That for which I am thankful

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Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

If someone had told me a year ago the changes I would face in 2021, I’m not sure I would have believed them. This time last year, I was hopeful for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, thankful for my family and friends, grateful for a job I loved and was able to keep while working from home to help stop the spread of the virus, missing my best Buddy, and preparing to publish my 4th novel. In some ways, beginning the final month or so of 2021 feels like a repeat of 2020. I’ve jokingly referred to 2021 as 2020: Part II several times throughout the year because, in many ways, I feel like we’re in the same place with the pandemic. So many other things have changed, and there are still so many things for which I am thankful.

Changes of 2021

Our family fell in love with Roscoe.

Dog lying on sofa

Roscoe’s perch

We adopted Roscoe at the end of 2020, but I’d say he really settled himself into the family in early 2021. He’s not a replacement for our lost Buddy, just a multiplication of the love we all had to give to another pet. While things were a bit touchy with Peanut at first, Roscoe had won him over within two weeks. The brothers still have squabbles on occasion, but it’s clear that the boys love each other.

I published my 4th novel.

One Shot hit the web on January 23, 2021, on what would have been my late father‘s 68th birthday. The novel was a labor of love like all of my other novels, and was my pandemic baby. I’m really proud of the hard work I put in on that novel.

Drew caught COVID-19.

In February, right before a little snowstorm in Arkansas, my then 12-year-old son was diagnosed with COVID. Luckily, his case was mild and he recovered well. No one else got and we took all the precautions we could by wearing masks and banishing him to his room during our quarantine. Looking back, we think Meredith’s respiratory virus right before then might have been COVID as well that didn’t present with the typical symptoms. Jonathan and I had received our first doses of vaccine in January, so we feel like that protected us.

We bought a Tesla car.

I know…buying a new car might not be considered a big change by some people, but I really thought it would be a bit longer before we took the plunge again. My 2005 Chevy Cavalier that I’d bought in late 2004 was starting to have problems, so we decided to trade it in toward a used Tesla car. That little green car was my first big purchase on my own after starting working full time at ATU, so maybe it was some odd foreshadowing that it started to fail as my time at ATU was about to come to an end. Our loan paperwork was finalized one day before layoffs were promised at the university. The whole situation made me feel ill. I told Jonathan after the announcement that I had a bad feeling about the situation.

I was fired.

Laid off, let go, downsized, eliminated due to restructuring, screwed over…however you want to describe it. For the first time in my life, I was fired from a job—a job I loved. Leaving ATU after almost 17 years of employment broke my heart. While expressing my hurt over the situation, I caused a misunderstanding with some former coworkers and friends. I hate that I hurt them with what they assumed I thought, but sometimes in life we have to apologize and move on. 

Choosing unemployment

Unemployment was scary, but it was better than the alternative of taking a consolation job that would have been bad for my mental health. I applied for 38 jobs from the time I found out about my impending job loss to the time I was offered a new job over a period of two months. I interviewed for three jobs out of those 38 applications and never heard back from about a third of those potential employers. The fastest rejection I got was within 5 minutes and the longest elapsed time was about 8 weeks between the application and the rejection email. Waiting sucks and never hearing back sucks even harder.

New job offers

Coincidentally, Jonathan found a new job before I did. He interviewed for two jobs, and was thrilled to get an offer in July for the Director of Technology at Subiaco Academy, a private boys’ high school. He loves his new job, and the 30-minute drive is no problem with the Tesla. I accepted an offer at ArcBest as a senior copywriter. I love my new job. I get to work from home and report to Ft. Smith for quarterly meetings. My coworkers are all awesome people and have been so welcoming to me.

COVID-19 hits close to home

In September, my first cousin died from COVID-19 complications. Tara was only 45 years old and left behind a husband and 6-year-old son. I wore a mask and kept my distance at her outdoor funeral while remembering all the fun we had as children visiting our grandparents. Tara was a beautiful soul who will be sorely missed by all who loved her. Later, Jonathan’s oldest brother Dino was hospitalized with COVID pneumonia and almost died. He’s still in the hospital for rehabilitation now. It’s a miracle that he’s alive and we’re thankful for that. Jonathan, Drew, and I are fully vaccinated, and Meredith will get her second dose of COVID vaccine next week. I’m really thankful for the scientists, researchers, doctors and nurses who made it possible.

We went solar

Photo of Shine Solar truck beside house

Shine Solar install

In our quest to be more environmentally friendly, Jonathan and I had solar panels installed on our house in October. It was a lengthy process, and we’re grateful we were able to make this work for our family. Alternative power sources will become more and more important in the future, so we wanted to get started now.

Thankful

The past two years have been the equivalent of being trapped on a roller coaster. I don’t know yet what 2022 has to offer, but I know that I have so much to be thankful for:

  • God’s blessings, grace, and comfort during hard times
  • Friends and family
  • My health and that of my family
  • Jonathan and I love our new jobs and amazing coworkers
  • Jonathan and I can provide for our family
  • Our sweet dogs
  • Our home
  • Our security
  • Medical advances
  • Hope
  • Artists who share their projects and passions with the world (Two of my favorite musicians this year are Hailee Steinfeld  and Joy Oladokun). I’ve read a lot of great books this year, so check out my Goodreads reviews for recommendations.

