The heart of the matter

  

Where should I start?

Let’s go back to when the ball dropped and 2015 had arrived. Just like any other new year I was excited and so certain my life was going to make this huge turnaround. It did, somewhat. It was for the good mostly but I kept feeling uncomfortable and hidden as if I was being overlooked by family, friends, jobs, or lack thereof. The new year of 2015 was the beginning of me forming the words to say where I worked and that it was ok. It was the beginning of having 3 jobs and struggling to keep a balance. The year began with a promise to myself that as long as I love me, a true love would follow. While I can’t proclaim that I became a rejuvenated person in 2015, I can definitely say I have grown. With all of my heart I am growing.

Let me go back to June 12, 2012 when I was laid off. This will bring the present more full circle, please bear with me. If you’re still reading, thank you. June 12, 2012 was the most confusing, hurtful, weird day of my young life. Following a merger with another organization the place I had been so smitten with was gone, taken, and turned into a company I couldn’t recognize even with my reading glasses. It was different. When the “chosen ones” were given notice of our immediate departure I felt numb. Though it was a summer day in June it was rainy and damp, much reflective of my hurt feelings. I had some hopes that the outcome would be different. But lines were crossed and professionalism went out the window, along with my emotions that felt like they were trampled on. 
From that day on I struggled with what my next steps would be in regards to a career. I loved the work I was doing, working with high school students, planning events, writing for the organizations newsletter, plus bonding with my co-workers. It had been about 2 1/2 years since I graduated at that point. But suddenly my first big job out of college was terminated, as if it never existed. The “work family” I had adored so much had dwindled into a last man/woman standoff of who would jump ship next. I had only wished I had left willingly. 

Even today I sometimes think about if I had a job lined up I wouldn’t have cared as much about getting “the boot.” But I had nothing lined up, false promises of potentials that went nowhere. 

The unemployment hotline became my newest co-worker of getting funds available so that I could care for myself and the 2 year old car that I so greatly loved. Being unemployed was a foreign word to me. My first job was at 15 years old and I continued on to keep a job. So when I had to take a dreaded trip to the welfare office I was forever humbled. In that moment I wasn’t Elishia who had a degree and working towards a second. I wasn’t the “smart girl” who had it going on. I was broke and in need of assistance. 

I don’t think I can ever forget the neglect and discrimination I felt in going to that welfare office. I felt labeled, I felt pitied, Black, poor, from the hood, words I wouldn’t typically use to identify myself. But that’s how the welfare office was the two times I had to suffer through the long wait, crying babies, and eyes wondering about the next persons “situation.” You could always tell the pros and repeat folks who knew how to work the system. I was unaware and somewhat snooty of why I was even there. Once called to the back area to speak with a caseworker, I was given the breakdown of what I was eligible for and what I wasn’t. Having no children or a disability left me with very few options. 

The caseworker seemed to see right through me, noticing on my application my highest level of education. The older gentleman peered at me over his glasses. “It can happen to anybody,” he said. He chatted with me candidly, “I spoke with a man not too long ago, college educated, Master’s degree like you, but had a Ph.D. and boom, laid off. He sat right where you are and there wasn’t much I could offer him. Single, no children, or a disability to speak of. He looked at me like how you are right now.” I remember adjusting my exhausted facial expression and apologized, informing him of my frustration and feeling like it was unfair. 

The caseworker filled me in on his almost 30 years working for the welfare office and that he’d seen it all. “You will figure it out, you got the tools.” Naturally in the moment I felt like he didn’t understand but thanked him just the same for the insight. But he wasn’t too far off. I did have the tools but I felt like I needed a manual on how to build from there.
The next year when my unemployment ended in September of 2013 I was again unprepared. The prized pot of gold benefits had ended, there wasn’t anymore money to dish out. My almost daily job searching hadn’t led to any prospects and I was in dire need of money. The long lost rich uncle I imagined was nowhere to be found. So I hit the streets. Well let me clarify, I “hit the pavement” as the saying goes and began my job searching on the streets by foot. I walked in and around my city of Philadelphia to see what businesses were hiring. Most people looked at me crazy upon me asking the words, “Are you hiring?” or that I wanted to fill out an application in person. Some businesses right away told me to apply online and I very quickly would turn back around and walk out the door. 

The one particular day I went out to find a job was tiresome but productive. At that point in the aftermath of my unemployment ending it was mid October of 2013, over a month without income. Luckily, with what I had left in my bank account and some assistance from family I was able to pay for my major expenses. But in many situations that can’t go on but for so long. 

Something in me had decided that going directly to certain businesses might reflect positively on my part. Tired and ready to go home, I somehow ended up at The Franklin Institute. I was greeted at the information desk by an older Black woman with cropped salt and pepper hair. I informed her of the nature of my visit and I was given a paper application to fill out. I left the building exhausted and sure that it was a dead end. 
About two weeks later my cell phone rang while at a Starbucks doing writers stuff (sipping on coffee that I rarely ever drink, gazing out the window, notebook in tow, and occasionally looking at the other out of work folks and possible nannies), writers stuff. The phone call was an interview invitation and I graciously accepted. 

