My job was not so much what I did, but who I was. I had the joy of knowing that my career made a significant difference in the lives of children with autism and I was honored to hear daily from parents and educators "Jason can read now!" and "Mara said 'Mommy'!" The thought that I'll no longer see these children or work with their parents makes me feel like I've been kicked in the chest and the idea that I will wake up tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that with nowhere to go and nothing to do weighs heavily on my heart and mind. I've always taken care of people. It's what I do. I am the caregiver in my family, the one my friends turn to in times of need, and my chosen career has been that of caregiver and "fixer". But now I have to reassess. Now I have to start thinking about myself and where I go from here. Now I have to stop seeking gratification and self-determination through the eyes of others and seek it within myself. Now I have to say "yes" to me.
I am (of course) actively seeking employment in my field. . .*
*The short people have grown oddly attached to food and shelter and I'd hate to cut them off at this point.
. . .but I am keeping my options open as well. I have started looking at the job postings online and asking myself, "Could I do this?. . .would it be fun to try that?" and the answer is "yes". I am more than a researcher. I am a singer, a dancer, a writer, an actress, a mother, a friend, an artist, an organizer, creator, a be-er, and a do-er. I am all things and could take any job out there and do it. Like. A. Boss.*
*That being said, writer would be my first choice. Did you hear that, Ladies Home Journal? I'm not working now! Plenty of time to write a few more articles for, y'all! (("hint, hint, nudge, nudge, say no more..."))
I know I'll find a job soon, but in the interim that means no more daily trips to Starbucks ((sob!)) and my weekly shopping has gone from New Seasons and Zupan's to the Grocery Outlet. But scaling back gives you a lot of perspective. I hadn't realized how I'd become such a Smuggy McSmugerson; always believing that I would swipe my debit card and the ducats would just magically appear. Now I'm forced to evaluate what is a necessity and what is a luxury. Now I'm forced to stop spending money on distractions and really deal with my shit. Now I'm forced to say "no" to material things and start saying "yes" to what matters.
Yesterday I picked my boys up after school; a rarity as they are generally in Extended Care until 5:30. J. ran up to me, bubbling excitedly about a slumber party he'd been invited to, and M. tugged on my sleeve begging for help with his math.
"Can we do something FUN today?" M. implored.
I instantly thought of all of their favorite activities: the family fun center, the trampoline gym, the children's museum, and I saw dollar signs stacking up before my eyes.. I felt that anxious twist of dread in my stomach and asked him with a shaky smile, "What do you think would be fun?"
M. crinkled his brow. "We don't have a lot of money right now, do we?"
I ruffled his hair and smiled. "We have to be careful right now, Sweetie. That's all."
"Are we going to have to move out of our house?" he whispered fearfully.
"No!" I cried, leaning down and hugging him tightly. "You have nothing to worry about! We are NOT losing the house. We are going to be just fine. We just can't spend a lot of money right now."
M. straightened up and mused quietly in his odd way. Then a broad grin spread over his face. "I know! Let's go to the library and then go feed the ducks! We can do that for free!"
Now that is something I can absolutely say "yes" to.