Non-Traditional Student

Weak Meals
Dinner.

A few months back I wrote about my dilemma of going to school now or waiting three years to use my husband’s GI Bill benefits to pay for it. I had to come to the conclusion that spending the next three years asking people for permission to ask them questions despite the fact they called in to Customer Service for help may in fact lead to a certain kind of death.

I had to rush and pick a school to complete Statistics as a prerequisite. I picked my Alma Mater. From the website, it looked like I would be paying around $250 per credit hour by two ways. First of all, military personnel and dependents could get In-State tuition, and secondly the tuition for online only programs was around that same price. So I was good to go! Except I wasn’t. My tuition bill was $1421.

What I had failed to realize in my haste was that there was a deadline for claiming military status. It was in May but it was June when I realized I needed to take this class! Then, the online only course rate only applies if an online major is declared! Word of advice– just put down your mom’s in-state address.

I was anxious about taking the class because I’m terrible at math and had poor study skills when I was in college. But I’m grown now so I thought I’d do better since I’m responsible. When I was in college my Asian boyfriend did my College Algebra homework online and I still barely made a C. Nevertheless, I was cautious but optimistic.

The first assignment was to post “A little about yourself” on the forum and comment on two other students’ posts. Being old, I wrote a paragraph about myself instead of a numbered list with only the requisite three facts, and commented on several others posts. I eagerly awaited for someone to respond to my comments or my post, which no one did.

When perusing the forum, I realized I was the only graduate in the class. Do you remember being in undergrad and having that one lady in her mid-forties in your class that you kind of unfairly couldn’t stand? I recall having several classes with this woman who was frequently lost, but still tried to answer every question the teacher asked despite the fact she truly had no clue. In fact, she often ended her answers with “I don’t know.” She caught on slowly, but was self-sufficient enough to ask [stupid] questions to find her way.  Well at one point I realized I might be her when I saw that I was the only person posting in the forum regularly regarding TECHNOLOGICAL ISSUES. In addition I was probably the only person with an email thread going with the professor about various inquiries. But I was also probably the only one paying my own real life, non-Sallie Mae coins to take the course, so judge me.

Taking an online class and being a full-fledged adult was much different from undergrad because I had to work all day and do homework at night and grow a fetus. It was also a five-week course. Each week had a lot of work, but Final week was intense: two tests, four assignments, four quizzes, and a project AND the final, which I had to take off work for and pay to use a proctoring service.

P Value

Anyway, I was pretty stressed before the final. I wasn’t sure how I would do because I had gotten stranded in struggle city with the last couple chapters. I felt like my fate on the test was decided because I knew I didn’t have the mental or physical capacity anymore to “pull an all-nighter.” But on the other hand, DO YOU KNOW WHAT I COULD BUY WITH $1400???

I was so glad to be done with the class and statistics as a whole. But was also not 100% sure I didn’t fail. The feeling of relief after the final was like being post-coital, but then also like when you’ve just nearly missed being in a horrible car accident.

You can imagine how shocked I was to find that I had made an 88%! I was just hoping for a C. But I was really floored the following week when I checked my grade and saw that I had earned an A!!! I cried.

I cried because I had found a lizard in the shower that morning and was emotionally drained, but also because after 15 years, I finally had proof I wasn’t an idiot. I couldn’t help thinking back to struggling in Pre Algebra in 7th grade and the beginning of believing I wasn’t actually gifted or intelligent. If I had never stopped believing in myself, I would be a psychologist right now. I considered myself “bad at math” from then on, but looking back it had more to do with external factors than my actual intelligence. I could get deep and talk about how I was black and poor, and all my classmates were white with two parents and lived in nice neighborhoods together and studied/copied each other’s homework, but I am happy to simply say that I am finally ready to do my best.

#WifeGoals

Working From HomeI had a marriage epiphany a couple weeks ago. As I was presenting to my husband my quarterly list of grievances about him, and argued about what qualifies as “effort,” it occurred to me that I could put more “effort” in myself. Last month I heard myself refer to a previous version of myself as “when I was a full time wife” in conversationEven though my husband never complains, I figured I could try to be the girl I know he would like. As I do, I made a list of goals for the week:

  1. Keep the house clean.
  2. Consume and discuss politics.
  3. Have meals ready when Spencer is home from work.
  4. Spend quality time…on the couch.
  5. Look decent when Spencer comes home.
  6. Text throughout the day.

I started the week with ambition and initiative, but I will go on and tell you I failed at all 7 objectives even though there were only 6. Oh, I can find a way to fail. There was a moment that week that made me consider my actual value as a wife.

