On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.
Sunday – September 21, 2014
Sunday is church day and on a busy church day that means meetings. I serve as the secretary of our ward’s Elders’ Quorum (read: men’s group) which means, working with the Assistant Secretary (yes, I have an assistant–I’m big time), I keep track of everything going on and get all the computer work done. Basically, I take notes and push buttons.
An hour before church started, I met with the rest of the Quorum leadership. We went over things that need doing and people who need attention. Every time I sit down with these guys I have the same thought: I’m the only one without a job. I don’t mean to go there, but I can’t be the only one who plays One-of-These-Things-is-Not-Like-the-Others every time they’re in a group of people. Right? None of the guys did anything to suggest they look down on me, but still my mind went there. I do my best to not associate my unemployment with shame, but that feeling of difference leads to the feeling that I’ve done something wrong and that leads to feeling bad. It shouldn’t be there, logically, but it is always there at the edges of my mind. Thankfully, these moments are fleeting.
After the meeting, I did the pushing buttons thing. Any time I get to serve in this way I get reminded of what it feels like to have a job, lo, those three weeks ago. The entire morning–on the Day of Rest–felt like having a job. It wasn’t so long ago I was calling for meetings and giving instructions to my team and handing out assignments. That was all a big part of what I did. The other part was at the computer executing my own assignments. It just felt felt good to do a little of that again, even if it was all terribly non-creative.
On the heels of that I got an email today from a former colleague who was also laid off this year. He’d heard I’d just been let go and wrote an incredibly gracious note that spoke fondly of our time together and expressed his utter faith that I will find something suitable for and worthy of my talents. Even offered to be a reference for me. He reminded me of my value, which can be so easy to forget.
I’ve always thought of a job as just a job, the thing I do to put food on the table and take care of what really matters to me–my family. But in the last few years the job really became something more as I stepped up to assume the role of Art Director. The job became much more than a job. It was a source of real accomplishment and friendships and fulfillment. I was excited about what I was doing and felt like I was making a difference, not only for my co-workers and the people who had entrusted me to lead, but also for kids and teachers and everyone in education whose lives we were trying to make easier.
Now, I get that feeling of being valued when I’m at church, which is no small place to feel such a thing. I’m immensely grateful for church and my church family. Not only is everyone there a constant source of strength for us, but they need me there (or they’re at least great at making me feel that way). They look at me as someone who has something to offer and that’s something everyone needs. We need to be needed. To be not needed is to be lost. To have nowhere to go and nowhere to be is a nightmare.
This is what can sometimes make being in need such a difficult thing. I know we’re in a spot right now where we have to accept help, but I don’t want to just spend my days receiving. I want to give as well. If I can’t do that in a job, then, for now, I suppose it’s enough that I can at least do that in other ways.