It was almost exactly a year ago that Jason came back from a trip to the east coast with his 8th graders and officially didn't have a job lined up for the fall. No lessons to plan. No teams to coach. No classroom to clean the week before Labor Day.
We had taken the leap and left behind his very nice teaching job--with its very nice health/vision/dental insurance and retirement plan, with its co-workers that he enjoyed and the teaching schedule he had dreamed of, with its union protection and yearly raises and assurances that he would have a job until he retired, with everything that comes from knowing you have secure employment.
We left it.
At the time, having all the facts in hand, it seemed like a very reasonable decision. He would get a new job in our new town, and even though our new area doesn't pay quite as well and the benefits might not be quite as fabulous, that was okay. Because we were where we were going to be forever, and we were raising our kids where we wanted to.
But September came and Jason didn't have a job. The assurances our friends and family had given us, the perfect resume that Jason had crafted, the 11 years of teaching experience: they meant nothing. The economy had affected schools more than we had ever dreamed of, and suddenly the future we had imagined vanished.
We weren't building the house.
We weren't settling into a new job.
We were uncertain.
I can't speak for what this turn of events did for Jason, but I know for me it drastically affected how I perceived and, to a certain degree, still perceive the future. I had no plan for what the future would look like. I stopped thinking we would ever build a house. There were moments that I knew we had made the right decision, but so many days I couldn't bear to dream of "someday" because it seemed so unattainable. Even now, I can't and don't imagine a future with three children. I have a reasonable amount of certainty that it will happen, but I have remained emotionally detached from the possibility. If you don't have a vision, then the vision can't turn blurry and dark.
Because of our situation, I always felt like we needed to keep a stiff upper lip about Jason's unemployment. We hadn't earned the right to complain about being unemployed, nor did we for many months feel as though he ought to apply for unemployment benefits. Comparatively speaking, we were fine.
But it was hard. Hard to be interviewed and not get the job. Hard to see job openings, apply for them, and not get interviewed. Wherever Jason went people assumed he was a new graduate, fresh out of college, paying his dues like the rest of the unemployed. It frustrated me to no end that potential employers didn't realize who Jason was. It sounds arrogant, I know. But it was just so ridiculous to me that he didn't get hired. It is so asinine that you can't get an interview, I yelled at Jason. Don't they know you are a thousand times better than some kid who just got his teaching license? Jason mostly internalized, but I externalized. Loudly, passionately, and with a great deal of presumption.
After a year, I can tell you what you would already assume: being unemployed is emotionally difficult. All the Hallmark cards in the world can tell you to keep dreaming and adversity makes us stronger and that the sun will come tomorrow, but it doesn't change the fact that you don't know what the next paycheck will be. No matter what your circumstances are and what kind of safety net you have landed on, it doesn't soften the blow that no one values your expertise enough to hire you (and by "no one," I mean the local area where we're living).
And above all, you'll never be prepared for the day that your daughter cries because Daddy didn't get to go to work that day.
The night we found out Jason was hired for this next school year I called my friend Megan. We cheered and laughed together, and after a moment she said, "I wonder what God had in mind for you, for you to experience this year? What will it mean?" And I couldn't imagine what an answer might be for that. I've generally felt that the answer to "Why me?" is "Why not me?" Difficulties and hardships are a part of life, for as C.S. Lewis wrote, "If tribulation is a necessary element in redemption, we must anticipate that it will never cease till God sees the world to be either redeemed or no further redeemable."
I know our tribulations have not ceased, nor will they ever, but at the moment a spark of joy and hope has landed in our lap and we are doing our best to get that spark to burn hot and bright.
So what do I think the year of uncertainty (and the past four days of certainty) mean?
I don't know...yet.
I can tell you that this year that I've gone through has changed me, and not totally for the better. That perhaps what doesn't kill us may not quite make us stronger either.
I can tell you what it means to be grateful to learn of a phone call offering your husband a job, so grateful your knees go weak and you struggle to keep yourself from sobbing.
I can tell you I have much more empathy for people who can't find employment, particularly people with experience and education.
I can tell you that it is possible to be angry, to be depressed, to be heartbroken, and yet true faith in God won't waver or crack. I believe faithfulness is faithfulness, pure and simple.
I can tell you how Sydney reacted when I told her Daddy had a job: with smiles, with jumping up and down, with shouts of jubilation.
And I can tell you that after months sitting on a dark shelf in the closet, I pulled out the house plans and began to think, "Maybe someday..."