It’s funny (but I haven’t quite decided if it is in a humorous way) how often life doesn’t turn out like we thought it might turn out. I sure didn’t think over six years ago when I lost my job in April 2009 in Houston that I would still be unemployed at this point in time and now drawing Social Security because it is my only income (which is far less then I could make if I was working). And, I was forced to take Social Security at 62 in order to have an income again since my unemployment benefits had long since run out back at the end of May 2011 (and I never expected to be unemployed even that long, and that was four years ago now).
The journey I’ve been on all during this time is far from what I ever expected it to be, and I have come to not expect anymore what I was hoping to expect. And if that doesn’t make sense to you, that’s okay. Neither does life a lot of the time. However, I have not lost hope. I have just lost hope in expectations from my human perspective. God’s perspective is always much bigger and it extends out into eternity. We’re lucky just to get through each year as it progresses from our own perspectives.
Four days ago I wrote the following in an email to a friend of mine who lives nearby. In it, I made the following statement:
I’m in your neck of the woods sitting outside at a Wawa. As I was heading here I got to thinking how, well, here I am with three degrees: an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree, and a master’s degree, and I was only shy of receiving a doctorate by a dissertation. I’ve worked most of my life starting in junior high school (middle school now) by babysitting (and I hated babysitting), then at a grocery store in high school. I worked for three years after high school and then I joined the military (U.S. Army). When I got out of the army I started college on the G.I. Bill. I first earned an A.A. degree, than B.A. degree and I worked the whole time I was in college, between college, and after college until a few years later when I went back to Iowa State and earned a master’s degree while working in a graduate assistantship as the Graduate Student Orientation Coordinator. I applied for and ended up becoming one of two annual recipients of a one-year doctoral fellowship which brought me to Florida in 1992. And I have worked all of these years in higher education until I was hired at the age of 56 for that director position in Houston at a for-profit institute and lost that job seven months later through no fault of my own when I was just one month shy of my 57th birthday. And I’ve been unemployed all this time and I’m now 63.
I could speculate a bit as I know a lot more about my former employer in Houston now than I ever knew about them back when I was working there, especially since their stock has hit rock bottom at 20+ cents a share today from the $20+ a share when I was working there for seven months in 2008-2009. They have also had several major layoffs starting in 2012 (at the beginning of that year their stock took a nosedive and has never recovered), and layoffs continue through to today with the recent announcement of the closing of several campuses they own/manage over the next two to three years. (See article titled, “Vanishing Profit, and Campuses” published on May 7, 2015, regarding an alarming trend in the “for-profit” education sector.) In fact, my old position and most of the division I worked for no longer exists, and the long term employee who got my job after I was fired ended up losing it in the first major round of layoffs in September 2012.
So why would a job that only lasted seven months seem to have ended my 20+ year career in higher education and derail me from finding employment when I undertook a massive employment search starting the day after I was fired, and I hit it really hard in the first two plus years that I was unemployed after losing that job in Houston. And I had a number of very good interviews and was a top candidate in several of them when something always stopped it from coming through for me. Never before until that job in Houston had I encountered this problem of not being able to find work, and it was perplexing to say the least. And I needed a job as they had left me unemployed in a city and state I was totally unfamiliar with after I moved one thousand miles for that job.
I found some evidence three months after I was fired from that job in Houston that proved something I thought was going on while I was working there which was–at the very least–unethical, and at the very worst–illegal. I knew without a doubt that it was going on during my last three months of employment, but I had no actual proof, and without proof I figured it was worthless to talk to a lawyer.
Due to a document I received at the time of my termination, I was told I needed to consult with a lawyer before signing and returning it to them, so I did. I met with a lawyer on May 1, 2009, nine days after I was fired, but I did not bring up any of the issues I knew were going on because I had no proof at that point in time, and my appointment to see her was strictly to have her review the document and since lawyers aren’t cheap, I wanted to spend as little time as possible with her to keep the bill low. She was aware of the company that had fired me and stated to me that they were not very nice people and that I should be glad I was no longer working there, and I said to her that I was glad as I had never worked in a place like that before (a “for-profit”) but that I was now unemployed in a city and state that was brand new to me without a network and I needed a job. She reviewed the document and we discussed it and she advised me to go ahead and sign it, and she also signed it. And she encouraged me by saying she was sure I’d find another job soon and she only charged me $100 when her normal fee was $350/hr (and I spent an hour with her).
When I found the evidence three months later that I needed as proof of what was happening when I worked there, I thought it was too late to say anything to her and at that point I was thinking about leaving Houston as I had not found another job, and a friend in Florida offered me her spare bedroom to stay in while continuing to look for work. However, after returning to Florida I decided to write and mail a four-page letter to this lawyer I met with on May 1, 2009, explaining the details of what had happened to me while working there along with the proof I found, and I sent it to her by certified mail, return receipt requested. I received the return receipt, but I never heard from her even though I know she received the letter I sent with the evidence clearly stated in the letter. This evidence, if it was investigated, could have proved what I knew was going on while I worked there, and it could have been the basis for a major lawsuit.
During these past five and a half years since I mailed that letter to the lawyer I met with over six years ago, I have done everything I know to do to find work in my profession, and outside of it, too. I can’t even find part-time work as even when I have applied for it I never hear back from anyone. I have a 40+ page document I started the day after I was fired that lists every single job I’ve applied for over these past several years and highlighting those jobs I was interviewed for and the results. I stopped counting the number of jobs I had applied for when it hit 500 in 2011.
