More than 200,000 people lost their jobs last month (August 2009) and unemployment is up to 9.7%. Nearly seven million jobs have been lost since the recession began in December of 2007. Is it just me or are we getting immune to hearing this information because it is repeatedly negative? The shock factor has passed. It is very sad to say that job loss trends are now so common that we expect the trend to continue. I am grateful that I have work and thank God everyday for that blessing. I pray for my friends and colleagues who do not and all of the people in this country who, like me, worry if they will ever be able to retire, pay off school loans, or be able to savor the memories of a big family vacation again. But are job losses and the economy the only adversity going on in this country? Of course not.
Last week my four children started in four different schools – a “first” for all of us and a “last” in many ways too. My oldest daughter, Maria, is taking classes at Community College and living in the city with her grandparents for a semester of her senior year to save on tuition before she returns to Carnegie Mellon University in January. My second daughter, Brianna, is studying her junior year at Lorenzo de’Medici School in Florence, Italy and returning to Pitt next year. My youngest daughter, Adnrea, just started Carlow University as a freshman. And my son, Max, who I wanted to transfer to Central Catholic as a junior, dismissed my preference and returned to Fox Chapel High School.
What do kids know about dealing with adversity? Everything. For they live mostly for today. There is definitely something to be learned from that. While the U.S Bureau of Labor and Statistics was tallying data for the four weeks of August and the White House staff was holding their breath, kids were picking out back packs and cool jeans, parents were filling out emergency contact information cards, and schools were mailing homeroom assignments letters at the last minute so that parents wouldn’t have time to sit around the local swimming pool and complain about the teachers.
In my home, what may have seemed like a smooth end-of-summer back-to-school transition was more like a train wreck over a giant chasm of stress. Three kids are in college. (Needs no editorial comment.) Two children needed moved out of Oakland. (Where do you put all this stuff???) One was moving in with grandparents who don’t know that today’s college students don’t live by the house rules that I adhered to 28 years ago. (Not that this is a good thing.) One was preparing for international study, needed a passport, had to drive to Philly for a visa and was emotionally detaching so that the good-bye would not be as painful. One, who after the first night of having moved everything to Oakland for Orientation, needed rushed to the ER for an emergency appendectomy. And my 16-year-old (going on 26) son, well, let’s just say that if they have a college in Saskatchewan when he needs to go, I’m all for it.
This weekend I can peacefully say that “back-to-school” is now safely “back-AT-school.” I always dreaded the last two weeks of summer – crickets ushering in fall much too soon, once lustrous annuals and perennials now one month away from compost, garden herbs going to seed, and the anticipated frenzy of back-to-school activity. But wait! Kids don’t freak out about back-to-school. To them it means new clothes, a new backpack, new friends, new bus drivers, new teachers, new activities, soccer, football games, and reacquainting with old friends who went their separate ways for the last three months.
What can be learned here?
Everything. I’ve folded the seats of my minivan into the floor so many times over the last two weeks for moves that I’m considering applying for my next job at 1-800-Got-Junk? But in the nuances of those family moments when we dropped a mattress on the sidewalk, located a CD that had been missing for months, or texted back and forth about living with Grammie memories emerged – memories that bind families together in bonds that are the legacy of life. A giggle here and a sigh there – sharing life’s transitions with people we care about is the pulse of what makes us feel alive. It makes today unlike every other day. It makes overcoming adversity like a new backpack, a new school, a new pair of jeans and a new friend. It dices up and plates for you a new start. Pick up the fork and knife and try a slice. If you don’t like the flavor, that’s only how it tastes today. Tomorrow there will be something different on the plate. Share how it tastes with someone close to you. And listen quietly to the background music as you taste the opportunities for a future that is limitless. I hear crickets serenading us. Start now!
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Mary Lee Gannon is a career advice, productivity and leadership expert who went from being a stay-at-home mother with four children to divorce, poverty and then on to become a newspaper reporter, trade association executive director, public relations consultant, and foundation president and CEO. View Mary Lee’s FREE career tips, worksheets and Blog on her website at www.startingovernow.com. Sign up for her FREE e-newsletter with tips and case histories at: http://www.startingovernow.com/Free_e-newsletter.html