Sunday, February 10, 2008

Full Circle

So, first things first.
I have a job. Finally.

Been a long time coming for sure. These past few months have been, well.... I suppose humbling is the right word.

See, three years ago when I made the choice to go back to school, I thought the outcome would be different than it has turned out to be. For the ten years previous, I had been working as a teacher in early childhood education (childcare), and when I started to have kids of my own that profession became even more challenging than the every day demands of being a teacher presented in and of itself.

Coming home in the evenings to children, after having been with 18-20 children all day long was taking it's toll on me and my ability to appropriately mother my own kids, I felt. I loved my job as a teacher, but I was exhausted, emotionally drained each day, impatient, and short with my children when they certainly did not deserve it. Then there is the fact that a childcare teacher, even a Lead Teacher with experience, only earns on average 8-9 dollars per hour. IF they are lucky enough to work for an established center with accreditations and the funding needed to run a great childcare center. Definitely seems too low when one takes into consideration that the fees for childcare are so astronomically high, ranging from 100 per week up to 240 per week, depending on center, location, and other factors.

In addition to the emotional struggles, it was also becoming increasingly difficult to support my family on such meager wages. In 2004 I made the ultimate decision to rearrange my life and enroll in classes full time so as to finish as quickly as possible. Three years later (last August), marked my finishing point. I had earned my Associates degree as well as my Bachelor's. I couldn't have been happier, more excited, more enthusiastic to face what I was certain lay ahead. A better job most definitely, a better home, a safer car, more opportunities for my kids, the ability to save for their college educations, etc, etc. That was seven months ago. Seems like a lifetime ago.

Over the last few months I have learned things about myself that I would not have come to know if I had not been placed in this situation. My goal for going to school, aside from family-related ones, was to work in the community to help other families living at or below the poverty line, single parents who need to be assured that things can work out for them, children who are in broken homes and need emotional support. You name it, I wanted to be a part of it. I had lived it after all, hadn't I? Who could help better than a person who had been among the lower class, living in subsidized housing, raising children alone, earning less than what it takes to live without government assistance?

I could attest to the stress and discomfort of sitting in the waiting lobby of the local social services office. I had lived the feelings of inadequacy and failure, being forced to ask for help during months when I had been out of work even for a few days with a sick child or standing at the check-out in the grocer paying with a benefit card - the only way I could afford food for my family. Those feelings were enough to propel me into wanting to make a difference, even if it was just a kind face behind the desk with a few comforting, friendly words to say to a client sitting in front of me facing the same circumstances in which I had once found myself. Because sometimes, those people make a world of difference in just their attitudes, you know? Sure, some people are always out to beat the system and have a false sense of entitlement, but in my experience, most of the time when a family applies for social assistance, it is driven by pure need and desperation and should be met with kindness and compassion, not patronization or hardness.

So, I was all stoked about getting in there and getting my hands dirty! That is, until nothing came my way. All doors I approached slammed with resonance. No windows appeared to be opening, no opportunities were coming my way, despite many attempts to market myself. I went to interviews, sent out resumes, filled out online applications all under the field of human services. I was constantly being told to go get more education or have 2 years of experience before coming back.

Huh? Excuse me?

Slowly I began to quiet down, quelling the panic rising inside and listen to that little voice that we love to ignore in our bustling around trying to fix everything and do everything ourselves.
Before I could be of any help to others, I must first help myself. I must first change things within myself concerning the way I was looking at the world, what I was mirroring for my children without realizing it. I was piling upon them values that I would be in the community striving to squelch and overcome.
I have come to realize that my own little family unit needs some healing of its own before I can reach out and offer myself or my experiences to others.

