What I neglected to mention in my previous post, was that shortly before I separated from the military I made the rash and unwise decision to get married. My marriage was a contributing factor to what started the downward spiral post military. I didn’t do any of the smart things that you’re advised to do before you separate. I had no money saved and no backup plan and it was my fault and my fault alone.
Shortly before I separated my husband lost his job. I’d just bought my first house and this was a major strain on finances. What made it worse was that he didn’t want to look for a new job. I did whatever I could to help him put in applications and put together a resume, but nothing ever came of it. There was always something wrong with job.
We made it a year before I couldn’t take it any more and I told him I wanted a divorce. I felt that if I was going to do everything by myself, I might as well be by myself and have some peace. I’d spent enough time with a partner who told me everything was my fault. I didn’t have much confidence or self-esteem by the time I ended it. I came home one day and he was gone, he moved back home and I moved forward.
Back to school
I knew that my job at the time was not going to be career job for me. Unfortunately, no matter how hard I tried, I wasn’t very good at it either. I needed to find a way to better myself but also bring in more income. I know I should have had better reasons than money to go back to school. However, it was the driving force that pushed me to school and kept me on track. I had to do something.
I’d gone to a job and education fair before I separated and I’d collected brochures on companies and colleges. One night I was organizing my file cabinet and ran across a brochure for a degree program I could do on the weekends on base in the education center. I thought, “I could do this!” I had no idea what I could with the degree, I just knew I needed one. I sent an email to the program director inquiring about admission into the next cohort. He responded immediately and got me into the next class starting that weekend. I am so grateful to him for being so enthusiastic and getting me in quickly. Had I waited longer I might have changed my mind.
Long days and long nights
I started class that weekend. I don’t know how I managed to successfully complete my degree in two years while working full time. There were many days, that by the end of the day, my eyes wouldn’t focus anymore. I spent all day at work and then all night staring at a computer screen writing papers. I loved that fact that I was working towards something bigger and better.
Somehow I made it and earned a 4.0 gpa every semester. Graduation was coming and I was excited! My dad was so proud and I’m so grateful he was there to see me graduate before he died. I was the first in my family to graduate from college. With all the good things that happened, came one major set back. My boss at the time called me into the conference room to talk. As soon as I sat down and he told me HR was on the line, I knew it wasn’t good news.
Twelve days before Christmas I lost my job. I asked several times what I’d done wrong. My boss wouldn’t tell me anything more than, “You’re not a good fit for this position“. I’d been there just short of two years and now I wasn’t a good fit? To be fair, I’d been busy trying to finish up school and I was distracted at work. But not being given a reason bothered me, because without knowing what I did wrong, how could I be better at my next job?
That’s when I learned what a “Right to Work State” was. From what I gather, it basically means when you are fired, your employer doesn’t have to give you a reason. I’ve often wondered how this protects people from being fired due to their gender, disability, age or health. Is it based on the honor system? This was a very scary lesson to learn. I remember crying and saying to my boss, “But Christmas is coming, what am I going to do?” He told me “I thought about waiting until after the holidays but decided it would be best to do it now”. He told me to “file for unemployment, the company won’t fight it“. Although I’m not sure how they could since I’d nothing wrong. The whole thing felt cold.
So there I was, twelve days before Christmas and two days before graduation and I was unemployed. I was learning the hard lesson that in the “real world” companies don’t give a sh*t that it’s Christmas and you have a family to support. But I’m not bitter, because it was part of the journey that brought me to where I am today. Although the toughest times were still ahead…