I, like so many other people in the U.S., am looking for a job. Recently a job that appeared to be perfectly suited for me came out of nowhere. It was to help mentor and work with a young adult in recovery from addiction. This very wealthy family was going to pay me $30,000 for the year and was also going to provide room and board. This represented a financial windfall for me that would have solved many of my problems, including my worries about rent, not having health insurance, my student debt, and so forth. It also would have been a meaningful year of work before I head off to my PhD studies in the Fall of next year.
However, it turned out to be too good to be true. Instead of walking into a situation that was a difficult but rewarding way to spend my gap year before starting my PhD I entered a situation that tested my training at Fuller and ultimately forced me to make a decision about what kind of man I wanted to be.
Without going into too many details I agreed to spend a month to see if it would work out before committing for the remainder of the year. By the middle of the first day I knew I was not going to stay for the year, but thought I might be able to stick it out for the month as this would mean three months rent for me. By the afternoon I realized I could not do that and was considering staying on for a week just to make sure my suspicions were true. By the evening I knew I could not stay even the week.
I do not need to go into specifics but this was easily the most dysfunctional family I have ever encountered. They were attempting to hire me to be part of a toxic family system that included untreated mental illness, addiction, violence, wealth, religion, co-dependency, the abuse of psychiatric drugs, quack science, the supernatural and a unlicensed psychologist to boot. This whole system was aimed at controlling uncontrollable addiction and fixing un-fixable mental illness. I knew if I stayed I would simply be enabling an incredibly sick system that was on its last legs and hurting everyone involved.
I am not joking when I say that if there are not major changes I expect the situation to end in a murder-suicide.
So that night I was laying in bed and realized I had a decision to make. The next morning I could choose to stay, as long as I could handle it, to make as much money as I desperately need as possible, before leaving. Or I could do the right thing, which would be to confront the mother and father, talk to them about my best recommendations, and quit.
In the financial situation I am in, quitting this job meant that I would most likely mean moving out of Pasadena, moving back in with my parents, and looking for work in my hometown. This might not sound like the end of the world but for me it also strikes a very deep insecurity.
While I know there is a global depression/recession going on and many people are having a hard time finding work, but I take my inability to find sustainable work very personally. This is for a variety of reasons. I am a man, and I am told we tend to take our identity in our ability to provide financially more so than women. There have also been past hurts in this area as when I was working in support based ministry I have had family directly say that I was not a “real man” because I was not working a real job. I also fear that no woman will not want to be with me, no matter how good of a man I am, if I cannot even provide for myself. While I have worked cleaning toilets at Costco and cut my teeth in a variety of internships, I fear that I might be holding out for a meaningful job when I should really just settle for a job to pay the bills. I fear my unwillingness to do so is a sign of immaturity and this, not the recession or a lack of opportunity, is the real root of my unemployment.
In other words, quitting this job did not just mean giving up a ridiculous amount of money and security, nor did it just mean a move back to my hometown, it meant wrestling with a lot of shame and insecurities that I still deal with.
I made my decision very easily and very quickly, possibly even within the prescribed seven breaths of the Bushido code. (“In the words of the ancients, one should make his decisions within the space of seven breaths.”)
I quickly realized that I would much rather go before Jesus Christ and say I had done everything I could do help this young man and do what was right by this family, even if that meant not having money, even if that meant moving home in with my parents, even if that meant dealing with shame and insecurity.
I quit the next day and essentially did an intervention with the family before walking away from the whole situation. I hope they take my advice and I hope things change.
I write this right after giving my landlord my thirty day’s notice. I don’t regret anything and I am happy with my decision. I do not regret this decision because I know that all the talk, resumes, videos, warm reviews, opinions, blog posts and gossip do not decide what kind of men and women we are. It is the decisions we make that reveal who we are.
And I am happy with what this decision says about me.