Dis Tew Much


About a week ago…

This is officially too much. My fantasy is to evade work for a week. Actually, on my 40-minute lunch, and 20-minute break I lean all the way in and literally pretend like I don’t work. Something about not working because I can’t stop coughing or crying feels off base of that dream. 

I had a rough weekend with physical exhaustion, stress, and nosebleeds and was finally motivated to figure out how to use my FMLA benefits at work. As soon as I initiated the process, I called out work for the second half of Monday. On Tuesday, I managed to stay clocked in for 30 minutes. Then Wednesday and Thursday I didn’t even bother trying to work. Wednesday I lie in bed with no medicine and no obvious way to obtain it. A coworker, IraShalee, offered to bring me something but she was working until 6. And then could I really ask her to go to a store, hike up to Post, do a background check real quick (or slow) so she can get through the gate to bring me some DayQuil? No, I would have to get up myself. 

As a person who is self-admittedly vain, as well as formal, the prospect of getting myself together to be in public seemed like too much and caused me to delay going out. I eventually threw on some eyebrows and accepted I’ll just have to look like shit in order to stop feeling like shit. 

Car on E, I drove myself to the PX. I realized after my perilous hour and a half drive home in the dark and pouring rain Monday my car was more sketchy than usual. I decided not to fill the tank, because this could be it for us, and rounded off to $20 worth of gas. 

At the PX, I purchased my medicine and other random pity items including a $6 cone of cheddar popcorn that I always want but seems like a bad deal. It was a bad deal. 


Meanwhile, my brain is wracked by the fact my Masters Program just started Monday and I can barely read text messages, let alone 9 chapters of text between my two classes. Not to mention the fact I have no books, because the school I applied to months ago managed to only accept me with four days notice. Sunday I sat down to try to follow the insufficient registration instructions, which ultimately culminated in me crying, followed shortly by a nosebleed. That experience is what led me to where I am now, which is propped up on six pillows on a Friday night to avoid coughing myself into an early labor. 

Thursday I felt pretty good and hoped to complete some errands to help me return to work with as little stress as possible. I went out with only a headache and a raspy voice. Iwent to the chiropractor who miraculously cured my headache. Unfortunately I traded one headache for another as I had to return to my car in the parking lot with the front right tire basically flat. I put air in my tire for the fifth time in the last month.

Next I went to Chick Fil A for comfort food, but ended up getting a salad because of the kid. 

From there I drove directly to a Jeep Chrysler dealership where they showed me a Toyota Corolla and tried to Jedi Mind trick me into believing as long as I can finance, I can afford it, when my aim is to pay cash. 

Next I saw a new counselor because mine is on a mysterious medical leave. She strongly advised me to drop a class and suggested I work part time. Don’t have to tell me twice. 

I think I’ve called my mom approximately 12 times in the last 6 days. Times like this make me realize she is truly the best friend I’ll ever have. No one else will ever care as much about me as themselves. 

Tonight I called in regards to coughing so hard I was starting to feel like I would throw up. She advised me to go get Delsym. Once again, I pull my raggedy ass together to go the commissary. I didn’t even draw in eyebrows this time, but put on jeans. I made it home to attempt to study but my 2008 Acer laptop wasn’t working. When I finally rebooted it I found myself coughing and texting Allison my judgements of my teenaged neighbors for playing 2009’s greatest rap hits at their party next door. 

I decided to give up on studying and get ready for bed but found a dozen little chores to do. I realized I hadn’t eaten, but coughing was making my stomach upset. As I peed for the 20th time this evening, I coughed and sprung a nosebleed for the fourth time this week. 


From my pillow mountain, I texted Spencer who I knew was asleep “I need you,” because I do. With so much on me mentally, physically, and practically, I didn’t see how I could continue. I am always tough and rational, but I need my husband right now. I need him to do laundry, get me medicine, buy me dinner, fill the humidifier, force me to drink water, bring me a charger, buy me a car, and make me feel like I’m going through this for the team.  

But alas, all I have is myself. This being pregnant during deployment is much harder than I could have imagined. Something has to give. 

Baby Making

Pregnancy Test

I am 18 weeks pregnant and my husband is deployed. He knew I was pregnant before he left because we planned it.