  1. Keeping the house clean.

I like a clean house and I work from home. That means I am impacted by the cleanliness and have more time to clean. My husband is actually very neat and methodical so I know he likes the house clean and everything in its place. Despite those facts, the house did not get cleaned until I was off Friday and that was just the kitchen. I had cleaned throughout the week, but I guess it made new messes at the same speed.

  1. Listening to Politics

I downloaded NPR Politics and NPR’s UpFirst in an effort to stay abreast of current events. As a clueless, married woman, I usually depend on my husband to brief me on politics and global events. I didn’t grow up around people discussing or caring about politics. I have certainly tried to seek knowledge, but find it to be a literal effort to retain any information. Not to mention that I don’t really watch television or read news. Spencer on the other hand, is very interested and has opinions. I know it would be stimulating for him to be able to discuss news with me and have an intelligent conversation. Despite having identified what and how, I didn’t even listen to the podcast.

  1. Have meals ready

The goal is to have dinner ready by 7:30 and make sure he has a meal for lunch. Things I used to do, even after I started working. Not only did I fail to cook this week, Spencer actually ended up cooking one day. He grilled bratwursts and hotdogs, with no bread, because I forgot to unthaw the ground beef. Then we had leftovers for the next few days. It’s fine for Spencer to cook, but not fine for me to be lazy.

  1. Hang out in the evenings

Quality time with my husband is watching TV with my husband. I would prefer he do what I’m doing sometimes since I don’t want to watch television all the time, but since this was about me meeting him where he was, I wanted to do what I know he would like. Keeping with the theme, there wasn’t a single evening that I sat down after dinner to do more than watch an episode of Veep. Instead I baked or cleaned.

  1. Look decent

Many people think I am attractive, but I just don’t know what you would think if you saw me at 1 pm on a weekday. If I have managed to put on a complete outfit, meaning not a robe or pajamas, then my hair is likely in the same ponytail I wore to the gym with a headband barely hanging on there. I know my husband would at least like me to look groomed, forget the makeup, but I didn’t even manage that. My edges were kinky and my eyebrows were faint, knees ashy…and dinner wasn’t ready.

  1. Text throughout the day

We don’t text regularly because Spencer comes home for lunch, but I am usually working the whole time or he’s napping so we don’t really get to check in. I thought texting throughout the day would be a good way to connect and let Spencer know I was thinking about him. Apparently I wasn’t thinking about him because I didn’t manage a single text that wasn’t logistics related.

  1. Don’t break my husband’s things

A goal not to destroy the other person’s property should be a given for most partners, which is why it was not listed. Even though I didn’t list it, the moment I broke my husband’s iPad case was the lowest point of my week. I am clumsy and I am careless and short-sighted. I did not foresee the iPad falling backward off the ledge and into the empty bathtub, but that’s what happened. I did my best to duct tape the hinge of the case, but it was no use. I sat it on the coffee table and waited for my demise

Scratching Dandruff
Spencer scratching up my dandruff… Sexy.

I really did fail at being a better wife. I tried and I failed. I was discouraged that I couldn’t even achieve what used to be my standard performance. I used to take pride in the package I provided as I anticipated my husband’s needs and stayed on top of my self-given responsibilities. I used to do things like make sure his water bottle was sanitized every week. Now I feel like I am going through the motions and sometimes not even that. I complain a lot about not being able to do both as a full time employee, but the reality is that I am going to be an employee for the foreseeable future. I can’t allow it to take away from my relationship. As I lamented to a friend about my failure, she pointed out took on a lot and should just focus on one thing at a time. I was kind of setting myself up to fail. But most importantly Spencer didn’t seem to notice one way or another. Even though he stayed on top of his chores, he never complained about the clothes crammed under my side of the bed or eating dinner at 9 pm. He didn’t even get mad about the iPad case. He only made a joke about getting a better model that isn’t clumsy. And that, my friends, is unconditional love.

Master’s Degree

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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.

Working From Home: One Step Closer to Not Working

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I loitered in the shoppette enjoying what my husband would later be disappointed to learn was a pumpkin spice frappuccino. I received a phone call from the technician saying he was unable to progress onto the military post. I was annoyed because I had given the company a heads up about the fact that I lived on the post and even called the Welcome Center to get instructions for them. Nonetheless, about two hours later I was driving the gentlemen onto the base in his huge, black Envoy. Getting in the car with a strange man was naturally sketchy to me. I did consider waking my husband to have him meet the man instead and pursued this option by standing next to his head for about 45 seconds to see if he would wake up. Obviously he didn’t wake up and I didn’t wake him because he deserved to sleep in.