Suffering must be felt in it's entirety, and not rebelled against, or it will avail itself constantly. It will not leave. It's patterns will not be erased.
I have found myself, these last few months, being forced to once again ask for financial help, sit in the lobby of Social Services, and feel it again. I am recognizing the lesson for what it is and I must never forget. I must remember what it feels like to be drowining in desperation, to not know where the rent will come from, to seek a job and be unable to find one, to beg for help with food, to cry at the pain of losing the dreams I had built for myself and my family.
Slowly the realization crept upon me. Maybe, just maybe, this is all I can do and will be. The hard part was making peace with that, to love myself despite everything. To release attachments to what I want to have and be truly grateful for what we do have. To accept these things without harboring judgements or blame. Talk about eating a few slices of humble pie, folks. No more tooting my own horn or feling like I was going to 'rise above it all'. I am 'it all'. This is 'it all'.

With the acceptance of these soul-wrenching realizations, I have found a job working in a childcare facility, in a Pre-K classroom. I can legitimately say, that although the job pays a mere $9.50 per hour, I am excited to have it. Even three months ago, I would not have taken a job back in childcare, feeling like I was 'past all that' and 'deserved' something better. But, in all honesty, I am looking forward to it. It is what it is, and it is mine. For as long as I need it. I still have a special place in my heart for my dreams and goals, and I will visit that place often, keeping those dreams alive with feelings of love and acceptance.

Things have come full circle. But, oh what a circle of completion it is. As impossible as that may be to the minds of logic and geometric explanation.

Certain things simply cannot be explained.


InTheFastLane said...

Wow, you have certainly been through alot. With as hard as you are willing to work, I bet that there is better for you to come.

Family Adventure said...

It's like you said, you've come full circle. But you've gained experience and insight, and isn't that what life is all about?

Congratulations on your job :)


blooming desertpea said...

I agree with you - some things need to be experienced to be understood. I think, though, you had more than your fair share on that. Congrats on your job, it might not be the ultimate dream but it's a start. You never know what things can result from taking it ...


Chaotic Joy said...

Part of me is crying that you walked this long walk to end up where you have begun, but a bigger part of me knows that you are not where you were. That in the journey you have made steps you are not fully aware of yet. I am proud of you for taking this job, for being grateful and excited about it, and I will be praying it is the beginning of wonderful things to come for your family.

Amy Y said...

Yay for you for the job ~ believe me I know how scary it is...
Hang in there, Mama, and I hope the kids go easy on you :)

ummmhello said...

That really IS full circle! I was so touched by your story.
Really bothers me when someone who has worked so hard and for such a good reason is held back by the biggest catch 22... no job without experience, no experience without a job. Don't give it up, you've got what it takes, keep on moving and making a difference. You'll get to where you want to be, it'll just take more time....

slouching mom said...

I think you did a good job of explaining things that you believe can't be explained!

I'm glad you have a job. And who knows what will happen in a year, in five years, in ten?

There's a lot of living yet to do.


RealAge22 said...

My sister the survivor. NO - my sister the Conquerer!

I'm more proud of you than I can explain, and more so than you can realize. But it's not because you found a job (I always knew you would, for chrissakes) It's because you have the strength and self-awareness to learn from all your experiences, and not just the classifiable "learning" events that society has structured into the American life if it is to be deemed appropriate and correct.

In fact, it is the stumbling in between these predicted steps - when you lose your footing, meet real life head-on, take a few of your best swings and either break some of Life's pretty front teeth or go down swinging and eat a face full of gravel - when you really prove your metal. And whether it's the former or the latter, you can always say you entered the ring and COMPETED. No more hedging your bets. Either you win or lose, but you do it spectacularly!

That's my ultimate goal anyway, and I think you've acheived it.

ewe are here said...

Congratulations on your new job. They're lucky to have you.

mitzh said...

Congratulations on your new job. You certainly deserve it after all you've been through.

painted maypole said...

i am so glad you have a job, and that you are grateful for it, and that you have learned so much about yourself. your dreams are far from over, my friend, and you have so many gifts to give...

Christine said...

oh you.

this was an amazing post. the whole idea that we have to feel, really feel suffering instead of rebel against it touched me in a way i can't explain.

Running on empty

Karen MEG said...

Congrats on your new job. You have come full circle, but it doesn't mean that there aren't still endless possibilities for you. Keep believing in yourself.

Curiosity Killer said...

Wow, what an incredible journey you've made! And that really sets a better example to your children than the money you're making. And for that, congratulations.