After hearing the news that I’d lost my second job seven years ago, I sat in disbelief, staring out the window and at the bookshelf in my cozy home office trying to make sense of the situation.
“These types of things happen to other people, not me,” I thought in my mind.
It took me an hour to collect myself, realizing that this little piece of news meant that we could no longer afford to live in our house and that we would have to leave, but not on our terms. More than moving, I felt like this was a sign that it was time for a career change. I started to think about teaching again.
A Mother’s Suggestion
Ever since I can remember, my mother always told me I should be a teacher or do something that required me to be around people. For a long time, I did not listen to her, even though she had been my most trusted advisor and confidante my entire life. Her counsel had nearly always been right on and just what I needed to hear to guide me in the right direction, but on this piece of advice, I always dragged my feet.
Soon after earning my Bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2001, I decided that journalism was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. The two years immediately after graduation from college, I languished in one lame job that did not require a degree after another. I felt like there must be something better and for a brief time thought about joining Teach America and start teaching at a California inner-city school. Those thoughts did not last long, however. Instead of continuing along my path of peon jobs, in early 2003 I decided to go to graduate school to pursue a Master’s degree in history from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Graduate degree and other careers
In Las Vegas, while pursuing my master’s degree, I met my wife and landed my first “real” job doing something I did not even think about doing previously – writing grant applications for a non-profit agency. After completing my Master’s coursework, my wife and I moved to Cedar City, Utah so she could complete her education at Southern Utah University and so we could be closer to family. In Cedar City, I wrote web content from home for a living. I sat there, day after day, talking to no one, putting in different words text I read online about places I had never been and probably would never visit. A few years into my web copywriting career, I took on a second job as sports editor for a weekly newspaper so my wife could focus on being a mom and finish her bachelor’s degree, I looked forward to getting out of the house and talking to people. As sports editor, I got to know people in the community and saw my name in print every week. However, I still felt like there was much more to life
Two-thousand nine became a turning point in our lives. That year, my wife finished her Bachelor’s degree in psychology and I finally finished my Master’s thesis, and in turn, my degree. Those were the good things that happened that year. Losing my second job, at the time, seemed like a terrible thing. Right after losing that job, I called my parents to share the news.
“You ought to go back to school and get your teaching certificate,” my Mom said after I explained to her what just happened over the phone.
Her statement pricked my mind. Right after she said it, I had a feeling rush over me. My mother’s words had turned on a light bulb.
“That is what I’m supposed to do,” I thought to myself.
I told my wife my revelation.
“Are you sure this is what you want to do?” she asked. “I don’t want you doing it just to please your Mom.”
“This is what I want to do,” I responded. “I want to make a difference in people’s lives instead of sitting in front of a computer for eight hours a day.”
“If it’s really what you want to do, you know I will support you,” she said.
“I know you will, sweetie,” I answered.
A few days after coming to this realization, I investigated my options for earning my teaching certificate. After checking out Southern Utah University’s program, it didn’t seem like it was for me. Up to that point, in my mind, Dixie State College (now Dixie State University) was nothing more than a “glorified high school.” I had teased some of my cousins about attending Dixie. As I talked to the education advisor at Dixie, explaining my situation and inquiring about the program, that stigma easily dissolved. The amicable advisor went as far as to completely map out a tentative schedule if I were to enter the program.
“This is a where I need to be,” a strong feeling told me.
After my investigation of Dixie, we made plans to move, to literally walk away from our house of the last four years and start over on what I started calling, “The Family Plan,” because of the immeasurable help we received from my parents and other family members, mainly my aunt, who provided us a place to live (my grandma’s old house) with very cheap rent.
Loss turns to opportunity
Three months after moving to Hurricane, I lost my web copywriting job, too. My main worry after receiving that news was how to replace the lost income since I knew unemployment would not be enough. Thankfully, I lined up a job only three weeks later as an adjunct faculty member at Dixie. The job was perfect because it worked with my schedule, was at the same place where I attended class to achieve my teaching certificate, and would give me invaluable teaching experience before I even set foot in a secondary classroom.
Since I started teaching, I feel like I’m truly making an impact on people’s lives. I am challenged daily. I am constantly working with people. I regularly receive positive feedback on my job performance. Best of all, I don’t even feel like it is a job. Teaching has truly been my salvation.
Reflection on lesson learned
When I think back to the experience of losing my sports editor and web copywriter jobs, I am grateful. If I had not lost them, I probably would not be as happy as I am today because I might be still doing things that brought me the satisfaction and fulfillment I needed. From this experience, more than anything, I learned that I must turn challenges into opportunities. Now, when something happens in my life as earth shattering as losing two jobs in quick succession, I am prepared to bounce back and come out of the experience better than when I started. Instead of thinking, “Oh no, what am I going to do now?” when a perceived tragedy happens, I will think, “How can I improve myself because of this?”
In addition to learning the positive approach to encountering challenges, I also learned to be poor and better appreciate the simplicities of life. Living on unemployment and my meager adjunct salary for two years has taught me how to live happily with less and how to manage money more efficiently. My only regret from this experience is that I did not learn these lessons sooner and that I did not decide to teach sooner.
A different approach to challenges
Every American has either been significantly affected by the The Great Recession or some type of job loss or has family or friends who have been affected. It is something that no one can avoid. Though an encounter with the recession or job loss is inevitable for most, those affected by it can choose how they react to it. A radio program I listened to a long time ago talked about what name the recession should have in the annals of history. The name most have decided upon is “The Great Recession.” One guest on the show thought the name should have a more positive spin. While I cannot remember his proposed name for it, I do agree with his idea. “The Great Recession” has been “The Great Cleansing” for many. It has cleansed many from the desire to “keep up with the Joneses,” making many realize that it is most important for needs to be satisfied and that one can be perfectly happy without extravagant wants. For many, like me, it has turned into “The Great Opportunity.” I have heard so many other stories like mine of people finding careers they truly love and even starting their own businesses after losing jobs with which they weren’t as happy. Americans that have put a positive spin on job loss now have a new lease on life. I have a new lease on my life and look forward to many more years providing inspiration to many more young lives.