Why would one plan to carry a child without her partner? Because the Army. The Army has commandeered almost all of my significant life choices and it seemed important that we not let it dictate our life plan. Where we live and what jobs we have are temporary, but bringing a child into the world is hopefully a permanent decision. We wanted to make that choice on our own terms. Being 29 this year and reaching three years of marriage, it was the right time for us. Personally, I’ve been ready since I was about 18 but having a child in high school is frowned upon. Spencer on the other hand stated he needed a total of three vacations before he could feel he had done enough. The third would have been this summer, but all the dates conflicted with the deployment… Does Afghanistan count?

The thing about deployment is we basically know what to expect: things are going to be less good for x months (of course, still anything can happen). That sounds bleak, but better the bleak you know than the bleak that springs up when you have something nice and elaborate planned! Better he missed the pregnancy than us wait and he miss the pregnancy, birth, or newborn stage for some other reason. Those things can still happen, but the deployment should at least allow us a guarantee he will be home for the first part of our son’s life. Despite those “facts,” we ultimately prayed that whatever was best would happen and proceeded.

I know this is frustrating to many people, but we started trying in April, and we conceived in May. I was obsessed in April. I realized I could not continue on like that. It made me crazy. The tests, the sex, the hyperawareness was too much and I knew I would be a wreck if I repeated that pattern. The following month I just wanted to continue our normal routines, but did take an ovulation test the day my Glow app suggested I should ovulate and made a point to follow up…

At the end of the month, Spencer brought up how overwhelming it might be to come home from deployment and have a newborn. I thought that was reasonable; reacclimating after a deployment can be difficult. I agreed that it would be best to wait. LOL.

I hadn’t thought I was pregnant because I didn’t have any symptoms, I mean, I had a frozen daiquiri in the freezer. But Spencer was leaving town on June 1st so I figured I should go ahead and take a test so we could find out together as opposed to waiting four days until I joined him in Oklahoma. It caught me completely by surprise for the test to come up positive. Spencer came into the bathroom to see why I was laughing so hard. I replied by showing him the pregnancy test…which he couldn’t comprehend, because I’m cheap and had the test strips instead of the plastic test stick that has the legend on it to tell you want the lines mean. We took another test later that afternoon. Then I took one Friday and when we got back about 10 days later. It actually takes a while to really be convinced.

That was Memorial Day and Spencer left June 25. It was hard to celebrate a pregnancy when Dad was rearing to join the boys in the sandbox. And it’s hard to celebrate now with the time difference and our separate stressors. I didn’t think much about being pregnant without my partner because thousands of other black women do it every year. I now understand that just because people go through something does not mean it’s easy and it has not been. And that is the same truth about deployment. I wish I had someone to get me food, hug me and rub my feet, watch me grow, and talk about the future. Twenty minutes of FaceTime once or twice a day cannot suffice.

Despite the exasperation or aloneness I feel at times, so far I can’t say this was not the right choice. Overall it would be better if Spencer were here, but at times, it seems like he is better off not being around, because with these hormones and his personality, I’m going to be mad at him regardless of where he is.  This has not been as exciting of a time as I expected for several reasons, and only as I write this I make the connection that neither was my engagement because Spencer and I were apart for that as well and I had to do everything on my own. But the difference here is that my son is with me. At this point, I have to add “so I’m told,” because I’ve got this bump and these C cups but nothing else to show. Hopefully in the next few weeks I will start to feel him and that will comfort me. Although I’m not excited, the pregnancy is hardly the end goal; the baby is, and Spencer will be here for that. Hopefully.

The Boys Are Deployed

bootsonbedI don’t want my husband to deploy. I want my husband to deploy. My husband is about to deploy. His battalion has been gone for a while now and he will be joining them soon.
Am I sad? Not on the outside- or the inside really. In my brain, it’s a sad situation; in my mind, there is no use in crying about it.
I have been trying to articulate my feelings on this for weeks because they are complex. Feelings about being away from my spouse are the simplest. Feelings of not wanting him to stay are hardest to express.
When my husband leaves, it will just be me, endlessly taking calls, not cleaning up after myself, doing hobbies. I am hundreds of miles from friends and family with no vacation days left. I’ve tried to make new friends, but no one is ever close enough. It will be lonely.
On the other hand, I have it better than the other ladies. I don’t have kids. I’m older and have actually lived on my own in a city away from home. I am highly capable of reaching out to others. I’m equipped for this. For that reason, it is hard for me to feel sorry for myself when dozens of other women are enduring this same thing with a fifth of the survival skills. I’ll be alright. I’ll write more, eat better, and save money. I have no doubt I will find something to do with myself.

