Yesterday, I found myself in a place I never expected to be. The Minnesota Unemployment Work Force Center. Wow.
I received a letter from my union telling me that I qualify for benefits because I was terminated without cause. Whatayaknow. So, I went ahead and filled out the application online, it was approved and I got a check, and that is very helpful right now. But it makes me so uncomfortable. I keep thinking I don't deserve it. My friend Sally pointed out that I most certainly do, given that I've paid into it and my taxes all my adult life. But it is surreal to me. I'M unemployed? I've never left a job by other than my own choosing. I think it is hitting me now, as I would be getting ready to go back to school. And now I'm not. I can spin it anyway I want--retirement, new paths, new opportunities, but at the end of the day, I'm unemployed, and not by my choice. But that's old news.
So, last week I got another letter from the unemployment office, requesting (ok...requiring) me to show up on July 20th at 9:00. The letter was very unclear as to the purpose of the meeting. In my head I imagined being grilled by a rude state employee who would find out I was a FRAUD! A CHEAT! Not that I am either of those things, but that's where my head was. I was dreading the meeting, so much so that I asked Jon to drive me, which he did of course.
When I arrived at a pretty grungy building, I was given a number and escorted to a computer to register on the MN Works site. As I sat there and typed in my information, and began to create a resume on their site, I got very angry. Oh yes, I've had some moments, especially at the end of the school year, but this was different. What I now know was a truly "uppity" anger at someone like ME being in the unemployment office because of what I still believe to be unfair treatment at my job. "Why," I thought,"I don't belong here! I'm a good teacher! I have a Masters degree! All these people here just want a job in a warehouse." How snobbish that thinking was.
And guess what. That wasn't true. Apparently the reason why I was there was to sit through a presentation about navigating the MN Works website. There were six people in the room. Yes, two men were looking for truck driving work, (good for them), and of the remaining four people, three had degrees, and the other woman owned her own business. Apparently she sold it and the new owners fired her two weeks later. Ouch. As I listened I got some excellent information, and their site is amazing. It contains all kinds of online tutorials ranging from computer skills, to resume writing and many, many links to employers. At the end of the presentation, we were called up one-by-one (hence the number), to update missing information etc. And the employee was wonderful, kind and nice. No shaming.
I've never once thought that I would not work again. I want to and I need to. I'm still planning on being a "professional" substitute this year, but it got me thinking of all the other possibilities I can do with my degree and experience. For instance, I applied to Barnes and Noble today on a whim. I'm not sure what will come of it, but it was fun to think outside the box.
I realized that with my new resolve to live intentionally, and NOTICE things around me, that it showed me a new window to a part of the world I'd never seen. Looking out that window reminded me that everybody has a story, and experiences, good and bad.
I left with a sense of humility, and a new toolkit for the future.
Not a bad thing at all.