To give myself motivation to complete my schoolwork when the dark nights had me wrapped up in their folds, my body and brain depleted and eager for sleep, I would remind myself that someday my degree would allow me to work without traipsing over to Wal-Mart to beg for a minimum-wage job. I would push my endurance to its very limits, stay up late into the night so that I might turn my assignments in on time. Someday the rewards of the hard work would be in my grasp. I dreamed big. It seems, however, that I traded in employment for one large corporation for that of another.
Life has a way of sneaking around all my plans, stealing in the shadows and popping up right when I think my goal is in sight. When the pandemic in full swing, misery was beginning to creep into my daily life to rob me of my motivation; a thief interrupting my ability to complete my schoolwork as I had so well in previous years. After reflecting on why I was struggling so much after doing so well for so long, I realized that my lack of routine and outside interaction was costing me mentally. I did what I had not done for years before: I got a job.
I had contemplated how nice it would be to contribute to our household income prior to this, but it wasn’t feasible due to the high cost of childcare. With low-paying jobs as my only option, the potential cost of childcare exceeding the wages I would bring home, and no family to watch my young children, I had no choice but to feel helpless at home while my husband went to work. No matter how strong my feminist feelings on the matter were, I could not logically find a way to work outside the home.
That changed once my husband graduated from nursing school and then subsequently went on to finish his BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing). He settled into working three twelve-hour shifts a week and had more time freedom to help me around the house once his schooling was entirely out of the way. There were now four days a week where we were both home, and I was finally able to get a job.
Writing a resume was far more intimidating than I expected it to be, because outside of informal babysitting and assisting people in the neighborhood for pay, I had nothing to put on my resume aside from my work as a cashier and CNA between the ages of 18 and 19. I became a mother at a young age because it was what I had been raised to do! I collected board books and tiny socks, read about baby sign language and attachment theory in preparation for motherhood. What I hadn’t done was consider how my future job prospects might be limited by an empty resume.
Still, I prepared a very empty looking file that emphasized my not-yet-complete education rather than my work history, gulped down my anxiety, and started on my job search. I applied for position after position. On that first evening of applying, I was drawn to one advertising $16/hour to drive for Amazon. This wage was far higher than any other jobs that fit my non-existent practical skill set, so I applied, knowing full well that the birth of my youngest child had left me with crippling anxiety that I felt impeded my ability to drive.
Despite the impracticality of it, I reminded myself of other things I’ve done that have stretched and challenged myself: going to school full-time as a mother of three, leaving my childhood home at 18 with a minimum wage job and a heart full of grief immediately after my mother died, parenting a child with delays and disabilities. Despite my many failures, I am confident that I can at least give my best efforts to anything I put my mind to. This would be no exception.
The employer called me that Sunday evening from his personal phone and we set up a job interview for the next day. I was hired on the spot. And yes, I overcame my driving anxiety. It isn’t the job I dreamed of when I started school, and I didn’t think I would be doing it still after graduating, but I am. It’s hard, hot manual labor that hurts my knees, but I’m happy with it for the time being if for no other reason than how it helped teach me not to let fear of change restrain me. Now don’t laugh or curse at me when you see me trip over a sprinkler head in view of your video doorbell.