When I was in college and my mom and I started attending a new nondenominational church, which I talked about in this post, I noticed that the sermons regularly emphasized how God uses our experiences to shape us and grow us. But until recently, I hadn’t fully appreciated how this applied to my own life. Looking back on the events of the last five years however, I am now realizing how God has used these experiences to develop in me two important virtues, also called fruits of the spirit, that had been sorely lacking in my personality: patience and humility. In this post, I will talk about patience, and in the next, I will talk about humility.
Patience was required from 2012 to 2015 in which time I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in Journalism, was unsuccessful in landing a permanent job so resigned myself to the fact that I would have to go back to school and study something else. When I earned my Paralegal certificate and had a job just three months later, I was glowing with joy. At last I felt like there was a purpose for my life, and a reason to get up in the morning. And of course, I was also looking forward to getting a paycheck! My mom even commented to me a couple weeks after I started this job that she noticed I held my head a little higher and had a happy glow about me.
For a few months, there was a honeymoon phase. Right away I knew there would be some accessibility challenges, but I think at the time, I was just so delighted to have a permanent job that I didn’t think about the logistical problems these accessibility challenges would cause later. In addition, while my co-workers were, and still are extremely kind and helpful, I felt guilty asking them for help, especially after some restructuring took place which meant case managers had additional responsibilities. Now for example, case managers file appeals over the phone with their clients, and helping case managers with appeals is my exclusive job, but when I started, appeals and hearing requests were filed in a different department, and all case managers had to do was schedule the appointments.
On top of that, I found out a few months into the job that there were things I was supposed to follow up on that I wasn’t aware needed to be done. The other case managers had task management software to help them keep track of these things, but it wasn’t fully accessible with my screen reader. I tried to improvise my own organization system, and the other case managers and my boss were kind and would remind me of things, but even so, things would be missed, and it wasn’t long before anxiety about this took over my life. In January 2016 after a particularly overwhelming staff meeting where I realized there were even more responsibilities of my position that I had overlooked, I made the decision that this job was not blind-friendly and decided to start looking for something different. I decided a job with the state of Wisconsin would be best because benefits would be great, and I remembered from when I did an internship with the governor’s office that the state is on top of their game when it comes to providing accessibility.
Most job postings were discouraging as they required someone with a lot of experience, but there were several with no such requirements that seemed promising. One job especially, a job with the title Equal Rights Officer sounded really exciting. I was invited to Madison for three interviews, including one for the Equal Rights Officer position, but things never went further. To add insult to injury, I got the rejection letter for the position I wanted most, the Equal Rights Officer position, on Memorial Day weekend, which is usually my favorite weekend of the whole year, but Memorial Day weekend that year was spent crying.
When Thanksgiving came and I still had not found anything, I really felt as though God had abandoned me. I still prayed, and tried to think positive thoughts and thank God for the blessings I did have, but it was getting more and more difficult. I seriously considered just quitting, but my family urged me to think long and hard before doing that because that doesn’t look good when interviewing for future jobs. I was also overcome with guilt about quitting after all the effort from the state and the job developer to help me land this job.
Then, just before Christmas, my boss approached me and proposed changing my position so that instead of having a caseload, I would file appeals for other case managers. I agreed to give this a try, but in my mind, I was dreading the prospect of doing appeals all day because although the Social Security website where appeals are filed is fully accessible, the form was so involved that after just one appeal, my brain would be fried and sometimes I would have a headache. But after just one week in this new position, it occurred to me that this change in position was the answer to my prayers! My anxiety disappeared as I knew exactly what I was supposed to do when I clocked in each morning. I had an accessible spreadsheet with my appointment schedule each day on Google Docs, and the more appeals I did, the less intimidating they became. The form is overwhelming when you are new to it, but like many things, it becomes second-nature with practice, and now I could fill it out in my sleep. I have also figured out ways to be more efficient with this form, so much so that when I started, I was only comfortable scheduling four appeals per day, but now I can easily do six appeals a day.
Then in February, my prayer for work-life balance was also answered when it occurred to me to ask about working part-time. Since these changes took place, I have enjoyed a wonderful sense of peace and contentment in my life that I may have missed out on if I had fully given into my impatience and quit this job. By forcing me to practice patience, God also showed me that what I thought I wanted wasn’t really what I wanted. When you are gripped by impatience, you don’t think rationally. I believe this is why people do dangerous things like drive too fast in snow or run red lights. They become so consumed by the short-term goal of getting somewhere on time that they don’t stop to consider the devastating long-term consequences their decision could have. In my case, I just wanted my current anxiety to end so bad that I was wooed by job titles that sounded different and exciting like Equal Rights Officer, never stopping to think about the fact that if I got that position, I may have merely traded one set of anxieties for another.
Another byproduct of being inpatient and not thinking rationally, I now realize is that I had inaccurately ranked my priorities. When it occurred to me a few months into the job that except for major holidays, I, like most full-time adults had not really had a week day to myself since I started working, I remember thinking that if I just had that perfect job that I loved and that fit me perfectly, the lack of work-life balance would no longer matter. But the indescribable joy I felt that weekend after asking to be part-time and the peace and contentment I have felt ever since has shown me that I needed this balance more than I realized when in the grip of impatience.
Through this experience, I truly appreciate now the significance of that saying, “Patience is bitter but its fruit is sweet.” We wouldn’t truly appreciate the sweetness of the fruit if it was just handed to us without practicing patience. My prayer is that this experience might help someone who may stumble on this blog who may be struggling to be patient and trust God. I also pray that if I face hardship in the future that causes impatience to well up in me, that I will think back on this season of life and remember the rewarding outcome I ultimately enjoyed by not making irrational decisions out of impatience, so that hopefully I will trust God even more than before, and practice patience again.