That was the day my work station was set up in my home. That was essentially the first day of the rest of my life.

I was unsure about working from home when my Team Lead first approached me. For one I was concerned about the solidity of my skills and knowledge base after only being a customer service professional for a total of 3 months in my entire life. Despite this, my managers were confident I was ready and cornered me into it. Even though working from home would mean not having to be asked “are you okay” every other day because I’m not holding my face right, I just knew I was going to get lonely without my variety of coworkers to talk to and tell me I’m pretty that day; and I would no longer have anyone for whom to bake. Basically, I felt like the best part of my job was my coworkers.

In a shocking turn of events, working from home feels like I have gotten my life back! My day isn’t spent getting ready to go to work and then recovering from being at work. Instead of spending 7am to 9:15 am dressing and doing chores, I don’t really get dressed and I can do chores and prepare for dinner throughout the day during times that would have otherwise been spent in the office trying not to get caught texting.

As a bonus, working from home also feels like I have my relationship back! One day as my husband prepared to leave for PT, he kissed me and tucked me in. In that moment, I felt like I was living my best life: as a princess. See, the dynamic of me “working harder” than my husband set me up to be hard to please. I needed so much more from my spouse to make things seem balanced. Now that I have minimal stress in my life as an employee, it is not hard for the scale to seem even. This is why I chose to do it. I cannot say I have had any complaints for him….I am thinking…no, I haven’t had any fundamental complaints since I have been working from home and that in itself makes any negative effect supremely worth it.

Of course there is a downside to this. I would not say I have had a proper conversation with another person in over a week. Spencer has been doing EIB (Expert Infantryman’s Badge) training for the last 2 weeks, which means he has not been home for breakfast or lunch. And shame on me, but I’m on hiatus from the gym after a weird October. I find myself irritable because I want more quality time with my husband, but the playoffs and World Series have been on… Actually the problem is that he had to work some late evenings and over the weekend as well, which is time we need to rejuvenate as a couple. To help myself out, I have decided that I will go back to Crossfit a couple times a week…even though it’s more than 5 minutes away like my other gyms. I could use getting away from the house though.

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Getting ready to clock in one morning…

Working from home is essentially the best thing ever happened to me. Okay- behind knowing Christ, marrying Spencer, going to college for free, and when I lost 15 pounds in 2014. It has made work something I do rather than what my life centers around. It is weird that physically going to work was responsible for some of the hardest moments I have had in my marriage. I do not know what to make of it, but I don’t want to think too much into it because finally, my contentment is easy again. I will say that this past summer taught me how circumstances can affect or distort the reality. I can make a choice to eliminate or change something to restore whatever it is that is suffering, and likewise if I can persevere, things may change in time.  Focusing on myself, my home, and my husband has inspired me to take back my ambition and ingenuity. I look forward to the blessings to come of this new season of being one step closer to a life as a stay-at-home wife!

More Money, More Problems

The obvious result of my having a job is my having an income. That was basically the end goal, so I shouldn’t have anything to complain about. But I do- of course. And most of the complaints have been directed at my husband. Why? Because despite what my application said, I don’t perform well under stress.

 

Before I knew it, there were dishes piled in the sink, dirt collecting under the cabinets, and I was eating carbs for breakfast, which really isn’t me. I was tired and drained coming home from work those first couple months and the last thing I wanted to do was 1. talk about someone else’s problems. 2. clean or cook. 3. do chores. Sure, I had the weekends to catch up, but after weeks cleaning all weekend, I felt like I was never actually getting a break. It crossed my mind to have someone come clean, but I actually like cleaning, just not when there’s something I like to do better as an option.FullSizeRender

For the first time as a married couple, we were both working full time. I was no longer the kept wife, keeping up with all things Spencer. I still wanted to serve, but also had to go to work 40 hours a week, just like him so the dynamic we had previously no longer worked for me. Suddenly, we were “equal” and so much needed to change, you know, to be even. At that time I realized I had a placed my husband on a pedestal as “the hero keeping us from poverty” when I wasn’t working. The change from hero to co-contributor was abrupt and without grace. The imbalance manifested in my attitude toward my husband; we needed to learn how to relate to each other at this new station in our marriage.

So there’s that: we were on different grounds. Then there were the sheer facts: My work load basically just tripled and his remained the same, which was plainly and simply, not “fair.” I was resentful of the fact he didn’t acknowledge me for trying to keep up with everything, nor was he eager to help. Even still, there was the plain stress of this major life change for me: working outside the home, being around people and worrying about being liked, and losing autonomy. That in itself should have called for gifts and praise, but instead I found myself feeling disregarded. My husband’s life didn’t really change apart from the house being a wreck, so I assume it was hard for him to recognize that his actions toward me should change.