My plan is to find things to work on. Immediately, I should be taking a four-week statistics class. Oh, I decided to move forward with a masters degree, so I’ll have that to focus on as well. I may try Paleo again, which I tried when he went to Basic Training and lost 15 pounds! There is also that novel I started writing last year that I would be proud to complete. I have enough things to do that I see this separation as an opportunity rather than a pause.

That isn’t why I don’t want my husband to stay though. The rest of the Spencer’s battalion left a couple months ago. He didn’t leave because he was on medical profile after having vision correction surgery. There was a moment when his leadership told him they wanted him to stay behind as the point person during the deployment. I felt frustrated by this. Not just because the plan kept changing. I was frustrated because I didn’t want him to miss out on the opportunity. I didn’t want him to be the old dude in the battalion that still hasn’t deployed. I didn’t want him to be that one guy in a group that doesn’t get the joke because “you had to be there.” I didn’t want to spend the next nine months knowing my husband was wishing he were somewhere else, but that’s not what made my eyes sting.
While I was still unhappy with my career in St. Louis, there was at least the illusion of opportunity and the reality of money. You already know what the reality of my career prospects is here, so the consolation is the success of my husband’s career. If he doesn’t deploy, then he’s “behind.” I’m behind. This whole time I have watched opportunities be taken away from him and my career stall and roll backward. What made me tear up was that overwhelming feeling that if he has to miss out on something else, my professional sacrifice will be for absolutely nothing. It will be for his spun wheels, broken plans, late nights, and deep-seeded frustration, compliments of the Army.

So of course I want him to stay, but it is important that he goes. And he is going. True soldiers join the military to go through hardship. And I understand the danger and reconciled it when I decided to become a military spouse, that’s why fear is not a part of this discussion. We didn’t come to the land of chain restaurants for the chain restaurants. We are here because the one thing my husband knows more than anything is that he wants to be a soldier.

Master’s Degree

ribs at work

I distinctly remember being in the first couple months of my college career and thinking about how I couldn’t possibly earn a master’s degree because I  could barely imagine being in college for four years. By the time I was applying for graduation in 2011, I didn’t want it to end. I didn’t want to start working and figuring things out for myself, but life moved on. Once I did graduate my older brother started Pharmacy School and my parents began pressuring me to further my education. I didn’t appreciate that because I had managed all decisions regarding undergrad on my own, thank you very much, and I wanted to see where life took me first instead of earning another degree I didn’t really want.

Fast forward to 2017 when I feel I have exhausted my options. I have talked myself in and out of going to school several times. In the past the issue was finding something I could guarantee I would be happy with in 10 years. Growing up I wanted to be a psychologist or counselor, but I felt like it was presumptuous of me to think I could help people fix their lives. However, after college I began considering Psychology. I actually had a meeting with a black dude with dreads and a doctorate in Psychology that I had met on the street when I was 22 and dated a couple times. I went to see him when he was done with his program at University of Missouri St. Louis to gained some insight, but still wasn’t moved to sign up for the GRE. I thought my lack of action meant this pursuit was not something I should do.

After the Life Insurance sales agent debacle in 2015, I was talking to my counselor about my career woes. When my counselor and I start talking about school, I know I don’t have any real problems anymore and need to take a break until my next existential crisis. Anyway, without knowing anything about my childhood aspirations, she suggested I become a counselor. That was validating coming from her, my counselor. She is also a military spouse and felt like it would be a good option based on that experience and what I have indicated I want in a career.

I didn’t immediately pursue her suggestion because I was under the impression counselors didn’t make anything. She said she actually earned a livable wage, but she could have been the unicorn. I have since learned that Licensed Social Workers are more billable (insurance-wise) than Licensed Practicing Counselors and have less regulations.

