Today I was hired as a Special Education teacher at Canton Middle School in North Carolina. This fact seems ordinary to most, but the reality is that it is very big news in my life. Eight months ago, I was laid off the second time from my last two English teaching positions. The first time I was at the school for four years and was cut because of budget concerns. The second time I was laid off because my job was combined into another job to save money, and so I was not qualified for the job any longer. I had to find work, and I knew it would be hard. In fact, it has been a full-time job the past eight months. I get up each morning and search the computer for hours and religiously send out applications and resumes almost daily. I have applied for exactly 93 jobs in the past eight months, and been on 11 interviews. I have eight years of teaching experience, and yet was struggling to even get interviews for jobs I was over-qualified for. Thank God I have been on unemployment during this time, or we surely would have lost the house. My wife and I have managed to scrape by. She went back to grad school a year ago for a counseling masters, and so has been in school full-time. Luckily, she was getting student loans and that helped our small income. We have managed to rack up our credit card bills to around $15,000 out of necessity. It is amazing how much it takes to just survive. We have learned to cut back on many things like going out and traveling, and have saved a lot by cutting wood this year for all our heating needs from the wood stove. We learned about a discount store called Dickies and Amazing Savings that carry outdated items for around 50 cents. They carry things like canned food that has been dented or a box of Little Annie’s Mac and Cheese organic dinners that are a few days past the expiration date, but otherwise just fine. The money saved at that store alone has been incredible. We did not buy many Christmas presents last year and my wife even made a few gifts herself like ornaments. We had leftover gift cards from our wedding that we were able to buy a few small gifts with. Even though it has been hard and I seem to be complaining, it really has not been so bad. Things financially began to turn in a positive way for us two weeks ago, when I started walking a dog part-time. That job has given us spending money and helped significantly to not add more to our credit card debt. But during this entire time, I tried to stay positive, knowing that eventually things would get better. I kept myself busy by starting riding mountain bikes competitively again and going to races at age 41. I started writing again, which has been a saviour in its own unique way. I have been reading a lot more. I have become a better roommate and keep up with chores better now. I have spent quality time with my wife and our two cats. I even got to visit my family after about two years of not seeing them. I have been thinking a lot and reflecting on life. One of the best things has been all the mountain biking. I have seen some amazing terrain and ridden some incredible trails in the past five months. I saw wildlife like bears, foxes, turkey, grouse, and hawks, and have seen views of the mountains to last a lifetime. I have experienced much peace during these times in the woods and in my own head as well. I even starting riding with a group of people who are surely going to be good friends for a long time to come. I know many people are worse off than we have been, and I have been thankful for the fact that we have family that has helped us some financially where others do not have that luxury. This whole experience though has taught me to be thankful for the little things, and I know I am happier now than I have been in the past. We will still struggle to get caught up, and this job is only temporary for the next four and a half months with no guarantee for a position the next year. It will be a significant pay cut for me, since the job is technically a teacher assistant job. But it is a job, and I am supremely thankful for that fact. So many people can not even eat, much less have a place to call home. In the end, I have been humbled by this learning experience. I have learned to value the simple pleasures and to not take things and opportunities for granted. I am happy and I am moving forward and yet much wiser as a result. I am learning to be humble, learning to be patient and most of all how to persevere. May life always bring about opportunities for learning and opportunities to grow and think in new ways. May I continue to be humbled beyond measure. Thank you.