I needed help. I needed praise. I needed some slack. I didn’t really get those things. I did ask Spencer to do additional chores, but I started slowly so he didn’t get into this checklist mode rather than a #TeamUs mode. That didn’t really work. Frankly, I couldn’t understand why the logic didn’t compute with him. Over 45 less hours to get things done, yet the chore load wasn’t supposed to change??? We fussed about this. Mostly because I had a perpetual attitude aka  was”in a poopy mood” and when I asked him about doing something or complained, he simply reacted. I would have liked for him to see that I was stressed and try to help me out, but he’s not that advanced yet. We just fussed.

Men adapt easily. Five minutes after you guys break up, he’s got some other girl on his Netflix account. Spencer adapted to me being gone all the time without delay. I thought he would meet me at the door when I got home from work as I had done him. But instead, after having to unlock the door–which made me feel so welcome when my husband was twenty feet from the door and knew when I should be home–I got a kiss and then back to the tv, and it was hard to pull him away during dinner. It seemed like the tv beat me to my husband in the evenings. It felt like he didn’t miss me, which naturally snowballed into all kinds of concerns about the validity of my marriage because I overthink everything.

The strain in our relationship was a problem until Spencer went to Germany for 3 weeks. Then he came back and it was still a problem. I reread What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty, which is about a woman who loses her memory from the last decade and is shocked by the state of all her relationships in the present. I was inspired to cling to the reasons we fell in love and the reasons I find myself obsessed with this person rather than all the ways he was falling short at the moment. But when he came home, I was annoyed at having to take care of another person, and once again, and not having anyone take care of me.

After our fourth or fifth “Come to Jesus,” I asked Spencer why he was defensive or put-out every time I came to him. He said I always came at him like he was supposed to know something and had chosen not to do it. I had expectations that he had no clue about. And that was really the whole issue. I was expecting a lot of him, but not always taking the time to let him become aware before giving him attitude. I was mad about things that he hadn’t even thought of–*cough (despite being in a relationship for 4 years) cough.*

Reality is that he wants to be a good spouse too, and feels defensive when I act like he doesn’t strive for that, I assume. To be honest, I would appreciate if my job description didn’t include reading minds. Anyway, and then there was a problem with what I was looking for him to do. I was asking him to perform things that are natural to me, but were they natural to him? Even though my love language is gifts, can I be mad if that isn’t what he speaks?

Things really turned around when we went on vacation! Not only did we get to focus on each other and have fun, but I finally got a break. I had been able to make resolutions regarding my thinking, but I needed a change of scene to complete my paradigm shift. ($10 word, yes)

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While on vacation, Spencer handled my bags, brought me drinks from the bar, brought me food from the poolside grill, and dealt with my incessant car troubles. When we made it back to the airport I had a flat tire. This resulted in us getting air, finding a hotel, Spencer taking an Uber to buy a tire iron (because I accidentally took mine out of my car), returning with a socket wrench, calling USAA roadside assistance, and then buying four new tires; all while I passively sat and watched YouTube in the hotel lobby, chillin. This might seem insignificant, but it really allowed me see that there are ways of taking care of me that are natural to him. He didn’t ask me if I wanted him to change the tire, carry my bags, or deal with taxis. He just did it, much like I just do a lot of things for him.

Despite all my mental work, I have still been agitated post vacation. Being real, I was living for vacation. Now it is behind me. I am back to work, chores, and working out. One difference is that I’ve decided to give my husband a break. I see where his strengths lie. Unfortunately/fortunately I don’t have flat tires and luggage everyday, but I can respect that those things are more of his element. *I would like to advertise that he does stay on top of the laundry without my help.* It’s more beneficial to me to focus on improving my own efficiency than trying to fit a peg in a square. I still ask him to help out and he does, but I don’t think I can expect him to take ownership of all the things that are important to me.

This is where I am now: Tuesday, I come home and my husband informs me that he has posted a “Honey Do” list for me to write down things I need him to do so he doesn’t forget. The first entry was written and crossed out by him, “move bird’s nest.” I’m sorry if I shouldn’t have had the nest moved, but it was on my wreath on the front door and scaring me everyday. Anyway, I stop complaining for two weeks and this guy rewards me by creating a system for him to effectively do what I want… What should I take from this? Maybe in focusing on myself and optimizing my actions, my enhanced self brought about a better self in my husband. I know, I know- it’s meta, but it really comes back to something I learned earlier this year: Instead of focusing on “the right one,” be the right one.

