The importance of not giving up

I am looking for a new job. The one I’m in, while a step up from where I was a year ago, is not a good long-term prospect, and I need to reach out and stretch to see where else I can learn and grow.

It’s no small feat, taking this on.  It’s downright nerve-wracking, in fact. Every time I look at my resume, I am reminded of my past injuries, for most of them immediately preceded a job change. People have been asking me for years, why I moved from job to job so often, and I’ve long since gotten in the habit of saying, “A better opportunity came up.” But in fact, many of the changes I underwent happened because I got hurt and/or my brain stopped working thanks to my longstanding issues, and I couldn’t do the job I was doing before.

So, I had to find a new one.

Another thing that makes resume-updating difficult is covering all the details again, making sure I haven’t missed or misstated anything… finding old errors that I missed before… it’s a little unnerving, thinking that these inaccuracies have been out there for so long without my realizing it. And there might be other things I have missed.

So I review my resume one more time.

As daunting as it is, I’m not giving up, however. As I look over my work history, I am frankly amazed at how well I’ve done for myself. Not bad for someone whose working memory is in the low-low end of the spectrum, and whose behavior issues have cost them numerous quality relationships along the way. And as I look over the parts of my past that signal Warning Will Robinson! Danger! Danger! I am making a conscious, concerted effort to turn my mind away from its automatic impulse to think the worst of myself, and I’m choosing to think the best.

I wasn’t a bad employee. I wasn’t a bad person. I wasn’t a slacker. I wasn’t a good-for-nothing deadbeat. I was injured. Repeatedly. And I have prevailed, nonetheless.

Still, it’s tough going. One of the hardest things for me, at this point, is dealing with the fact that I don’t have a degree. I attended college for four years — two in the States, and two in Europe — but I never got my degree. I had so many serious problems, when I was in college, due in no small part, I believe, to the multiple concussions I sustained during high school, and the bad patterns and behaviors I developed as an adolescent with a history of head injury.

Looking back, I am frankly amazed that I wasn’t worse off than I was. Don’t get me wrong, I was running wild, engaged in various kinds of petty crime and involved in business dealings with criminals. But my external circumstances never caught up with my interior reality. Frankly, I’m lucky I didn’t end up in jail. The one thing that I think saved me was that my parents were prominent members of their community, and nobody seriously thought that I was at risk or a troubled teen. I was just ‘moody’ — just another angry young person who would eventually grow up and grow out of it. Or something like that.

One thing I wasn’t saved from, however, was the lack of education. High school, let’s face it, was not an educational time for me, or for many of my peers. I fudged my way through most of it, thanks in no small part to the preponderance of multiple-choice (multiple guess, in my case) tests throughout the four years. Nobody paid much attention to deeper thought or intellectual activities. School was a either training ground for the adult world of work and 9-to-5 schedules, or it was a place to rack up points to get into some college.

High school as we now know it didn’t exist in my day. It wasn’t the kind of thing my parents really went out of their way to support me in, like I see happening with kids today. My folks just assumed that I’d get certain kinds of grades, and they just assumed that I’d graduate and move on from there. Get a job, settle down, be a regular person. But the importance of high school wasn’t really on their radar. In fact,  I’m not sure my parents even bothered to come to my graduation. They may have come, but I have almost no recollection of the event. Another result of concussions, perhaps?

Anyway, high school was survivable, but college was where it all broke down for me. My parents had decided that I would go to a certain religiously-affiliated college, near where some of my relatives lived. I think their plan was to send me to the school to reform my wicked ways within plain sight of my relatives, so they could report back about me. Either that, or they could try to curb my wild behavior.

When I announced I was not going there, the reaction was, “Well, then you’re on your own.” They eventually softened up and offered me a thousand dollars a year for help with tuition and living expenses, and they just barely managed to complete the financial aid forms so I could get some help from someone.

Long story short, I had a very interesting time earning my way. Again, I fell in with some bad folks, I ended up doing some illegal stuff to make ends meet (though, ironically, I didn’t realize at the time that I was doing anything wrong), and before long, my only viable alternative for continuing my education was to leave the country. So, I did.

Quelle adventure. Those are more stories for other times. On the whole I had a really great experience and learned a whole lot, the first year I was there. But again, my troubles caught up with me, and I spent the second year scrambling to keep my act together — on another continent in a different language. When I got back to the States in 1987, I was a stranger to myself, my family, and my country.

