Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: A Year in Review

In the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, there has been many ups and downs. I think though that in many ways, it will be remembered as a year of crossroads. In January of last year, I was in a miserable job that was getting more miserable each day. I was teaching high school. I had students who didn't care nor did they want to try. I was more of a babysitter who felt like he was herding cats than a teacher. From January to April, I suffered from one long chronic headache which had actually begun the previous November. At times, the pain was unbearable, but I was finally correctly diagnosed with cluster headaches instead of migraines. I was given the correct treatment, which seemed to work. I was pain free for the first time in six months. I still experienced minor cluster headaches, but nothing like what I'd previously experienced. I was feeling more hopeful.

Then on the last teacher workday of the school year, I was called into my headmaster's office and told that my contract would not be renewed. So instead of enjoying my summer off, like all teachers are entitled to because of the horrors and stress of the school year, I had to hunt for a job. The job hunt became a full time job in itself. I worked on applications from the time I woke until I went to bed. I made the decision though to get out of teaching. I still applied to some college teaching jobs but after looking for seven years already, I didn't see much hope in that direction. However, I made the decision to move into the museum field. I began to volunteer at a local museum to gain some experience. My volunteer work was the highlight of my summer.

With the love, support, and advice of my readers and some dear friends, I made it through the summer. In July, I set up a GoFundMe site to help pay for new training in museum studies, and to get a new laptop to help with writing a novel I began to write. More on that later. Without those donations, I'm not sure I would have been able to make it through the summer or had the money to ove and begin a new life in the fall. I receive so much help from many of you that I can't thank you enough. I had days and weeks when rejection letters poured in, and I became despondent and sunk into a deep depression. I kept faith though that God would guide me to the right job. My faith took me through that ordeal.

In August, I was checking out a new job posting site when I came across a job that seemed ideal. They were looking for someone who had my qualifications, and I even met the preferred qualifications. If you've ever been on a job hunt, you know how hard it can be to fill all of the requirements for a job. Jobs often post a wish list as opposed to what they really need. I turned out to be this museum's wish list. It took a month, but I finally got called for a phone interview, which went well. Then I got called for an on campus interview. The last call was to hire me for the job. I accepted immediately and began packing to move to Vermont.

The drive up to Vermont wasn't what I expected. As I was driving through Knoxville, Tennessee, I hit something on the interstate that ruptured my gas tank, and I was stranded there for a few days while a new gas tank was found and installed. I finally made it though safe and sound and moved into my new apartment. I fell in love with Vermont immediately. I'm still in the honeymoon phase. As I settled into my job, I found out just how perfect a job it was for me. Yes, there have been challenges. The two people who had the job before me couldn't have been more different, so I've been working to standardized the job and get things in order the best I can. I couldn't ask for a more wonderful group of people to work with though. They have been so accepting, supportive, and kind.

Just as I was settling into my job, my world came crashing down again. My best friend and closest confidante who I loved like the brother I never had was suddenly killed in a car accident. I'd been devastated when I lost my job, but the loss of my best friend was world shattering. With the loss of my job, I had faith that God would guide me on the right path, but the loss of my friends tore holes in my faith. I couldn't understand (still can't) how God could allow this to happen. Why God didn't save him. My days have been lost without him. I've had friends who have offered tremendous support, and I've received some wonderful words of wisdom from my blog readers. I'm finally able to discuss my friend without bursting into tears, but my depression has grown and the frequency of my panic attacks have increased.  Also, my cluster headaches are back, and while the medicine that I take to prevent them somewhat lessens the intensity, they are back to waking me in the middle of the night. They'd begun again before my friend's death, but had only come on weekends, but for the past month since his death, they have been constant. Pain relievers help for a few hours, but there is only so much pain medication you can take without it becoming a problem.

I'm hoping that on a whole, 2016 will be better. While I've made a new home for myself in Vermont and it's been a tremendously positive change, so much of the rest of 2015 was unexpectedly horrific. I went to my doctor's office here in Alabama yesterday, and I was given medicine to help with the headaches as well as a new antidepressant that will help with the one I am already on. Hopefully, the combination of the new medicine and the therapist I've been seeing will help alleviate the depression, which in turn I am hoping will help end this new cycle of cluster headaches.

I have a lot of hopes for the new year.  The novel is still in the works, and I expect to finish it sometime in the coming year. It will be dedicated to the friend that I lost not only because he was the greatest friend I've ever known but he was the one who encouraged me to write a novel and he read and helped edit the parts of the novel that has already been written. I see great thing on the horizon for my new job and my new life in Vermont. I'm also working to lose weight and get in better shape. I got a Fitbit for Christmas. Since I've been in Alabama, people have already told me that I look like I've lost weight. I don't know that I have but maybe there's been some fat replaced by muscle. I have two years until I turn 40 and I plan to be in good shape when I hit that milestone year.

This past year will probably always live in my memory for two reasons: a beginning of a new life and the loss of the life of my friend. If I could, I'd trade my new life for that of my friend's lost life in a heartbeat. I'd do anything to have him back, but unless time travel is invented, I cannot change what happened. I can't bring him back, no matter how much I wish I could. The year has also been a dichotomy of faith. My faith brought me through losing my job and finding a new and better one; however, the loss of my friend has cracked my faith. It hasn't shattered it, but it has caused me to question some of my long held beliefs about my faith and God's role in our lives. I'm working through those questions. I don't expect answers, but with the help of some very good friends, I hope to work though my current crisis of faith.

May you all have a wonderful 2016!


Michael Dodd said...

Perhaps the crack in your faith is to let light in ... or out, whichever way. Grow stronger at broken places, as they say.

I suspect your faith will change as a result of this tragic experience. Given who you are, I think it will become more mature, more real even as it may seem to become more obscure to you. That is certainly my hope for you.

"Muddy water, let stand, becomes clear." ~ Lao Tzu

Which reminds me, at the risk of recommending yet another book -- a fault of librarians and writers, what can I say? -- have you read The Tao Te Ching?

JiEL said...

All my best wishes to you for 2016.

2015 was for you THE year of all changes and for the best as I can witness..

Think only of the best of 2015 and may 2016 be YOUR year of new beginnings in all domaine of your life and maybe also in your love life too...

Why not? You're in a better place to find REAL LOVE...

Your friend in snowy Montréal, Jean-Luc ((((HUGS))))

Amanda said...

I wish nothing but the best for you in 2016. I know this year has had its ups and downs for you but I know you will come out stronger than ever. I hope you have the best year yet in 2016 Joe. Happy New Year! :)

Amanda said...

Michael...I like that about the crack letting the light in. I think I need to remember that. Thanks for always having thoughtful and hopeful comments. Happy New Year! :)

Marsha said...

You have had a heck of a year! I truly hope 2016 is a wonderful year for you. You deserve every blessing. Happy New Year, sweetheart!