As my unemployment reached a fever pitch- which was when I was home alone for a month like “what is life???” when Spencer was at Ranger School- I started looking into it. Being November, it was close to the application deadline for the school here and I had too many questions, so I let it pass. Finally obtaining in March a job put it out of my mind further, but here I am one year later and back at square one.

I am back here seeing another degree as my only option for a few reasons. For one, my counselor keeps telling me to “get my life” vocationally. She doesn’t use those words, but that’s what she is saying. Second, one of my other college-educated coworkers got another job in town, which woke me up to the idea there could still be other options. Third, I work in customer service for a health insurance company. I think my company is outstanding in so many ways, however, if one more person condescends to me when I inform them that I cannot tell them how much they paid to their healthcare provider, I just don’t know. I did apply for a Health Promotion Specialist position within my company but shortly learned that I was “no longer [read ‘never’] in consideration.” If I can’t get a job with the name of my degree in it the title, I’m skunked.

I have spoken to five different schools about their online programs for Master’s of Social Work. I can start soon if I want, but then there’s that whole money thing. Spencer and I have committed to a debt-free lifestyle. Taking a loan for $50,000 feels like going in the opposite direction. Do you think I have an extra $15,000 for each of the next 3 years? I’m going to go ahead and tell you ‘no.’ I could borrow part of the cost. I could quit my job and get it done quickly so I can move on to a higher salary, but exactly how long until I get there, and then how long until I’m back in the black after losing my income for 2 years? There are a lot of movable parts when considering a compromise. To make it more complicated, let’s not forget about that baby I’m supposed to have in the next year. I could wait until after the degree, but y’all, I’m already in my “About to be Thirties.” If now isn’t a good time, neither will be the first few years of my new career.

looking collegiate

The other option I have is to wait until I can use Spencer’s GI Bill to pay for the whole thing. These funds for education can be transferred to the spouse after the serviceperson has served for six years, and they must sign up for at least four more. We are still three years from that. We could wait and do that, but I don’t know how much more discontentment I can take.

Before you say it, I am looking at scholarship options but generally believe I won’t find any at the masters level. I will consider working part time to finish faster, or paying as we go and finishing it sometime within the millennium, or waiting until my kids go to Kindergarten and use the GI Bill. I think there are a lot of scenarios and strategies to consider, but it seems that it will require math, so who knows when I’ll start school. Whatever the decision, I just have to daily find ways to keep moving forward.

7 Ways to Be a Good Spouse (At Bad Times)

couple-simpatico

In November Spencer and I celebrated our two-year anniversary, and the retrospective portion of that was a lot different than the year prior. They can have 2016, it was rough for us. I had sat down then and tried to write a reflective post, but it just was not coming together. It was hard to sort through everything and make it interesting and upbeat. Right now I’m in a unicorn phase where I am obsessed with my husband and what he’s doing and wearing and he can’t get in a fight with me, so I wouldn’t want to convey otherwise. I decided that better than describing what BS we went through, I would skip straight to the lessons I learned from it.

  1. Be still as things neither you nor your spouse have control over frustrate the crap out of you.

The Army is number one for putting couples in the position of complete inconvenience with no one to hold accountable. When Spencer made it home from being dropped from Ranger School for no good reason, we had problems. This was January. He was getting moved to a different Division because of it and I was stressed about coming up on a year of unemployment. It was tense in our house for the first time. Then this summer, I was working full time and he was trying to deal with lack of job satisfaction and things got tense in a different way. Six months later I’m working from home, he’s working a different detail and the most tension we seem to experience is when he steps in water I didn’t dry up after refilling the Brita. I am saying that circumstances change, and don’t expect the issues or patches you are going through for a time to be your forever.

  1. State your grievances as clearly as possible and provide detailed instructions to help your spouse stop pissing you off, while maintaining an optimistic attitude.

This past year was one of transition. I was disappointed that it was not intuitive for Spencer to decide to sweep once he saw food piled under the cabinets. Unfortunately I conveyed my exasperation when I asked for his help, which offended him because I was in effect punishing him for something he had no clue was an expectation. This situation reiterated in many different forms. My advice to anyone would be to state your complaint and solution calmly and in good faith. If your request is not received after attempts on three separate occasions, feel free to pop off.

