2022 Start = The Beginning of the End. 2022 End = Supporting Those Who Support Others.

Unlike the end of 2021 – when I wrote a reflection on New Year’s Eve – I reflect now with a couple of days until 2022 concludes.

On this day one year ago, I worked eight hours as a temp in a food factory putting together bake-at-home pizzas, bottling salad dressing and shrink wrapping lasagnas. This wasn’t my full time job as I worked then as a manager for a small, family-owned staffing agency. I needed to work the week between Christmas and New Years as I was paid hourly w/o any paid time off. The owner and her family caught covid on Christmas – thus the office was closed. So, I found myself working on an assembly line in order that I wouldn’t have a gap in earning.

One year later, I’m in a different job. It’s one that allowed me to take PTO both this afternoon and yesterday afternoon. Tomorrow morning, I’ll leave my remote office to drive 15 minutes to the campus of the non-profit care provider for whom I work as Systems Training Manager.

I’ll train a group of five Direct Support Professionals on how to safely and compassionately engage with the intellectually and/or developmentally disabled individuals whom these DSP’s support. After the holiday weekend, I’ll continue to manage the agency’s LMS, create learning modules, and begin planning for the launch of an agency-wide system I’ll be overseeing.

Like 2021, this year has had surprises, twists and turns. Yet, the trajectory of 2022 professionally and personally has been upward. For this, I am profoundly grateful.

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I’ll keep the recap brief as I most want to share here a bit of the wisdom I gained in 2022.

The six weeks between New Years Day 2022 and Valentine’s Day were tough ones at my temp agency job. I was let go from that position on Monday, February 14th only minutes after I showed for work in the office. The owner, who I sat eight feet away from – all day & every day told me she no longer needed the educational content development and training support I was providing her business. Also, her sister and co-owner of the company was returning to the business and would take over the work that I’d been doing.

Getting laid-off is never fun – especially on a day when the culture is celebrating love and relationships. For me – NOT one of my better V-tines days.

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I did quickly jump into a per diem job which isn’t for everyone – substitute teaching! With my educational background plus seventeen years of teaching, I was able to put together the paperwork in a few weeks which gave me the license to sub any grade and subject from K-12. Where I live in Central Ohio, there’s a consortium of a dozen or more school districts who use the same system to contract subs. With covid still actively taking teachers out of school with illness, there was incredible demand for subs. And so, I could pick where and what I wanted to teach every day for as long as I wanted.

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The library of a brand new school building in which I subbed an elementary music class on Saint Patrick’s Day

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It was an adventure for the three weeks in early March when I subbed every day – for a different grade/subject in a variety of districts. Truth be told, I had much fun as I stepped into new roles, with different ages of students, each day.

I especially enjoyed working with elementary students and even the middle school kids were alright. In fact, my only back to back days (and also my last days) were in a middle school symphony and band class. Although I know next to nothing about creating music, I did a decent job with those 6th,7th & 8th grade budding musicians.

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Hallway art in a middle school in which I subbed.

Over the long haul, subbing would have likely become a drag. But, (God is Good!) I found a full time job after just three weeks. Rather, the position that I’m in now found me.

I don’t know on which of the job boards the recruiter for this agency (I’m keeping it nameless here for simplicity’s sake) found me. One afternoon she sent me an email with the job description (right in my wheelhouse) and the agency name (I’d never heard of it.)

I quickly determined that it wasn’t one of the many junk job offers you get when you put “Ready to Work” on your professional profile. When I Googled the agency name and discovered the population it serves, I was truly thrilled. I’ve long wanted to work with developmentally disabled individuals. While I don’t work directly with the folks served by the agency, I am pleased to be able to train and support the front line staff who do this direct work.

My enthusiasm for the agency’s mission shone in the interviews and without much delay I was offered and then accepted the position I’ve been in now for nine months. With every day that passes, I grow in gratitude for the people with whom I work and the creative, people-centered, support I am able to provide. I’m empowered and I hope everyday that I’m able to empower others to boundlessly become the best care-givers possible.

I promised wisdom, so I’ll end with of the many things these two tumultuous job years have taught me. It’s a nugget from a book that I used to read to my children years ago when they were little – Dougal the Garbage Dump Bear

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In it, the plush bear Dougal goes from being thrown away in a rubbish bin (the book is from Australia) to a new home in the city dump. He makes friends with other discarded plush toys and together they help the crane operator avoid an accident. This operator, who created the storybook with photos of plush animals he actually found in the city dump, takes the toys home. The story ends with photos of them playing and even surfing!

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At the end, Dougal notes that “sometimes bad things have to happen so that good things can happen.”

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The 2020-2021 school year was pretty bad for me. Read about it here and here.

And the six months with the temp agency were tough too.

Yet, as bad as both were much (but not all) of the time, I needed to have both on my resume in order to be found by the agency where I’m happily working now. This is a very good and I believe, a very God thing!

Many blessings and much joy to you as 2022 turns into 2023!

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