It’s amazing how, sometimes, things just fall into place.
The last couple of months have been extremely stressful for D as he has worried about finding a job or two—any job—right out of college so he could continue living in the Wisconsin house with his friends until their lease ends on May 31. Things hit a fever pitch after Christmas because the time clock was ticking down to zero on his ability to stay in the house: we paid his rent through the end of January and he needed to either fish or cut bait. The uncertainty was troublesome, to say the least. He was applying for jobs both in Wisconsin and near home in Illinois as a back-up, both in his field of study (graphic design) and at restaurants and bars, just to have some source of income, at least temporarily. Talking to him on the phone in the past couple of weeks, we could tell that he was about as tightly-wound about the uncertainty of it all as he could possibly get, and since he takes after me I can say THAT’S A LOT. Graduating from college in December (right before Christmas when those who do the hiring are going on vacation) isn’t as conducive to getting employed right away as finishing courses in May, and when you’re the average twenty-one year old who is leaping into the Real World for the very first time and just wants to get started doing what you’ve wanted to do for absolutely forever, that wintery timing only adds to the other challenges at hand.
Though (quite obviously) the bulk of the stress has been on D, it hasn’t been a party for Jim and me either. It’s been difficult to figure out when to jump in and literally guide D through the motions of his newly-planned job search strategies or just to step back (ugh!) and let him navigate himself. I think it’s one of the hardest parts of parenting, no matter how old your kids are. It’s painful to watch them struggle with new challenges (and make mistakes that you could have prevented by holding their hand), but providing too much help doesn’t allow them to learn as much of the information they need to carry with them for life in order to be independent adults. We’ve tried to ride the line as much as possible, attempting to provide information more than directives (It’s hard!). We’re also ever so thankful that he has been able to consult with his graphic designer aunt because she obviously knows way more about the industry than we do. (It really does take a village!)
And then, suddenly, just a couple of days after the three of us had a “This is your reality, right now” conversation on speakerphone about how he would need to throw in the towel on the house and come home at the end of this week to find employment around here, things started whirling up like the Tazmanian Devil on steroids. All of a sudden D was talking to two design agencies (one here, one there) AND a restaurant near his house up there. And then the nice lady at the restaurant, after he told her about his predicament, offered him a janitorial position for about twenty-five hours a week, which he took so he could stay in his house. And then the design agency up there offered him an amazing freelance opportunity on-site that will last a month or two and will not only provide more than enough money for his rent through May but will also serve as a get-to-know-you period in which the agency will decide whether they want to hire him as a permanent employee. And then once he accepted that position (*tossing confetti!*), he had to tell the very, very nice lady at the restaurant who threw him a bone in his time of need that he was just offered something full-time in his field of study, and she took it very well. And then, two days later, the manager of the restaurant/bar where he worked late nights on the weekends last summer as a barback called him to see if he wanted to come back on Fridays and Saturdays, and he accepted that, too.
Now we’re working on financial counseling, like “Don’t forget that freelancers need to set aside money for taxes,” “Don’t forget you have student loans coming due in June,” and “Don’t get used to making this kind of money because once you get a job with benefits you’ll see much less per hour.” Yesterday on our way to drive J back to school for spring semester, we stopped to take D out for a celebratory lunch. It was nice to see that big smile back on his face.
This whole thing has been a delightful twist that none of us saw coming, and it makes me wonder if all of the angst on D’s (and my) behalf that goes with any major change is even necessary. I tend to believe that in our case, it is. The angst and panic is often what drives our actions, but it’s how he and I get things done. Could we try a different way next time? I’m not sure. I think it’s how we’re wired. At any rate, we are all breathing much easier this morning. As I sit here typing I look at the clock and notice that D is an hour into his new job, doing what he’s dreamed of since age seven, and I am smiling, too.