  1. Reevaluate your priorities to determine if the expectations that are stressing you really need to be on your list.

I tried to keep my house as clean as it had been before I started working 40 hours a week. I was wearing myself out going to the gym, cooking, going to work, and then coming home to spend all my free time cleaning at a snail’s pace because I was tired. I had to let go of my expectations for a clean kitchen. I had maintained certain standards because I felt those were my duties, but my husband wasn’t helping out without being asked because those were not things he cared about. I had the choice to let it be something I cared less about. On the other end of this, if you still care about something like the house being really clean, consider hiring someone to help you and alleviate some stress in your life. Yes, I know people can’t afford stuff like that and suggesting it makes me sound high maintenance, which I am.

  1. Find someone else to talk to.

My husband is not a talkative person, but I don’t think his reticence excuses him from having a conversation with me about my day or whatever is affecting me at the moment. Regardless of what his skills were, a listening face is what I needed in those moments and as a consequence, his inability to provide that was another fault added to my list. My advice to others is to again moderate your expectations of the other person, and figure out if you really need to talk or if you really want attention. There are ways to get attention without requiring him to be an excellent active listener when he is stressed too. If you really need to talk, recruit a friend and don’t let your spouse frustrate you by not being eager. Counselors are great for an opportunity to talk through something. Unfortunately I was unable to see mine at that time because of said job.

  1. Keep doing it (SEX).

I can’t make a list about being a good spouse without speaking on sex. This isn’t anything I learned from the past year, but it is important to keep viewing the sex as an aspect of the marriage to be maintained. It is easy not to be interested in sex when there are issues, but neglecting it will only make things worse. Requiring no words, sex may be the only way you communicate that is the same language. Sex helps to relieve stress and to reconnect as one.

  1. Keep it legal.

Don’t be looking to any other person or thing to fulfill the needs that should be met by your spouse. I know I just said to talk to someone else, but that’s for when you need to work through something. Don’t turn to another bank account to make you feel secure, or another man to make you feel desired, or even worse, vices to get you through. Things like those feel like remedies but rob the oneness of your marriage. Stay focused, and keep working at being the right person and helping your spouse be the right person.

  1. Pray for yourself and your spouse/Pursue personal development.

I think back over the struggles and still have trouble finding solutions other than what I chose in the moment. The only thing I can really pinpoint is that I should have committed to praying for myself and my spouse and fasted to really petition God for help. The solutions I came up with weren’t anywhere close to that, ie: not cooking for a week. I know everyone is not a Christian, so my advice is to be invested in your own well-being to center yourself for dealing with what comes and do the same for your spouse.

Being newlyweds, this year was the first time I had encountered a ‘system error’ in my marriage. As things changed, I wondered if things had always been off and I was just now becoming disillusioned. I found myself saying to my spouse “It’s like you don’t understand that marriages can end,” when I was fighting with him to do the work it takes to maintain ‘us.’ No, divorce never crossed my mind; we weren’t anywhere near that, but since I didn’t realize we were going through a trial, I felt we might be in the early stages of demise. I now know THIS TOO SHALL PASS. And, it takes time to grow and gains skills from new challenges. Be faithful  be steadfast in the work it takes and you will come out on the other side, holding hands, still leeching Netflix from your parents on a rainy day, simpatico once again.

The Commissary

Outside Commis

Every time I think of the commissary, I think of Akon’s song “Locked Up.” It says “Commissary’s gettin empty. Cell mates gettin food without me.” This isn’t the same kind of commissary. And they are never empty even though they never have fresh basil.

The Commissary is the grocery store on post. It’s not a primitive trading post, and they don’t sell government commodities, MOM. It’s a regular grocery store, for the most part, and it’s exclusive to military i.d. holders. This Army post has two commissaries that are basically the same but are laid out differently.

First of all, the commissary is usually connected to or in close promixity to the PX, which is the Post Exchange, which is like a mall slash kohls slash walmart, which I will discuss some other time. It’s laid out like a regular grocery store with produce, dry goods, meat, dairy, and a bakery.