I had run out of money, and I had no degree. What to do?

Well, I managed to get some temporary work, here and there, and then eventually employers would notice that I had a spark or something, and they would promote me for no apparent reason I could see. But I went through the motions of being a good employee, discharging my duties… feeling like I was falling farther and farther behind… In the meantime, I’d get in a car accident, and/or my neurological issues would flare up again under the stress of increasing responsibility and pressure, and that combination would set me back again big-time.

And I’d totally screw up what I was doing — or at least become so agitated and anxious that I thought I was screwing up — and I’d have to find another job to keep sane. And keep afloat.

In the meantime, I met the love my life and married… didn’t (dare) have any kids — my intense emotional lability and violent temper of 15 years ago might have led me to seriously injure my children, I’m not happy to say. (But I am happy to say, I’ve improved tremendously over the past decade.) And I just kept working. I had to keep food on the table. I had to keep a roof over our heads. I thought about finishing school a bunch of times, but I barely had the energy to crawl home at the end of each day. Take on college coursework on top of that? How?

Well, now I find myself wishing that I’d been able to figure that one out. Twice in the past year, I’ve either been passed over for consideration for a good job or I’ve been docked 10% of the base salary offer because of my incomplete degree.  Nobody I talk to has any idea what I’ve had to overcome, and they never will. No way am I going to play that card. Maybe I’m too proud. Or maybe I just want to be on the same playing field as everyone else. But it does take a bit out of you to be brushed off because of what I consider a formality – that academic piece of paper.

I suspect the intensified requirement for a degree is the result of our increasingly global job market. How can global companies know you’re good, just by glancing at your resume? They need to see evidence of a degree. It’s nobody’s fault — it’s just a sign of the times.

But it is pretty troubling to not get a chance at jobs I know I could do — and I could them well — and earn accordingly, because of my troubled past. Nobody really cares that I’ve gotten my act together. Like my parents, they probably think I never should have gotten in trouble to begin with, and it’s my own damned fault for ending up where I am. Brain injuries mean nothing to most folks — other than that you’re “permanently” impaired, and you’ll need special assistance all your days.

Oh, what the hell. People are going to do and think what they want, but I’m not giving up. I’m not like my parents, who gave up on me when I was in college. They shelled out two grand, then they cut me off when I went to Europe. So what? I made it through. Just barely, but I did make it. I’m still here, and I’m still a contender. I’m still here, and I think there’s a reason I keep hearing Tom Petty sing “and I won’t back down” on the radio, as I’m driving to and from work.

It’s important to not give up. It’s vital to keep believing, to keep the faith. That’s true, whether you’re a TBI survivor or you know someone who is. If you’re a survivor, depending on the nature of your injury, you may be predisposed to depression and negativity. I seem to have “lucked out” in that regard and been “blessed” with injuries that make me more inclined to minimize or disregard imminent danger — for better or for worse. Or maybe I’ve just been through so much crap over the years, I’ve gotten used to everything looking like it’s going to hell, and I know from past experience, that that doesn’t always hold true.

In any case, I’m sure I’ll find something. Even in a job market flooded with young noobs who think (and act like) they know everything and have the paperwork I lack — that coveted Bachelor’s. Somewhere, somehow, someone must have a place for an adventurous soul who never gives up and refuses to quit till they get to the goal.

Author: brokenbrilliant

I am a long-term multiple (mild) Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI or TBI) survivor who experienced assaults, falls, car accidents, sports-related injuries in the 1960s, '70s, '80s, and '90s. My last mild TBI was in 2004, but it was definitely the worst of the lot. I never received medical treatment for my injuries, some of which were sports injuries (and you have to get back in the game!), but I have been living very successfully with cognitive/behavioral (social, emotional, functional) symptoms and complications since I was a young kid. I’ve done it so well, in fact, that virtually nobody knows that I sustained those injuries… and the folks who do know, haven’t fully realized just how it’s impacted my life. It has impacted my life, however. In serious and debilitating ways. I’m coming out from behind the shields I’ve put up, in hopes of successfully addressing my own (invisible) challenges and helping others to see that sustaining a TBI is not the end of the world, and they can, in fact, live happy, fulfilled, productive lives in spite of it all.

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