with “although you have an impressive resume…” I close it, knowing what comes next… “we have decided to pursue other applicants”. Great. Just great. Let me explain a little about how we got here and even more about how it has impacted us financially, emotionally, physically and even spiritually. Lets just say, I am back in therapy!
So What Happened?
It has been 113 days since I was last employed, but last summer (201) James and I spent our mornings together praying about what we would do after his position at the hospital had been eliminated. We spent our mornings by our living room window facing one another, reading a book called Anything by Jennie Allen. We prayed and listened and wanted to move into whatever career we were called into next. The doors flew wide open, and we were both offered positions working for La Vega ISD; he taught seventh grade math, and I taught five different career education courses at the high school.
It was challenging, but we were sharing the experience; being in it together made it so much easier, but In February of 2017 there was a dramatic change. James began experiencing near-stroke level blood pressure and a relentless headache, so we decided he would be better off if he resigned for medical reasons. This immediately cut our income in half. On a single teacher’s salary we needed to pay for a mortgage, two kids in high school, and a host of other bills. Financial issues aside, our greatest struggle has been emotional. No matter how strong a person is, rejection takes its toll. I want to respect James’s boundaries, so I won’t share much about his experience with job loss. I will share my own struggle with being jobless and how hard it is to fill the days, open email, look in the mirror, and at times leave the house.
So what do I do all day?
Some days I have to force myself out the door. I grab my computer and head to Olive Branch downtown where I have become a very familiar face on the landscape of the cafe. I have been there almost every week since August, and many weeks it’s been multiple times. Any meetings I may have with friends or potential clients, I make sure we meet at Olive Branch. I have been able to use my time there to pray, read, and write both for my journals and blog. I have applied for jobs and drunk a lot of coffee.
To some, sitting in a coffee shop sipping a warm beverage and clicking away at a keyboard sounds super cool, and when I tell people what I have been doing since August their response is usually to call me a hipster. I consider it a compliment. I am, however, a millennial; coffee shops and community are kinda our thing, so is the struggle to figure out what we want to be when we “grow up”. We all know we want to do something big, amazing, impactful, and collaborative, but we just aren’t quite sure what. We have been given the opportunity to learn so many things that settling into one just seems almost wrong.
I had a teaching contract last year, as I mentioned. I had a teaching contract this year too, and (since James was still jobless) one might think the wise decision would have been to start work in August and keep my teaching job. God had other plans.
As the beginning of school drew closer, I had less and less peace about going back. I was a pretty good teacher, and everything pointed toward a successful second year of teaching. The classes I had were ones I taught last year, and I had all the material, lesson plans, etc. in place. I also knew there was no way I could go through with it. In August I wrote out my letter of resignation and took it to my principal who was not so thrilled to see me go, but also very understanding.
When I walked out the doors of the high school, I was free. It was clear I had to be free for whatever came next. In less than a minute I got the phone call delivering me the “why” I had been awaiting. My mom called with the news my father was having open heart surgery. Within 24 hours I had more news regarding my daughter which required me to be very present with her almost 24/7. I needed to be free for my family.
My dad is doing well after his fourth surgery following multiple complications. He is still dealing with those complications (months later), but I am free to respond when he and my mom need me. My daughter is doing great, so now what?
I had been fighting back depression so I decided I would head back to my amazing therapist and see if she could provide some insight. I have applied for more than 50 jobs in the last few months, all things I would enjoy doing and all things I am qualified to do. Still, no job. I have heard from people in my life that I am “overqualified” or “it’s just not the right fit” or even “God must have something else for you,” and I am sure to some degree all of that is true. I knew I needed to be free, and I am. I am waiting, sometimes patiently, and I am continuing to work on discovering what I love doing most.
So what comes next?
A few weeks back I was free to help a friend who wanted to get her family organized. She called me and asked me to come over and then made a business proposal. She wanted to pay me to help her get organized in as many areas of their life as possible. If I had been teaching, I would not have been free to take that call. We went through each room in her home and made to-do lists for things needing to be completed. We went to lunch and discussed each of her four kiddos, their relationships and their responsibilities. We discussed daily schedules and laundry days. We covered everything imaginable. She showed me what she had envisioned for a command center in her home, and then we went shopping. I created some super cute chore lists, color coordinated laundry schedules and monthly calendars, printed to-do lists for everyone in the family, and formed an agenda for their family meeting. I led one meeting explaining all the new processes and schedules, responsibilities and consequences. We worked together to discuss family covenant, what each person felt they had to bring to the family, and what they needed from the family. When we sat down after the meeting was over and her command center wall was put together, she asked me if the Lord had shown me anything. She wanted to know if this was something I could see myself doing for other families. I told her I would consider it, but I was still applying for jobs.
I have only applied for two jobs since that time. Both are jobs I would really love to have and could certainly enjoy for many years to come. Yet, something about this process with my sweet friend has really made an impression on me and changed my heart about what kind of work I would like to be doing. I love helping people become more organized, move forward, succeed and the family life coaching I did with this family hit on so many of my strengths. Maybe this is where I am headed. Maybe this is why I needed to be free. Maybe I am going to be working for myself someday soon alongside beautiful families and individuals who just want to get things in order somewhere in their life.
Let me end with this: finding a career in Waco is really challenging right now. This job market is rough, especially for folks who are well-educated, full of life experience, and still a little lost sometimes, but (if this new venture is why I needed to be free) I can say with certainty, it was worth the wait, the rejection, the questions and the pain.