In my experience, the produce isn’t all that great. Initially I felt it went bad quickly. Now, I usually buy my produce from Aldi, so maybe it’s different. They do have a large variety of items, except basil!

There is also a good selection of meats, and everything else, including several household goods and diet and specialty foods. In my experience, items like almond butter were hit or miss though. I assume the meat spread is good. I mean you can find NY Strips, pork shoulder, pig ears, but you might not find ground chicken.

Alongside those normal foods, there is a value aisle with Sam’s Club-sized items. I assume the items change from time to time. I don’t know because I don’t shop that aisle. Then there is a seasonal aisle with…seasonal stuff and other sale items. I don’t even want to tempt myself so I don’t go down these aisles.

Oh, I almost forgot- there’s a sushi station at the south commissary! They make and sell packaged sushi. Sometimes Soldiers sit in there and have it for lunch. I bought it once. It was okay.

ProduceAnyway, the main thing is that the commissary has competitive prices! Not cheaper than Aldi, but similar or cheaper than Wal-Mart. The only catch is that there is no generic brand. You know, like Always Save, Great Value, or Archer Farms, so it’s not as cheap as possible. There are often things on sale though.

Now, while they don’t charge tax, there is some surcharge. I am not completely positive on how it’s charged, but on my last bill it was 4.5%.

For me the real unique factor of the commissary is the checkout process. First of all, there are usually enough checkers. Yeah! Secondly, everyone lines up along ropes and watches for a voice, human or computer, to tell them which checkout lane to go to. Then we have to show our i.d. cards before the ringing up begins. THEN, one or two people bag the groceries and attempt to take them out to your car! BUT, you have to tip them! Naturally, it’s not really posted anywhere that it’s not a complimentary service and the baggers don’t ask if you want car service, effectively making you feel like a jerk when you decline. To remedy my self-esteem, I usually tip a dollar just for the bagging and get out of there.

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For some reason checking out really stresses me out. Last week, I came in from shopping with no coat on because I was sweating from strategically unloading my groceries, spending a lot of money, and crushing the dreams of the baggers by not tipping them more, and then getting everything into my own car.

I think the commissary is a great resource. It’s pretty cheap and convenient in terms of distance from home. This could be true in the civilian world, but a disadvantage is you’ll know it’s payday because the commissary will be swarming. And they are also closed on federal holidays, which can be inconvenient. Also, its HUGE, which is part of why I prefer Aldi.  If feels like it’s 2/3 the size of Walmart. I should probably compare it to Dierbergs or Kroger, it’s more similar in size to those, whichever one is largest.

Am I tipping enough? How are the commissaries where you are? Let me know in the comments!

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Dear Hiring Manager,

Please find detailed my unemployment history starting on January 30, 2015 until present. While it may seem that I should be employed right now, I assure you that my time away from the desk can be lamented and accounted for.

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Ready for some job searching…
February-April

I had initially expected this to be my period of applying to and interviewing for jobs. I had expected to find a position that would be the next step in my career and paying more than I previously made since I thought I was under-paid as it was.

I ended up taking a job with Bankers Life and Casualty Company at the very end of March, and spending April studying for and taking three exams to acquire my license to sell insurance.

May-July

I had high prospects for the company, but they were immediately set askew. On my honeymoon cruise, I had literal dreams about quitting when I had hoped to gain a renewed fervor. I finally cut my losses and walked away on July 31. I had made barely $1000, which I figured was about a point of breaking even for my expenses. Four months later I would receive a letter stating I owed the company over half that due to policies that lapsed after the termination of my contract with the company. I really took a lot from that experience.

August

In August I was back to the drawing board. How surprised was I to find myself qualified for a high paying federal position! I quickly understood how complicated federal applications could be. Fortunately, I was able to attended both civilian and federal resume workshops to improve my skills. Meanwhile, I began to consider what I really wanted in my next job.

As a military spouse, I saw the benefit in working from home and being able to make the most of every opportunity. If my husband is told he will be leaving for an extended period and given short notice, I wouldn’t have to worry about a work shift or obligation getting in the way of yet another going away dinner at Texas Roadhouse. I wouldn’t have to worry about how much vacation I have when he gets block leave. I focused my efforts on finding these positions.

