My feet are still not touching the ground. I try to speak what is in my heart, but there are no words. Only nameless emotions that fill my eyes with tears. I have been catapulted from the status of a long-term unemployed statistic to a state specialist in water quality. Three years of despair and anxiety slowly evaporating, those dark colors pushed aside by the serenity of pastels. I will get my first paycheck at the end of the month. I am still behind and it will take time, but I will catch up and then burst forward. I will have security. I will be able to sleep again.
Only one more unemployment check, then goodbye social safety net.
I still don't recognize myself when I get up and prepare for my day at the office. I am used to wearing my outdoor duds. I am comfortable going out into my beehives or searching the woods for bark to make my hickory bark syrup. Now, I awaken to an alarm clock, take a shower, put on nice clothes, grab my black leather computer bag and head off to the office, which is located directly behind Michigan's capital.
I pinch myself every morning.
I was welcomed back to the Department of Transportation with hugs and smiles. Folks I haven't seen for 20 years still remember me. Some I know their names, others I only remember their face or voice or the way they walk. We all have aged. I feel welcomed, wanted, loved. And yes, even adored by some. How wonderful after three years of rejection. It is surreal. It is unbelievable. Excuse me while I pinch myself again.
I didn't tell anyone, but I was ready to give up just prior to being offered this job. I felt abandoned by society, cast off like a well-worn shoe. I was quickly losing hope. I don't give up easily, but I can now share with you that I was close. I didn't know what else I could do to change my lot in life. Then a miracle happened. I found a job.
I say a miracle because I found out that I did not make the initial cut of applicants! Civil Service apparently screened me out. So they had a round of interviews, and didn't find the right person. Resumes were collected from the applicant pool, folks here decided to do it the old fashioned way, they went through each one by hand and selected seven new candidates. I was one of those seven.
So you see, this is truly a miracle.
I asked the Creator to put me where I was needed most. And now I will be looking out for our waters, making sure they are protected from pollution and sedimentation. I am honored to have such an important job.
Every morning I give thanks, and every night before I go to sleep I again say thank you for this miracle. My life is changing in ways most of you will never know, thankfully.
My Beloved has helped make this new chapter more beautiful than it already is. She has made sure I have nice clothes that match (not my forte), new underwear that don't show lines through my new pants. She got me a haircut at a real salon, whatever makes a salon real. She made sure on day one I was dressed to impress...first impressions you know. I love her so much.
My first day ended with many phone calls and emails...how did it go? Tell me all about it! I had so many people rooting for me.
I must end this as I am tearing up again and am at my new desk. My Beloved would scold me for crying at work. No one here knows of my struggles over the past three years and I doubt many if any would truly understand the hardships. Someday maybe I will share that, but for now I am Barbara J. Barton, Aquatic Resource Specialist, Michigan Department of Transportation. I like that much better.