Today was kind of a weird, stupid, shitty day, which means it is a really good day to practice being thankful. A few weeks ago, I was writing about how helping a friend move made me want to streamline and toss a bunch of junk. But there are these things that I am really sentimental about.
Here’s an example:
I’ve been unemployed twice, both times for about a year. I never expected to be unemployed because I was a straight A student and worked hard, so that meant that I was supposed to be successful as a reward for years of writing papers on the weekends instead of going to frat parties or whatever. But life doesn’t always work out that way.
Being unemployed is a real emotional roller coaster, and there were times when I was so stressed, frustrated, and depressed that I would just shut down completely and go get a ton of books at the library and not look for jobs until I’d read them all. I took a lot of odd jobs like grading standardized tests or being an extra in a TV show for $6 an hour. I had a Master’s degree in English, and I couldn’t get a job at a coffee shop. I had to take a spelling test for secretarial jobs at UT, and I didn’t do well enough on a spelling test to even qualify to apply to be considered for a secretarial job.
I went to the Texas Workforce Commission, and they set me up with a job counselor, and I was embarrassed to find that after a few quick questions, I was crying in her cubicle. I felt like a failure. I was embarrassed and ashamed, and the crying just made everything worse. I tried to pull my shit together, which made me fall apart more.
She gave me some Kleenex, and then when I was breathing sort of normally again, she gave me the book in the photo: Helen Keller: The Story of My Life. She told me that she thought it might help me. That it was a story of someone who was smart and strong, and who managed to overcome obstacles and that it might be an inspiration to me. That I was smart, and she was sure things were going to turn around. I shouldn’t give up.
I never opened the book, but I’ve kept it for 11 years. Through four moves, I’ve picked it up and considered giving it away or donating it. But, looking at it reminds me of that lady who was so kind to me when I was at a real low point. It’s a totem. It usually sits in a pile on my bookshelf, but every once in a while, I’ll be looking for something and I see the book. It always makes me feel really grateful.
Part of me hopes that she has a drawer full of copies of that book. That she buys them in bulk and gives them out when people seem particularly low. And I hope that it worked for other people as well as it worked for me.