September-October

Lo, in my gmail junk folder I found an email about a job with NHE, National Health Educators. Knowing how legitimate junk mail offers usually are, I excitedly replied. Then began the process of applying to this company. After several steps, the company invited me to apply for a higher paying job! The salary was over $70k a year. It was like a dream come true, but was it a scam???

I finally got to the point in the process where I needed to take an exam to prove my expertise. The company offered a study guide for $190! I thought this must have been where the scam came in. I talked to my previous manager and he researched the company and said he thought it was a sound opportunity. My mother-in-law convinced me that a couple hundred dollars would be a small investment for a “dream” job situation. I ultimately agreed and proceeded to put my eggs in the NHE basket.

The study guide was pretty straightforward. I felt like I was knowledgeable about almost all the topics so I started to get optimistic. But that was remedied as soon as I started the test. The content was much more complex than the study guide. I felt like I needed a Master’s in Exercise Physiology to even finish the exam; it was 240 essay, short answer, or multiple-choice questions to complete in 180 minutes. Clearly, I failed. I had an opportunity to retake the exam, but unless I somehow acquired that master’s degree, I wasn’t going to pass, and I didn’t.

November-December

Six weeks and $190 later I was back at square one. I was back to the soul-crushing practice of looking for jobs. I applied to some before I decided I should just apply to any job and start with jobs that sounded fun. When Sephora contacted me the day after I applied and demurred when I said I wasn’t available for seasonal work, I knew all my efforts at entry-level retail positions would be for naught at that time of year.

At the same time, my husband was gone and I felt useless and powerless. I decided it would be in the interest of my mental health to give the job hunt a rest.

A few months prior a counselor suggested I become a counselor. I hadn’t been too moved by the recommendation because the median pay is purportedly $40K. I didn’t think it was smart to pay to go to school to make money I’ve already made. Now, I was realizing that nothing I used to have mattered anymore because for the last 8 months I had made zero. It seemed like “retraining” so that I had an actual skill was my best bet for avoiding this period of joblessness at another duty station.

I looked into the programs around here for a Master’s of Social Work and Master’s of Psychology: Counseling. I was finally excited about going back to school. I called the university to ask why I should choose one over the other. The secretary told me someone would call within 24 hours, but then called back 2 days later to tell me the Chair would call Monday. He didn’t. Then I realized no school around here had the appropriate accreditation for counseling, or so I thought. I was crushed.

January

At this point, I have decided to find any job while looking for another job. Last week I went out to solicit applications, starting with the places I like to shop. Apparently people are too crippled by their holiday debt to shop right now and retail stores are not hiring. I ended up putting in two applications at places that aren’t really hiring and two at places I have never stepped foot in.

The best thing I have done is visit the Unemployment Office on post. It took me about 20 minutes to find it inside the soldier support center, but it was worth it. I met Denney who promptly told me I didn’t have a chance at the federal job for which I had just applied. A job at that pay grade would go to a federal employee, veteran, or outside person with a Ph.D regardless of it I was highly qualified. He told me I needed to get in the system by taking any job I could and then I would have a better chance. He also told me I needed to get additional education to improve my chances of getting jobs. Based on my degree he suggested associate degrees in Occupational Therapy Assistance or Physical Therapy Assistance, and randomly threw out Nuclear Medicine Technology, which happens to pay VERY well. I felt like this advice affirmed what I had come to believe about retraining. Mr. Denney also said I should be willing to drive the hour and a half for a master’s degree at the nearest State University.

Today

So here I am where I should have started 11.5 months ago. I should have visited this office first. Denney was the person I’ve been looking for this whole time; someone to tell me how to navigate this experience and what to expect. I have to put off what I had and what I deserve, and just take what I can get. I applied for an entry level federal position at a gym on post. I would alter plans for gainful employment, but I am looking at Associate’s Degree programs at the schools here and hope to start as soon as possible.

If any of you find me unsuitable for one of your entry-level jobs, I will get the picture: it’s not me, it’s you job market. I will gladly resume my tenure at home, in the kitchen, barefoot.

Sincerely,

Still Unemployed