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Four and a half months ago, I became unemployed.

It was 11/11, a combination of numbers which usually sends me jumping about (pogostick time) in an excited frenzy for roughly 1 minute, twice a day. It’s like good medicine.

My boss and I had been increasingly at odds with one another. I was working in an environment in which I was pretty much clueless: about the products, about the processes, and about the selling. I had spent the previous months repeatedly asking to be trained, to be given information, to have ANY kind of mentoring. I really did want to learn the necessary brain material to succeed in this position, as I knew I could learn (with training), and I had a desire to learn. “Aptitude and excitement,” as the owner put it the day he hired me. My friends and loved ones were growing tired of hearing me kvetch about how difficult things were at the shop, how frustrated I was with my lack of instruction. Though none said it, I know they were all curious as to why I hadn’t quit yet.

I had a lot to work through. In this job, I know I stayed because I had the inherent belief that it was okay to be yelled at by a male authority for the majority of my day, to be chastised and criticized and not speak up for myself. I spent many days riding my bicycle home in tears, furious that I had been yelled at, but even more furious I had not stood up to him.

{I have a history of being abused by men. This is not to call myself a victim, simply to state a fact. I do not make this statement to gain attention to myself, but to illustrate the reason I did not stand up earlier. Not only have I been conditioned as a woman in this patriarchal society, but I have a personal connection to belittlement and harassment. Please, I am not asking for, nor do I want, any pity.}

At the end of October, I took the GRE. I was very nervous about the test, not because of it’s difficulty, but because, if I was accepted to graduate school, I would leave this job and find work on campus. After planning and carefully structuring my conversations around NOT mentioning graduate school or the upcoming exam, my boss heard through a co-worker of my plans. I believe that he felt betrayed, as in “Why bother training her if she is going to leave right away?” {I say this in speculation. I have no evidence of this, just a guess based on my experience.} It was two weeks later when my boss angrily informed me that I was “prostituting” my time and his by assisting a particular customer in a way I felt was providing good customer service. Two days after this incident, he informed me that I should begin looking for another position of employment. A day later, I left early due to a migraine. He told me not to bother returning.

I have been unemployed since. It has not been an easy journey, as I do not qualify for unemployment benefits, nor did I have much savings. In fact, I have had to vacate my apartment in voluntary eviction, pack all of my belongings, sell many major possessions (furniture, household goods, etc.), and rely on the kindness of friends to get by these last few months.

It has been anything BUT easy. I am not a person to whom accepting generosity comes naturally. I grew up in a family in which accepting the kindnesses of others was seen as “charity” and not to be done. This was never explicitly stated, though it was made clear in a million other ways by example. Accepting the generosity of a place to live, food to be eaten, and safety in my life has been ridiculously difficult and, at times, even physically painful. But the other option is not pretty (street, shelter, losing my cat, losing everything).

Throughout this period, I have gone through many phases of “stripping.” First, it was removing layers of ideas and opinions about myself and why this job didn’t work out (thoughts on my work ethos, conflict in employment, and worthiness as an employee). Next, I had to accept that I had no money left. I couldn’t afford to my apartment, and possibly even my cat. I had to let go of the need to be a “renter,” of being someone who lived in her own place with her own furniture, her own utilities, her own responsibilities. I needed to release that I NEEDED to have this place of my own. Part of this process was determining where I would go once I moved out. Finding an affordable place to live is hard enough in this city, but finding a free or extremely-low-cost place for myself and my cat was going to be impossible. Or so I thought.

Enter my closest friend and, now, housemate. She of the biggest heart and most generous soul. She of whom I am constantly afraid that I will accidentally take advantage. Or intentionally. {I know, we never admit it, but sometimes as humans we do things to our own advantage, which may sometimes take advantage of others inadvertently.} After a conversation in which I clearly laid out my situation (which was dire, and very bad), she said that I would move in to her home, bringing my cat with me. My belongings could live in her basement. We would (my cat and I) have food to eat. And I could stay as long as I needed to get back on my feet.

She single-handedly renewed my faith in humanity and the goodness of people.

So, in we moved. I packed my entire apartment in two weeks, moved everything in the back of her car after she finished work in the evenings, and across town I moved. I sold my bed, much furniture, and made many donations to goodwill. My cat and I snuggled up in a warm home with full bellies night after night.

Though she asked for nothing in return, I felt compelled to provide something in exchange for my having a place to live. So, I did what I knew best: I cooked. I cleaned. I did the laundry. I cleaned litter boxes (she also has a cat). I kept up the house. I took out the garbage and compost. I shoveled the driveway. Because I wanted to. Because it was some small thing I could do to show my gratitude for having a home.

And here we are, three months later. We have discovered how much we enjoy living together, how nice it is to have company over the dinner table, to do the crossword puzzle together, to walk through the neighborhood in the evenings. Our cats spent this morning playing together as friends. I spend my days looking for jobs while she is at work. She texts me when on her way home and I start dinner. We eat, and then walk. Crossword puzzle before we each head to bed. A simple life, completely created by us.

I have never before been so grateful for the kindness and generosity of others. I am so inspired, and ready, to pay this kindness forward. As I look for ways to earn an income which remain true to my heart and values, I carry this experience of loving and openness into my search {more on this soon}.

Thank you, M.

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