This isn’t a comprehensive list because I would be here writing all night. I hope to do a lot more writing in 2022. Depression zapped my passion for a bit this past year, so I had to engage in some self care and give myself a lot of grace to get through it all. I want 2022 to be a year of health and growth for me.

What are you most thankful for? What are your hopes for 2022?

Let me know in the comments.

-Brandi Easterling Collins

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Apologies and hurt feelings

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If you’re reading this post, you’re a human being who’s been hurt before. It’s part of life.

Also, it’s guaranteed that you’ve hurt someone else, whether intentionally or not. The worst part of hurting someone is when you do so unintentionally…and they won’t or can’t accept your sincere apology for the miscommunication.

That happened to me recently. I lost some people I cared about because I hurt them with my blog post about my unexpected employment changes. It was never my intention to hurt anyone. I was and still am extremely hurt by the whole situation that resulted in my job loss, so I tried to write only facts without weaving too much emotion into the post, but I failed in that effort.

Once I knew I had offended others, thanks to one person giving me enough of an explanation to make me understand their point of view, I was able to edit the post to clarify. I feel terrible that I hurt people with my post and what they read between the lines. Perhaps I could have been clearer in the beginning, but I wasn’t.

It hurts that a few of my former coworkers felt that I said that their jobs were somehow disposable or that they didn’t deserve their salaries. I never said, wrote, nor thought those things for a moment while writing my blog post. I merely stated that my position was paid less and that I felt it would make more sense to keep a current employee than to fill the two vacant positions. It’s basic human rights 101: Me feeling that I deserve more doesn’t mean I think someone else deserves less.

Although I reached out to apologize, I don’t think my apologies were accepted. I never said or meant to imply what those others thought about the post, but the damage had already been done. In our office, we had “norms” or office rules, one of which was “assume good intent.” It means that we were to assume others had good intent with decisions, and we were to consider their point of view before getting angry. I guess that didn’t apply to me.

When I learned of my job loss, I tried to assume good intent from the decision makers, but I could no longer assume that when I discovered lies I’d been told. That was the end of good intent. I had to stop communication to protect my mental health. If that’s what my former coworkers needed to do to me, then I still wish them well. I’m not going to beg for their forgiveness or friendship. They still have mine. They were family. It takes more than one misunderstanding for me to write off family.

Of course, if I’m being honest, it hurt my feelings to feel so alone after learning about my job loss. I made a formal complaint with HR on behalf of everyone who lost their jobs or had to take significant pay cuts because I felt what was happening was wrong. I don’t know if anyone but my husband did that for me. But in the end, I didn’t have anything left to lose at the point of my complaint. Except (what I thought were) friendships that would last longer than my employment at the university.

So what’s the point?

There need to be more powerful words than “I’m sorry” sometimes. Most of the time these past several months, those words have proceeded condolences as many have died from COVID-19 and other ailments. Most recently, my family lost my first cousin on my mother’s side. She was only 45 and left behind a lot of people who loved her including a husband and six-year-old son. My heart breaks for that little boy having to grow up without a parent who loved him so much since I’ve been there with the loss of my dad.

Like I tell my kids all the time, be as kind as possible. The days are long, but the years are short. Life’s too short. If you hurt someone, apologize and try to see things from their point of view. Make things right if you can. If you can’t, let it be a lesson and forgive yourself. Because after all, we’re all just humans trying to come out of what has probably been the worst year and a half for many of us.

-Brandi Easterling Collins

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Unexpected Employment Changes

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Note: Edited on August 20, 2021, in order to clarify some points that I did not communicate clearly in the first publication, which caused some hurt feelings with some former coworkers. That was never my intent because I care for those people very much and would never intentionally hurt anyone. People who know me well know my heart.

Growing up, I knew that my parents were careful with their money. They worked hard for what they had, and when each of them faced a job loss, they took it in stride and found something else to support our family. It’s what good parents do—they provide for their children. It’s what adults do. When one job doesn’t work out, we have to find another. So what’s the difference between a job and a career? I think it’s the love of a job that makes it a career.

I went through the typical childhood dreams of being unsure what I wanted to be when I grew up. Eventually, I settled on writing as an art form. It’s always the expression of myself from which I couldn’t stay away for too long. Sure, I took breaks over the years from the more creative aspects, but the writing was always there, waiting inside me out of loyalty, talent, and true passion for it.

Getting a real grown-up job was something I fell into while working on my master’s degree in college student personnel at Arkansas Tech University. While completing my bachelor’s in creative writing in early 2003, I learned of the new program starting its first cohort soon. Since I loved working as a senior fellow in the English department at ATU, I knew going to graduate college was the next step because I truly loved being in the college environment. Continue reading