Two men meet. They become good friends. Both working towards a Master’s degree, they share a common goal of going on to get a PhD. At the time, it’s a pipe dream, but it’s one that bonds them in solidarity. They are also share the challenge of having a felony background. Both are determined to get beyond this, to strive toward redemption, to attain their degree and be called “Doctor.” The years pass.
The challenges come, and they go. Seems for every step forward, their checkered past sets them two steps back. But still, they persist, each in his own way, toward their goals. They support each other, encourage each other, lift the other up when despair weighs him down. The friendship strengthens.
Then one finishes, leaps forward in a moment of glory, hooded at last. He is no longer “mister,” he is now “doctor.” A proud moment shared between friends. Achievement for one, encouragement for the other. Perhaps it IS possible to overcome after all.
Tragedy strikes. One is cast out, set back not just two steps, but ten years. In one inglorious meeting he is dismissed, disgraced, and discarded. Clearly, not all sins are equal. He hangs his head. Perhaps this time it is too much. Perhaps now is the time to quit.
The successful one realizes his dream and then some. Accolades, offers, engagements—everything he’d worked for and more. He offers his encouragement to the fallen one, at last realizing that some mountains are more difficult to climb than others. The bonds of friendship strain, but they do not break.
Anger overtakes the fallen one. Angry that he cannot attain the same level of success as his friend, and angry that his friend has attained such success. And angry at himself for his selfish anger toward his friend. What right does HE have to be successful? What right do I have to be angry? Jealousy is such an ugly color. I do not wear it well.
Two friends drift apart, both reaching out to cling to the tatters of a dream, of a goal, of the idea that they would both overcome. Life propels them both on, the maelstrom of daily reality consuming each. Still, the bonds of friendship hold, perhaps tenuously, but nonetheless they hold.
I am ashamed of my selfish anger. My friend will never truly know how proud I am of his success, how happy I am the he achieved his goal, how much I would like to be just like him. The anger will pass as the shifted paradigm settles. When it does, the love, the bond, the friendship will be as strong…no, STRONGER than it was before.
Have you ever had so much time on your hands that you simply don’t know what to do? Since losing my job a couple weeks ago, I’ve found myself almost paralyzed with apathy and boredom, all the while lamenting on how much I need to do. I have a dissertation to work on, I have a ton of things that need to be done with the organizations I volunteer for, my apartment needs cleaning, I need to be looking for work, and there are a myriad of little projects I’ve been putting off that I should be working on. And yet, I find myself watching re-runs of The Dick Van Dyke Show and M*A*S*H.
I suppose part of it can be attributed to depression over my current situation. Seriously, did anyone expect that I would lose my job of seven years and not suffer some depression? Perhaps two weeks is long enough to pine away in self-pity. Perhaps it’s time to rouse myself from my solipsistic stupor and get back into some sort of routine. I don’t know. I don’t know if there is a time-frame for the stages of grief. I just know I’m getting restless. I need to be doing something.
This blog is part of that something. I realize few, if any, people actually read this blog, but for me, it represents not just a catharsis, an outlet for my thoughts and emotions, but it also represents doing something.
There. I have done something today. Now on to the rest of my list.
It’s been almost two weeks since the wheels last fell off. In no way am I “over it.” I continue to mourn the sudden, unexpected, and undeserved loss of my job, my community, my fellowship, and my last seven year’s work at the university. I miss it terribly. And I’m still anxious about my future.
At the same time, I am coping. I have moved on from waking every morning uncontrollably sobbing to waking up each morning wondering what I will do, what my future will look like, struggling to find meaning in it all. I’m not a religious person (been there, done that). I don’t acquiesce to “it’s God’s will.” And yet, I do concede the possibility that there is something greater, some force beyond our comprehension, a bigger picture if you will. I think of it as a universal energy that binds us all together, and that creates and recreates paths for us, that simultaneously gives us free will even as it guides us toward a destiny. I know. It’s a haughty way of saying maybe some good will come from all this after all, right?
I had a job interview last week. It was through a placement agency. I wasn’t excited about it. Oh, the job is a good one, and I would love to have it. But fresh off of my humiliating ejection from the university, I just didn’t know if I could bring myself to sit in front of another human being and admit the sins of my past. Nonetheless, I went. The first thing the woman did was to hand me a form authorizing a background check and tell me if selected, I they would do a criminal background check. My heart sank. I was so tempted to leave the form on the table and just walk out. But I didn’t. I filled out the form and went back for the interview.
The questions started out innocuous enough. Tell me about this job, tell me about that job, tell me about your experience. But then she asked me to tell her about my current situation. I took a deep breath, looked her in the eye, and admitted that I would not pass a background check. I told her the story of the university, of my attempt to be honest and upfront, and of my devastating rejection six weeks into the job. I told her what type of offense it was, and when it occurred. I steeled myself for the sour expression, the piercing evil eye, the slight shake of a disapproving head—all the reactions I’ve come to expect at my shameful confession. Instead, she told me that this particular employer only wanted a clean background (no felony, no violent misdemeanor) going back seven years. Seven years! My offense is almost 15 years old. Could I pass a background check going back seven years? Of course I can! She barely batted an eye as she told me she would send my resume to the company. I looked for any sign of dismissal, and if it was there, it was so subtle that I could not detect it. And trust me, I’m pretty good at detecting rejection. (Wait…that doesn’t sound like a good thing, does it? I should have to think on that.)
What I decided as I pondered this experience is that maybe I have to reconsider my wholesale condemnation of the “ride it ‘til the wheels fall off” philosophy. Sure, it hurts to tumble to the ground, reeling in humiliation, mourning the loss every time the wheels come flying off. But it’s been said, “that which does not kill us makes us stronger,” and I have yet to die from the wheels falling off. (Could happen, I suppose.) So what if I take a job and then get terminated because of my background? At least I will have worked and made some money. At least I will have had some experience. At least I will have tried.
I guess as long as I’m me, I will worry about the wheels falling off. My daughter calls it pessimism. I just call it realism. But I’m not going to let fear keep me from trying. I go on because I must. I must, because I go on.