At this point in time I think there is far more to this story then the fact that I haven’t been able to find a job after losing that job in Houston. It is also about why I haven’t been able to move forward in my life for the past six plus years now, and also about what happened to me when I did work there. And I doubt very much that I’m the first employee that it happened to, but something big made my situation different, and I believe it was the evidence I found and sent to my lawyer back then with a four-page letter explaining what had happened to me while I was working there. And I’m convinced that it has happened to others who worked in that environment, too. I’m not saying that everyone who worked there was a bad egg (I still keep in contact through Linkedin.com with a bunch of people I knew when I worked there), but there were definitely a few. And a few bad eggs apparently controlled the culture there.
Five years ago this July I started this blog. My introductory page to this blog explains why I started it. It actually took off four years ago this July, as the first year was sort of a “trial and error” experiment in blogging which began as an effort to write about my own personal experience with long term unemployment, with a three-month hiatus toward the end of that first year. When I fired it back up in July 2011, it took on a life of its own and a different direction, too. If you’ve been reading it regularly, you know what it is about. And if you haven’t been reading it, it’s too long to explain in this blog post (see the introductory page). There are currently 382 blog posts on it, and it has grown into a real passion of mine.
From time to time I get a bit weary of the long struggle I’ve been through with long-term unemployment, and then the housing issue was added to it last September and there has been no resolution to it, either (e.g., trying to find affordable housing on a Social Security income isn’t easy and waiting lists are very long, so what is one supposed to do in the interim?). Anyway, I think it’s all connected to a bigger picture. And in the past few weeks I’ve been weary from the housing search that is just going nowhere after living in hotels I can’t afford after almost nine months. Even my blog post writing has ebbed a bit lately–mainly because I’ve had a wifi issue going on in the latest hotel I’m staying at that has caused me a lot of online problems on my laptop. So, I haven’t been writing as often because of it until I absolutely reach the point where I must write something–like now, for example.
Anyway, this morning I read a blog post on another blog I read almost daily (and I’ve reblogged a few of their posts, too, over the years). The post I read this morning is the same post they posted three years ago on this same exact date from “The Daily Way” titled, “Hang In There” (and I reblogged it back then). It was a good reminder back then and it is a great reminder now. Since it was posted again today on “The Daily Way,” the timing of it couldn’t have been better (at least in my own case and quite possibly in yours, too). You can go directly to that blog post by clicking on this link. I am also including it below:
In Athens, the Spirit of God empowered Paul to present the truth of God to an unbelieving audience of Greek philosophers. Standing on Mars Hill in the Areopagus—which was viewed as the seat of worldly wisdom—he brilliantly proclaimed God’s Word.
However, after his proclamation, he became emotionally shaken. He had prayed that the hearts of those who heard his words would be changed, but his message had received only a lukewarm reception. By the time he sailed for Corinth (Acts 18), he was struggling with discouragement, and God knew it. Therefore, He spoke words of encouragement to His servant:
Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city (Acts 18:9-10).
In other words, “Paul, you are not alone. I am aware of your circumstances. I am with you, and others who know Me are with you, too.”
Paul realized the key to success was not human strength or ability but faith in an unshakeable God. His responsibility was to do what God had called him to do. God’s responsibility was to bring the right results from Paul’s ministry at the right time.
Though he may have fought feelings of fear and discouragement, Paul knew God was faithful and the work he had been given to do would be accomplished. The message he had been called to preach would bear fruit at the proper time. Worry, doubt, and fear about the future only lead to sorrow and disappointment. Trust God right where you are and He will bless you as you praise Him.
Prayer: Lord, I give all that I am to you—all my work and all my talents belong to You.
The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
I can honestly say after this much time has passed that I don’t know what the Lord has planned for me (you might be feeling the same way right now, too). But I will say this much–I have learned much over these past six plus years that I never would have learned and experienced if I had been working a full time job and living life as I had been living it involved in work, activities, church, etc., before I lost that job. Proverbs 16:9 states:
In their hearts humans plan their course
but the Lord establishes their steps.
God has been faithful to me through many trials and a pretty interesting set of circumstances, and He has provided for my needs and guided me in some amazing ways. And while it hasn’t been in the way I had hoped for, it is in the way He has for me–through these years of unemployment and even now “hotel” living. My most permanent place of residence on this earth right now is my 10 1/2 year old car when I’m not staying in a hotel. While I’ve made some blunders (and who doesn’t in life), I’ve learned a lot of really cool stuff on how to survive on very little and in other ways, too. And, I’ve kept my sense of humor, and given God my all. He’ll do what He wants with it, too. Like my blog posts, for example.
I don’t know the “facts” of what happened in Houston, and if I had known what these past six plus years would have been like and all that I have gone through, I’m not sure I would have gone down this road. In fact, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have if I had been given a choice. However, I have no regrets, and I’m glad He takes me through it one day at a time. And He’ll do the same for you (but He’ll do it His way) . . . .
After all, we may make our own plans . . .
But the Lord establishes our steps . . . .
YouTube Video: “Walk by Faith” sung by Jeremy Camp: