I am sitting, once again, in Panera. It’s where I go to disappear. This or the library. I can disappear in a booth in the back of the store, or behind a pile of books, and I can think, and put out a few dozen fruitless resumes.
I want to write something brilliant. Something moving. Something inspiring or emotional or clever. But I can’t think of much of anything. My hands feel like they weigh a thousand pounds. I want to be invisible.
I woke up at 4:30AM today. I woke up in the back of a 1996 GMC Yukon. That’s why I woke up at 4:30. I’ve always been an early riser anyway, but I rise earlier still because I can only get about 5 hours of sleep before the pain in my back and hips wakes me up and it’s pointless to try to go back to sleep.
I’m a morning person to begin with, so I don’t mind. I like being up early, going to the gym, getting things done, getting a jump on the day. But today I don’t feel like that. Today I can’t even marshal my thoughts into anything cogent. Not really. I want to dream. I should review my goals, but they have slipped from where they were five years ago, things like “Close 1 million dollars in loan volume this month” has become: “Stay warm. Stay dry. Wash your clothes. Survive another day.”
Yesterday, for the fourth time since July, I got turned down for a job. This time it wasn’t Obamacare. This time it wasn’t my age. It was something from 26 years ago. Something that never mattered before in the ten years I was a very successful mortgage banker. I spent the last ten weeks going back and forth with this company, answering their questions, providing documents, sending them reference letters.
I sent them three reference letters that should have sealed my employment right then. One from a former bank examiner who was also a decorated Naval veteran and successful insurance company president and a bank president. One from a decorated marine who has preached the gospel for forty years. One from an Army veteran who was an assistant D.A. here, and who spoke eloquently about my honesty and character and integrity. In fact they all did. They all know me. This in addition to the four references from previous employers and managers who all said the same thing: “Craig is the most honest, forthright, hard working, character-driven man we have had working for us. He deserves this job.”
But things happen, and in this economy, and in this society, sometimes you can’t overcome them.
So now I am back at the drawing board, having wasted ten weeks where maybe I could have done something else. Maybe I could have made a plan B. At least I wouldn’t have been ten weeks into hopefulness, only to have the hope ripped out of my hands.
I’m sitting here, trying to get the energy to start thinking about what to do next. Does that make sense? I’m trying to get the energy to think. I’m afraid to. I’m weary. It’s not going to work. It will only fail. It will get shot down again. What’s the use? The thoughts I refused to let in before, are in there now. Doubt. Fear. Shame. Loss. Hopelessness.
I can’t start analyzing. I can’t take stock and see what I have to work with and figure out a way. A way to where? What do I have left? Intelligence? Grit? Determination? Character? Integrity? Talent? I have bucket loads of that stuff. And still, tonight I will sleep in a Yukon.
I cannot express...not for all the words in the world...how this hurts. How much I miss my daughter. How badly I want to have a place where she can live with me like she wants to. How loudly the memories scream at me in the night. I see her when she was a baby. Then 2. Then 4 Then 10...the year I lost my house. Then 12. Now 15. What next? Will she graduate High School before I can rebuild this life of mine? Have I lost her trust for good this time? Is this the last disappointment...the one that makes her give up completely? I am trying to hide my tears as I wrote those words just now. Choking them down. Blinking them back. What if this time she gives up on believing in her daddy? Daddy. Her Daddy. What the hell kind of daddy am I?
Sometimes I wish I had a drug problem, or an alcohol problem, or a gambling addiction. People seem to grasp that as a reason for homelessness more so than my story. “Really? You just lost your home and your career and you can’t find anything?”
I have had people suggest jobs to me. Jobs I can’t even consider. Because of my commitment to helping take Morgan to and from school. And because my goal is to get a place of my own. And beds. And dishes. And furniture. And sheets and blankets, and pillows and pots and pans. After 5 years, I couldn’t keep paying rent on storage sheds full of things I wasn’t going to be using. I sold everything. Whatever I couldn’t sell I gave away. All I have left now...all I have from 6 years of home ownership...is a couple of boxes of keepsakes, mostly drawings from Morgan over the years, and my coffeemaker and a knife set. Everything else is gone.
I need a career. I need a real job. Something that pays enough that after a month I could get a place. Not after four or five months of multiple part-time gigs at odd hours. I’m homeless. My access to showers and sleep are limited. It’s complicated in ways you haven’t thought of.
I can’t even work up the energy to speak right now. I’m just crushed. I want to grab my daughter and wrap my arms around her and weep and beg her to forgive me for something I really didn’t do. “I didn’t sink this economy. I didn’t ruin the mortgage industry. I keep trying. I keep telling you to hold on, to believe just one more day, one more week, one more month. Please don’t give up. Please stop growing up. Please wait for me. Please don’t bear scars from this. I love you more than anything in this world. Please stop growing up. Please stop growing up. Please...I just want some time with you while you’re still young. Still my little girl. Still here.”
Every day slips past. There is a five-year blank spot in my relationship with my daughter. A hole I will never fill. I hope she knows how much I love her. I hope she knows how much this hurts and how hard I’m trying.
This is where I am this morning. It weighs a million pounds. It’s choking me. I need to find someplace where I can cry. Again.
Then I need to come up with another plan. Something to put what remains of my hope in. I can’t quit. But sometimes it feels like I already have.