I stood there, my palm facing towards the ceiling, as she sprayed some liquid onto my hands. Then, one by one she pressed my fingers to the dampened glass. We stood there, watching the images on the screen, and waited for each one to be a match or a retake. Even with some difficulties in perfecting our roll technique, it didn’t take long. Maybe 10 minutes all told, from inputting my data to transmitting off the prints. There’s only some final paperwork on their end and an oath of office on mine. And the way I felt the whole time? Exhilarated, happy, and relieved.
This has been a long time coming. It’s still not exactly what I want. I’m working below my education and experience level. The problem is that the government doesn’t recognize that fact. And at this point, I really don’t care. I just want to work. By the time I swear in, it will have been almost 29 weeks since I last worked regularly. 29 weeks of waiting, then moving, then waiting a lot more. The last 2 months have been particularly excruciating. I’ve had a tentative job offer since 1 May. I still don’t have the firm one and I may not get it at all due to some paperwork issues. But in just one week, I’ll finally be working again.
I try not to be the type of person to derive my self-worth from external factors such as a job. But I would be lying if I said that this long stretch of unemployment hasn’t harmed my psyche.
I’ve felt like such a burden.
I’m flying to Prague this weekend. A not-small expenditure of funds – not huge mind you, but not small. And B is not going with me. I’m meeting a friend for a girl’s weekend in Prague. While I’m not working. While I’m not contributing to our household income. That’s been hard on me. I don’t like feeling like things are this unbalanced. Don’t get me wrong, they’ll still be unbalanced. He will probably always out earn me because we will be moving for his job, not mine. I haven’t earned a significant income since the summer of 2010. My teaching in Germany funded our trip and fun monies, not anything serious. He’s had to do all the heavy lifting. And now I can start helping to pull my own weight. Since we got married, we’ve paid off over 35k in debt. 18k on my student loans, 4k on my credit card (which he paid off the first week of our marriage), and 13kish on his private loan. He’s had to bear the brunt of those payoffs. Now though? We have just under 15k left on his loan, which sits at a .5% interest rate and that he invested all of the money from. And now? I can help pay that off. Our plan for now is to put my entire paycheck to paying off his debt and having it gone in just a few months. Our second year anniversary gift (a few months late) to ourselves. I can help with our household again. I can be a fully-functioning partner in this relationship.
I’ve lost who I am.
Five years ago, I was in the process of finishing my undergraduate degree and moving to get my master’s work done. I had a purpose. I had a plan. I was going to get this master’s degree because it was mostly paid for and then I was going to go to Ireland for a year to get another master’s before coming back to the States for my PhD work. I was going to teach at a university, right brilliant publications, and be an eccentric professor who’s only passion besides her work was traveling the world.
Three years ago, I had finished my master’s, but through a stroke of life, I had 20k in student loans that I hadn’t anticipated. I also had no money. I was living in a friend’s spare bedroom, just one step from moving in with my parents. No better really though, because my friends took me in rent free for six months. I had less than a hundred dollars available to my name in either cash or credit. I was working at a child’s gym and play class that catered to yuppies excising their guilt on working by overpaying for a class that taught them how to play and interact with their children. I would shortly switch to not one, but two, better jobs. I would move out from my friends, regain my independence, and focus on a new plan. Now I was going to take a year or two to work and pay off debt and then I would get the Ireland degree and go to school for my PhD.
Two years ago, I was finishing up my first year of grown up work. I was packing up my apartment to move across the US with B. Shortly we would get engaged, elope, and move to another country. And I haven’t had any plans since. I went through major depression in Germany, but I found peace and fulfillment in teaching piano to soldiers’ children. And now I’m here, not teaching piano. Not using my degrees. Finding myself hindered by having a less than normal field of study. I worry that I’ve made a mistake.
I should have gotten an education degree.
I should have studied business.
I should be in HR.
I’m not good enough.
I’ve made too many mistakes.
I’m not worth it.
The thought cycle deepens and darkens as it goes on. Here I am, the girl who studied things just for the joy of studying them, the girl who argued the importance of intrinsic value until she was blue in the face; here I am, not appreciating me for what I’m worth all on my own.
I’m measuring myself in terms of a clean house or a fancy dinner. I weigh my importance in terms of my importance in other’s eyes. I’ve lost sight of who I really am.
Which may have you wondering, am I finding myself because I have a job again?
The answer is no. I’ve already found me. Hiding in the darkness, protected from my own neglect. Ready to come out again and matter, just because I’m awesome. Ready to know that even though my house isn’t the cleanest, even though I dont’ always want to cook dinner, and even though I may have huge gaps in my employment history; I’m an amazing person and worthy of being allowed to just be me.
I’ve found my own intrinsic value. Do you know yours?