West Palm Beach, FL, USA
(credit: Joseph J. Bucheck III)
It’s been more than three years since I had a conventional job with a weekly paycheck. During those years, I didn’t know how I was going to meet the minimum needs of my family. Forget about the extras! It was all I could do to put gas in my car to get to the few freelance jobs I could find. Sometimes, it cost more in gas than what I netted. But I know myself all to well. I had to keep going. I had to find another way.
Unemployment, however, has hit twelve and a half percent in Florida and is rising. A dear friend let me use her gas card in emergencies…what a blessing she has been. Off I went!
I was painting houses for extra money and was eventually able to pay off the remainder of my daughter’s orthodontics bill. And voila, she got her braces removed! What an extraordinary feat in such unordinary times. The little things…small blessings, that I normally took for granted over the years, became so clear in their importance. I couldn’t just write a check this time around like I had for decades before without a second thought.
Then, I worked out a trade for my children’s dance classes. In exchange for the tuition, I cleaned the studio six days a week. I also became the studio's wardrobe mistress (a fancy term for fitting/sewing costumes) and later, worked backstage for the performances. Because I was overextended, the owner cut my cleaning days to three per week.
I don’t know how I did it all. While trading for services carried the day, I missed that weekly paycheck. I missed it so much that it sparked an enormous fire in me, so much so that I Facebooked a past associate and asked if we could have coffee. We met on Wednesday and I started working for her that Friday. Ever since, I have honestly been whistling while I work.
Finally a PAYCHECK! What an unbelievable feeling to get paid. I started to grow again. Of course, I couldn’t keep up with the cleaning, sewing, painting and God knows what else, plus work a full time job. It became such a blur, but I knew I was getting closer to my goal of only one job…my paycheck job! I had to talk myself through those other jobs, just to meet our necessities. Soon, I would only be at my “Whistle While I Work” job!
Don’t get me wrong. I am so blessed to have people who believe in me, but there is nothing like coming home from an average workday to sit at the dinner table at a reasonable hour with my children and re-connect. Having family dinner was always very important to us and it became more precious through our struggles. It’s the little things in life that this economy has reminded me to take notice of once again. I take it as a blessing and most of all a learning experience. After all, I still have a lot to learn.
My advice: Get back into networking in real time and in real life. Sure, Facebook was helpful in reconnecting me with my former associate, but all the other jobs, they came from people I interacted with on a daily basis. And, therein lies the solution. There is plenty of work if you don’t mind getting dirty, cleaning toilets and sweating your…you know what off! We have to do for our family and our children. Life belongs to those who go out and never give up.
I’m Whistling While I Work!
Teresa Cavaliere is on the frontlines of today’s America and reports on the curves life throws at her.