As I set out for a walk this morning, something amazing occurred to me:
I have a full-time job.
Oh, of course, I realized this weeks ago, when the position was offered and accepted. The papers were signed, and it was all laid out there--full-time salary, full-time benefits coverage. I bragged to my friend Matt yesterday that I'll be paying a whopping $35 per month out-of-pocket to have full vision, dental and medical coverage.
So yeah, I've been aware of the fact that I have a full-time job now. But today, it actually sunk in, to the point where I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes as I think back over the last five years and everything I have lived through, learned from, and survived.
When I lost my job in Stockton, at the end of the 2009-2010 school year, I knew I was in for a very uncertain roller coaster ride. The economy was terrible, music education job postings were few and far between, and though I have other credentials, the hiring pool was flooded with people with far more experience than I had, looking for those same jobs. I dutifully signed up for unemployment benefits, hoping I'd only need them for a month or two.
Instead, I needed them for two full years.
It's hard, when you have as much pride as I do--and I have considerable amounts of it, to be sure--to tell people, "Oh, well, I'm currently unemployed." People don't know how to respond, so I was always quick to reassure them that I'm not a total loser. "Oh, you know, I'm a music teacher in a bad economy." I'd get a relieved look and a big nod of the head. "Of course. That's totally acceptable. You're not a bum." They never said that, but that's what I got from the responses.
The first year, I stayed in my apartment in Stockton, despite an offer to move in with my parents. In retrospect, I'm glad I had that year of surviving on $1,800 a month. I learned about budgeting in a big way. I gave up shopping for fun stuff, eating out, pretty much everything. A dirt-cheap gym membership ($29 per year) and some help from my parents (the occasional $200 check so I could buy new running shoes, help with paying for service on my car) kept me afloat, and kept my workout routine alive.
In 2011, I started the spring-and-summer job application game all over again. Again, it yielded nothing. I was tired of only surviving, so I moved in with Mom and Dad again. At this point, it wasn't a blow to my pride. I needed to use my money for other things besides $1,000 a month in rent. Without massive expenses every month, I learned to save. If unemployment taught me anything, it's how to refrain from wasting my money on stuff I don't really need or want. I'm not entirely frugal, really, but I've gotten very good at really examining that cute blouse and thinking, "Eh...I'm not in love with it," while hanging it back on the rack.
When I was hired to teach a three-week summer program in 2012, I cried. I sat here at my desk, staring at the email offer, and sobbed over a three-week job offer, because it was the first employment offer I had received in over four years, since I took the Stockton job I would eventually lose. After two years of hopeless searching, someone thought I was a good bet. That job led to my job at Brookfield, a 20% position (one day a week) that yielded me $800 a month. I picked up a ton of private music students at Fusion Elite. Then Granite Bay happened, and suddenly, I was making even more money. I worked my ass off to make that work for me--and it did, for a while. Then it didn't. Faced with more uncertainty this spring and into the summer, I started applying for every job I could find on Ed-Join.
The difference between this time and 2010 is that the economy has recovered. The arts are coming back. No Child Left Behind is left behind (thank God) and the M in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) has shifted itself over a bit to become STEAM...with an A for Arts. I applied for a ton of jobs. I got a lot of interviews.
It was disheartening at first, not getting job offers, but I know enough about the education game to know that often, there's already a desired candidate, but interviews are given out to keep things "fair" and legal. It's not personal. I may even be really liked by the interview panel. That doesn't mean the job is mine.
But then...it was mine. My new boss is excited to have me, and to start the very first arts program at the school. And here I am, just under two weeks from starting at a new school, but this time, as a full-time member of the staff. I'm sitting here, almost crying, because once again, this ship did not sink. It hobbled on, it got itself fixed, and here I am. Oh, and I run half marathons, too.
So there, world. Knock me down, I'll just get up.
I've mentioned before that I'm staying with Mom and Dad for another year--it makes a lot of sense to me to continue saving money, and to explore the idea of buying next year instead of renting. I'm going to keep training with Matt--one, to help me readjust to working out at the end of the work day, rather than before, but also because I like working out with Matt (he's fun!) and I can afford it again. Should Rosie Pro need replacing, I'm in a position to get a decent car loan and make monthly car payments.
Of course, I'm going to work my hiney off to do well at my job, and I will not take it for granted. If unemployment taught me mad budgeting skills, it also taught me that my chosen career field is not always the easiest to navigate. But damn, I do love it. I'm good at it.
And once again, I'm full-time.