Today was not unlike any other recent day. I’ll admit that I’ve had a rough time the past few months. Who hasn’t? I hear tale after tale of people having it hard. “They” keep saying it will get better. So, I just sit. And wait. I’m on my couch staring at the blank walls in my “new” apartment living room. There’s nothing. Just white. No pictures. No colors. It’s dark outside. My son is playing with his train set on his new train table that we bought for his second birthday. Dora the Explorer is blaring on the TV. It’s the one where she and Boots help someone get somewhere with the assistance of her friends, the map and backpack. They sing…they dance…and everyone finds their place in the end. They always overcome the obstacle. I’m not really paying attention, but I know what happens because essentially that’s the plot for every episode. I briefly think I would like to be on Dora the Explorer (can it be real?). Instead, I’m just sitting...staring. These walls…these walls. All I see are these walls. Why do they bother me?
At first, I didn’t care. This was only supposed to be temporary. That’s what I kept telling myself…temporary…temporary. I moved my entire family from NJ to PA for a job and into this apartment with these lifeless walls. We left family behind. Actually, it was not just a job. It was THE job. After all my years of schooling, all of my 16 hour days, all my years of paying my dues, all those months of being unemployed, I had finally made it. We could finally start our life – a real life as a family. Everything I wanted, I was about to get:
A new house
Before I got this new job, I always felt my life was on hold. I felt like we were always just waiting. Waiting for me to graduate. Waiting for my fellowship to end…waiting…waiting. We were living in my grandmother’s house, which we were so fortunate to be given after she passed. There’s a strip club down the street. It was a means to a better tomorrow. I told myself, “No worries, this is just temporary.” In reality, we had it pretty good or at least better than most. At least we had a house. So many were in foreclosure.
In truth, this story is probably not unlike yours. I’m a husband. I’m a father. I’m a role model. I’m an educated professional. Today was not unlike any other. Then “they” dropped the bomb: “We don’t think we can keep you on anymore”. Today, I’m unemployed…again. After 4 short weeks at THE job, THE job was over. All at once, it came flooding back:
Worried for my family
How the hell did I get here? I thought I made all the right decisions for us. I uprooted my wife. I yanked my son out of daycare. Now, we are floating a house and an apartment on one salary (a non-profit salary) and an unemployment check.
Go Diego Go comes on the TV. My son shrieks for joy. It’s the one where Diego saves the beavers. My thoughts are clear as I focus on my son. He runs over to me for our nightly ritual where he sits on my lap as we watch Diego, my arms clasped tightly around his stomach. I notice the vivid colors. They make these shows so bright. My son is laughing and talking, and talking, and talking. My hands unclasp for a second around his stomach. He says, “Sorry dad”, as he pulls my hands back around his stomach. I remember the same thing happened yesterday during our nightly ritual. I had told him I was “sorry” for letting go of him , at which point he put my hands back around his stomach. How does he remember these things? During these times, as I hug him tightly, I don’t even notice these walls anymore. Maybe this is all I need...my family, my son, clasped tightly together watching Diego rescue another animal.