How Cancer, Divorce, Blending a Family, Seeking God, and Unemployment made all the difference.
It was 2004 when I left high school for good. I had all the wrong kinds of supports. A fatherless home for the most part, though I knew, spoke with and visited my father. I got my GED and for the next five years I wondered in the wilderness.
Before I was a father, or a college graduate or a graduate student or a husband. Before I attended my fathers funeral and long before my divorce I wondered the earth. From bagging groceries, to pouring concrete. Between landscaping and washing dishes I was lost. I couldn’t be reached by friends or family. I have said it before and I’ll say it again I was a social misfit on the brink of criminality. But that ultimately wouldn’t be my fate. I can thank my mother for that.
Working didn’t inspire me, I had no great female muse. I had only unrequited love and suffering. Being Lost I naturally eventually found direction. working alongside drug addicts and alcoholics doing intensive manual labor (with enjoyment), seeking that I didn’t want to become like the people around me I headed to Junior College.
In Junior college I was exposed to positive social relationships and enjoyed learning. I arrived four years after I would have graduate High School. My actual arrival was official in 2004, but it wasn’t until 2009 did I actually commit to completing Junior College. Spurred on by my grandmother and the mercy of a Tazwell County Judge who convicted me with mercy for a DUI that same year. With restricted driving privileges I diligently went to class everyday. Because it’s through difficulties that we are refined. I was a seasonal student grounds keeper every year of my academic career at ICC. Without delay I transferred to Illinois State University.
It was in the summer of my final year at ICC before transferring to ISU that I would be notified of the death of my father. I hadn’t seen him in approximately three years, and now I would have to lay him to rest. Fly to Virginia I was manged for a week by my Aunts. I was given the final sum of money held by my late father, approximately $1,300.00. I would use this to enter an apartment near the campus of ISU upon my return to Illinois. During my father’s funeral I cried like a baby.
I arrived at ISU and had success in most areas, I had relationships with women, I did well in class and Graduated with honors. It was all very anticlimactic, I returned to my mothers apartment and quickly began applying for positions, I was accepted to work for the federal government as an Americorps VISTA. The catch was that I was virtually a volunteer, making $800.00 a month. This was called a year of service. I served and was awarded an education grant which paid for all my student debt from ISU.
Reality set in, I needed to work. I thought about going to graduate school. I took a position at my Junior College working for a friend who ran a radio station on campus. While I was living in a ghetto apartment and taking public transit to and from work, I was seeking better employment. I got a Substitute Teachers License and began teaching. While working at the radio station. My friend who hired me, let me earn double paying me to work at the radio station even thought I was not present at the office because I was teaching. This went on for a year, and was enjoyable. I began working as a Foster Care Caseworker for a local non-profit organization who performed the duties of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services through contract. A year prior I impregnated and married the mother of my oldest children. Her father bought her a house and I moved in and remodeled it for her. Our marriage was terrible, completely dysfunctional. After two years I started seeking legal advice to make my life better. No therapy sessions nor well meaning books could save our marriage, nor would simply agreeing to change so that our marriage could last. So I filed for divorce.
Two months after I filed for divorce, a friend of mine who eventually became my children’s step mother and the mother of my youngest child and my current wife – Savanah, encouraged me to visit the doctor. Because she thought that the soda can sized testicle between my legs wasn’t normal. My former wife only literally punched me in the testicle and made fun of what eventually was determined to be testicular cancer. My divorce was finished in November 2017, three months after my cancer was removed, thankfully I did not need radiation or chemo, thankfully my ex-wife and I now share fifty-fifty joint custody and equal parenting time. After all of this Savanah and I married.
During this time, due to the shared custody, cancer, and my wife and I moving into our shared home, I lost my employment as a foster care caseworker due to work life balance issues, I had made arrangements with my employer to work from home in order to care for my children during my parenting time. This arrangement lasted a short while. Recently my wife had informed me that since I was off on FMLA due to my cancer surgery I could have continued FMLA and never been fired for missing work. Sadly, the H.R. representative assisted me in canceling my FMLA prematurely in a way that didn’t serve my legal best interests. Torn between my family and my work I chose my daughters and wife. For a period of time I collected unemployment which the agency fought adamantly. Since October, 2018 I have been underemployed or unemployed and it has hurt. It has taught me a lot. Our family has struggled greatly in many ways since then. Seven months of struggle has humbled me. Seven months of uncertainty, seven months of challenge.
Finding the light of hope
This past year has taught me so much. I have interviewed for so many positions and met so many people, I have been turned down for every position I apply for. Since departing from foster care I have substitute taught, I have obtained full time employment twice and part time employment once since then. Circumstances have consistently driven me out of the positions I have been given. All this time has given me the opportunity to focus on areas of life that have previously been neglected and would still be had I gotten right back into full time employment. Did I mention that my third child was born in April, 2019 amid what felt like total chaos. These realities have been exactly what I needed, giving me time to focus on what I needed to focus on all along.
God, and my faith, my spiritual life, has received attention. My relationships and what I understand to be my role in them has been given attention. Literally the challenge and the struggle has strengthened me and my family. How invaluable it is to be able to be with all my children, wouldn’t have been possible without the circumstances I cannot control. I have enrolled in Graduate School because of my new founded opportunity. I have applied for positions I thought I needed, Probation officer, victim witness advocate, county wide administrator of the SNAP program. It’s comical, how absurd this life is. I wouldn’t trade this life for anything. I love my children and wife with all my heart and couldn’t ask for anything more. Except maybe a career. Old habits die hard.
So here I stand with new found resolve hardened by struggle and uncertainty. My resume has never looked better, I am perfecting myself and falling in love with hobbies again. This blog is one of them. I’m studying all manner of things, online marketing and blog monetization. I’m looking forward and setting up my graduate school online classes. I’m working on being intentionally loving, caring and kind to my wife and kids. Imagine if I was coming home from a job I hate everyday.
Final Thought: Stare fearlessly into the abyss of the unknown and jump.
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