The day of my interview as a greeter in the museum quickly turned into being hired on the spot. I could’ve cried in that moment but instead I said yes and was asked when I could start. In the beginning of my new job journey on November 1, 2013 I was bitter. I was half grateful to finally get a job but the other half of me thought, “Is this it?” I felt like I had worked so hard post being laid off, submitting app after app, job interviews here and there, or dealing with rejection emails. I felt like I deserved more. I had just received my Masters degree. I felt like I deserved more than a part time job that required me to stand all day and give out repetitive directions of where “The Heart” or bathroom was where the sign clearly said BATHROOM. I wanted more! I wanted to end 2013 with the kind joy that I so gratefully wanted. But it was anything but joyful. I felt appreciative but angry.

I yearned for the kind of balance the therapist I had been seeing discussed with me. Balance of acceptance and being ok if all of my tasks were not completed in a day. Therapy was brief but beneficial. Upon expressing to my physician about the continued sadness I was experiencing from losing my job and other emotions, he recommended that I speak with a specialist to get my thoughts out. It was a must, I hadn’t felt so down and unqualified as I did after June 12, 2012. 

When a year had gone by after being laid off I didn’t feel fixed or better. The therapist helped me to address the root of my problems and seesaw-like emotions. 

My mind felt so warped that I began to think I was experiencing a sickness that had my mind in chains, unable to break free. I was so tangled up in my mind that some nights I tearfully asked my mom to sleep in the bed with me. I was in fear of being alone and afraid something bad would happen to me. Thoughts of death and thoughts that my heart was not functioning was proof of the deepened depression slash anxiety I was facing. It seems so small now. But while everything was happening all at once I could not handle the loss, the rejection and the hurtful words said to me leading up to my job termination. 

Starting a new job at the museum wasn’t what I had expected or felt like was mine. I hadn’t let go of the previous hurt and here I was moving on to something way out of my element. I was downright bitter about it.

The first few months at the museum I began distributing the same behaviors that I displayed at the previous job when it was close to being over: showing up late, looking and feeling uninterested. When my manager called me out on my missed morning meetings and lateness, I felt bad. I was convinced that this new job I had wouldn’t last and there was no need to act like I cared. I had the urgency to tell my manager a quick rundown of what my lateness and bitter behavior stemmed from. She seemed to understand but ever so politely let me know what would happen if my lateness continued. 

It took some heart to heart conversations with family and a few friends for me to finally get to the source of my bitterness and roller coaster of emotions. 
When I turned 25 I was no longer eligible to be an added person on my dad’s health insurance so I had to end my therapy sessions. Some months after I felt like I still needed to vent to an unbiased person. Then there were other times where I felt I could handle what I was going through in a different way.

When my one year anniversary of being employed at The Franklin Institute came about it felt strange but I was grateful. I was grateful that I survived a year full of doubt, tears, run-ins with guests, lateness, too short lunch breaks, and sore feet. I was also grateful to have met co-workers who varied in ages and experiences. From the college aged kids who were just getting their start, to the retirees that I never grew tired of listening to. I had established friendships and a fondness for people that I more than likely wouldn’t have met had I not been through my passing storm. 

Throughout 2015 I was faced with hardships, a juggle of added jobs and trying to keep my mind at ease. This past summer was a huge test of my tolerance and ability to handle multiple responsibilities. It is my eagerness to make it through my career hurdles that is a true testimony. I survived, and I continue to move forward. 
Two years this past November marked my second anniversary at the museum, and seven months at an elementary school working with 1st grade students with special needs. 

Yup, I’ve been one busy bee. In between the career chaos fun was had, but there was some loss of good people, strain on friendships, then there were beautiful weddings, one trip to the beach where I placed my feet in the sand, dating adventures that failed, feeling hopeful, a new book idea that I am confident will soar, and other positive news on the way. 

This year of 2015 kicked me around – a lot. Not to mention the car accident I was in just 2 days after Christmas, a head on collision that wasn’t at my own fault. But I can’t help but feel like if I didn’t take Chestnut Street to work when I normally take University Ave to hop on 76, the crash wouldn’t have happened. I took a different route and literally BOOM! My precious car went slamming into another car that ran a red light. A bruised knee and stiff neck later I am here, I am alive and surely will be well. 

My first purchase as an adult was so roughly damaged and I feel sad. Reminiscing on all of the trips, snowstorms, the cherry red color that I kept in good condition, mostly good memories of my first car. But gratefulness is what I feel. No matter the outcome my mind and body was kept in place despite the crash. All parties were unharmed though the sight of my car scrambled in a busy intersection is still heartbreaking because it’s very fresh. But again, I am safe and that’s what is important. 

Material things like cars can be replaced, and I was so lucky to have had one for 5 years with very few mechanical problems, and one payment away from paying off the car loan completely. Even with my up and down financial issues during the last 3 years I managed to still pay for my expenses and have enough money to do simple things like treat my mom to a movie or dinner. 

I am savoring the good because it is meaningful. If you were to ask me what’s next for me or if I think 2016 will be “my year,” my response is, “I am savoring for the here and now. But the hunger for more is still there. The heart of the matter is that I am never too full. That’s a start.”  

-Elishia

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