Chapter 24 – Starting Over

When we got back to St. Pete (Florida), we had no where to live, no jobs, I hadn’t worked in over two years, and what was left in bank account would soon be gone.

Bonnie’s Aunt was gracious enough to let us stay in her garage apartment until we were able to regroup and get some things rolling. The problem was, we weren’t exactly sure where to start.

I had a phone interview scheduled with the Community Organizing group I had found online, but even if that did come through, I was pretty sure that the pay was going to humble to say the least. Aside from that, the Executive Director of the non-profit I had reached out to had replied back to me and let me know that she didn’t currently have any openings. As such, my hope had me hanging on by a thread.

That night, Bonnie was surfing Craigslist when she stubbled across an opening for a part-time web design instructor at the local community college. I quickly submitted my resume and immediately thanked God for the two doors he was slowly opening.

The next day, Bonnie and I started our housing search. Though we were unemployed and didn’t have much money, Bonnie still had the dream of a little craftsman house in old NorthEast, I was going to do everything I could make that dream come true. So, after looking at rentals all over the peninsula, we finally stubbled upon that little craftsman we were looking for. Unfortunately, the owner / landlord wasn’t very impressed with us…

“So, you guys are return missionaries? Missionaries don’t typically have much money.” he said.

“Well, we’re actually both self-employed. I do freelance web design and my wife is a Ceramic Artist.” I replied.

“A self-employed designer and an artist. Not much more money than missionaries” he responded.

“I can give a bank statement to show I have cash in the bank.” I said. At the time, it was about eight-thousand dollars, but the way Bonnie and I spend money, that was only going to last us for about another eight weeks.

“I guess we can give it a try.” he relented as he handed over the rental application.

And that’s how we ended day two of our relaunch campaign.

Over the next couple of days, I had a great phone interview with the Community Organizing group, I got an interview scheduled with Community College, and Bonnie got set up to teach at her old after-school art program. Unfortunately, we hadn’t heard anything back from the landlord.

That’s when he called…

“So, I was really leaning towards not renting you two the house, when I ran into one of the apartment owners whom I’ve worked with for a long time. I had noticed that one of your references had the same last name as his so I asked him if he had any relation to your reference ‘Dixie Crawford’. It turns out she is his daughter-in-law. So, I asked him about you two and he said simply that ‘you come from good stock’ and that you wouldn’t be any trouble at all. Even though I’m hesitant, I’m going to take his recommendation and rent you the house.”

And just like that, we had somewhere to live.

Over the next week or so, we moved all of our belongings out of the storage unit we had packed so tightly. We had one car and one motorcycle to get us around and my interviews were going fantastic. As a matter of fact, the Director of the non-profit even called me back and said she actually did have an opening for me!

Literally, in the span of two weeks, we went from no prospects to getting a house and being in final round interviews for three new careers: A Community Organizer, a Teacher, and Non-Profit Administrator.

By the end of the month, I was actually able to accept two of the positions, which was pretty much mandatory seeing as how they paid so little. Two years earlier, I voluntarily had left a job making $100K / year and now I was ecstatic to be accepting two jobs making way less than half that amount. To be exact, I took a part-time position at the Community College making $20 / hour and a part-time position at the non-profit making $11.35 / hour.

Candidly, I was happy about the change. Not the “change” I was now getting paid, but the “change” that I was experiencing moving from the corporate world where the only goal was self-enrichment to the non-profit world where the purpose was to serve. Even so, money was going to be tight for a while. But I knew that was part of the deal.

In hindsight, I can very clearly see that early on in my career I had “sold” my soul to the corporate world and capitalism in exchange for the almighty dollar. Quitting corporate, ridding myself of the material wealth I had amassed, going to the mission field, and then returning to work in the non-profit world is what it cost me to “buy” my soul back.

To quote Jesus directly, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matt 16:26)

As such, the cost of starting over was steep and the road was long, but I have no buyers remorse.