 

Go To Work Wife

In another life I set my alarm early, for 8 am, so I could get up and not rush to get to Crossfit at 9. After my workout, I zoomed home to get lunch ready for my husband by 11:30. My goal was typically to be showered and have my eyebrows drawn on. The afternoon was spent doing chores. Dinner was ready around 6, and Spencer and I hung out for the rest of the evening.
Now my day isn’t so simple. I wake up at 5, go to the gym, get ready for work for an hour, possibly do chores, drive there, be there NINE hours. Come home. Somehow dinner is ready when I get there around 7:30 and then I’m dragging myself off the couch to get ready for bed around 9:30.

Just Bri
“I miss not having to go to work,” I told my husband. “I bet you do,” he replied. I knew I would miss it, and thus tried to embrace my joblessness. Being a stay at home wife with a college degree and no children is an anomaly. I loved it more than I expected to, but not having control over being unemployed also made it an unpleasant experience at times.

As I described above, my day to day life has drastically changed. I have 45 less hours a week to take care of my house and my husband. I have 45 more hours a week that I have to be socially acceptable to others. That in itself wears me out. I have to say this transition not been easy. I can’t keep my house like I used to and my emotions are now affected only by things within the walls of our home. I used to feel like some sort of domestic hero and now I’m a working woman who needs “help” around the house and things like “a break.”

I have had to work hard to achieve some sort of balance so as not to break up my marriage. One of the first issues was the chores. It was hard to transition my husband into helping when he hadn’t really had to help for a year. I tackled that in phases. It was still strategic, but still kind of a trainwreck. I didn’t immediately want to give him a list of things to be responsible for because I didn’t want him feeling like I was being his mom and telling him what to do. I started by asking him to do specific things, and then a general plea to address things that need to be done, like throwing away a used napkin that’s been on the coffee table for two days. Myself, I started trying to at least do dishes in the mornings, then push through and get some cleaning done after dinner before powering down for the night. Other than that, I have to just deal with the fact my house isn’t going to be as clean as it used to.

I could have Spencer share responsibility for meal planning, but something about working all day and then being served canned chicken and Uncle Ben’s 90 Second rice doesn’t make me feel excited. Also, I do enjoy cooking. I haven’t gotten to the point of meal prepping on Sundays, but I do prep.  In the beginning, I once found myself up at 1 am trying to cut the skin off a pork shoulder to put it in the crockpot. That was when I realized my life was spiraling out of control. Now, I prep dinner before work and give Spencer instructions for finishing it, I try to make something in the crockpot at least once a week, and throw in something for Spencer to grill since he’s home from work before me.FullSizeRender (7)

Next I had to reconcile the fact that I couldn’t attend Crossfit anymore. This was a loss in terms of opportunities to interact with people I had something in common with, and of course getting good workouts. I got off too late to go after work and was not about to hike 20 minutes down the expressway to attend a 5 am class. To be honest though, I was ready for a break from Crossfit, so I wasn’t broken up about not going, just inconvenienced.
Initially, I was trying to do Insanity or run before work, or work out after work, but one day I found myself dreading getting off work because I didn’t want to have to force myself to exercise once I got home. I eventually had to find a program from bodybuilding.com and commit to getting to the gym at 5:30am. This has actually turned out to be a great experience. I love how it feels to get my workout done before my counterparts are even awake. I feel like I have accomplished something with that alone, and also have finally been able to achieve results in my physique that I wasn’t able to attain with 5 days of Crossfit per week.

I mentioned having to be around people being a difficult transition. It can still be a challenge. I am an introvert. I enjoy solitude and feel drained when I’m with people too much. I feel I have to work hard to be understood. Sitting in a training room with 15 other people for 9 hours a day had me spent. Not to mention the fact that I don’t have much in common with my coworkers. Most have children, most are older than me, and few have any interests in common with me. They are nice people, but it is hard to feel included. Apart from having to try at life all day, I now have to get dressed and follow instructions everyday. After 9 hours of all of that, I’m tired!
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Despite the struggles and the fact I’m no longer good at texting (or blogging), I have a paycheck now! AND best of all, I no longer have to LOOK for a job, which is THE WORST. I’m here and I will make the most of this opportunity. The days when I wonder where I will go next or if I will succeed, I just remember that the fact I’m even sitting in that building is a blessing. It still feels like it was a matter of chance that I got the job. I never want to forget that. “But for the grace of God, there go I.” Me stressed, tired, and over exposed is better than me at home on indeed.com with no bra on sitting in the same spot on the couch for 3 hours. Stay at Home Wife to Go To Work Wife has been an interesting transition, but as with everything else, I surely did adapt.

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