About a year ago my sister and I set out to do one of my favorite guilty pleasures. We were going to make a video. I had this vision in my head of a farm-filled tribute to Idaho. There were going to be cows, tractors, sprinkler pipe—the whole nine yards. And I found the perfect song to narrate it. The chorus proclaimed, “It’s Iiiiii-daho! I-I-I-daho! Idaho-yo-yo-de-yo-yo-yo. I was travelin’ with my wagon to the shores of Texaco singin’ I-I-I-I-I-I-Idaho.” This song was fabulous, and it was free.
We jumped in my brother’s little white pickup, camera in hand, windows down, prepared to shoot the authentic Idaho experience. We drove down 100 South toward the city limits, and in the blink of an eye 100 South became Main Street. We passed the church, the post office, the Country Store, and the old bank, which now houses a dance studio. After crossing Clark Street, we continued along, passing the elementary school, jr. high, and high school. All at once, Main Street once again became 100 South, and we were surrounded by fields of wheat, hay, and beets. After a few miles we came across a dirt road along the canal bank. I followed my impulse and turned on it. In high school I ran this road on a nearly daily basis during cross country season. I knew the road and where it went like the back of my hand. This dirt road took us deep into the heart of the square mile. There were no houses there—only fields and ditch banks dotted with wild sunflowers.
After few minutes the dirt road turned soft. It had been watered recently. We kept going. The tires flung mud and rocks at the belly of the little white truck, and it became apparent that the mud was getting thicker. When I saw the puddles, I brought the truck to a stop. The puddles weren’t very big, but the ground around them looked saturated. There are two kinds of wet roads: the solid kind that is mostly made up of rock and gravel, and the soft kind that is kin to quick sand. The solid kind isn’t a problem to drive over, but the soft kind can suck up a 2-wheel drive truck in a heartbeat. From the cab of the truck I couldn’t tell which kind I was facing, and my clean, flip-flopped feet didn’t feel like venturing out to test the mud. I had the option of backing the truck up the narrow road for a quarter mile or so until I came to a spot wide enough to turn around, but that didn’t appeal to me much. Long-distance reversing had never been one of my strengths. Thus, I decided to power through the mud, attempting to drive around the spots that looked the squishiest.
Then the inevitable happened. We got stuck. I tried reversing. Nothing happened. I tried going forward again. Nothing. We got out of the truck and we both sunk. The mud was up to my ankles. I gingerly walked around the truck, careful not to lose my flip flops, and assessed the state of the tires. There was lots of mud. I pulled a shovel out of the back of the truck and awkwardly dug around the tires, attempting to drain the water that had accumulated around the base of the tires. After displacing some water and mud, I jumped back in the truck and tried to go either forward or back. Once again, neither worked. We found pieces of heavy-duty plastic wrap in the back of the truck. We poised one at the front of each tire, hoping a little extra traction was all the little white truck needed. I tried to go forward, and the wheels quickly sucked up the plastic and flung it behind them. No progress. We put the truck in neutral and tried to push it out. Nothing. I called my dad and my brother to see if either of them had a minute to help us get out, but both were busy with grain harvest and couldn’t get away for a while.
After exhausting every good and bad idea, we plopped down on the bank of the ditch, covered in mud and discouraged. “So much for our “Tribute to Idaho” video,” I thought to myself. Then I had an idea. This idea was not going to get that little white truck out of the mud, but it was still a good idea. We were going to make a video about getting stuck in the mud! The mud was no longer a problem; the mud was now a project. We filmed each other making entertaining noises with the mud. We threw mud on the truck. Soon, the entire truck was covered with mud art. We reenacted our efforts to unstuck the truck. We had a great time. In fact, when my brother came to rescue us, we weren’t quite done shooting everything I had in mind. The little white truck escaped from the mud later that evening, but we weren’t done with our video, so we went back the next day to finish it.
As I was compiling the video, I couldn’t help but marvel at what we had done. We set out to make a tribute to Idaho and ended up with a video about making the most out of getting stuck unexpectedly. It was a pretty incredible metaphor. Sometimes in life you set out to do something and you get stuck. It happens all the time. Some people sit on the ditch bank longing for where they were headed. Others see opportunity in that place where they are stuck and end up finding something better than that place they were headed.
In May I graduated from college. I had a job at Smith’s Marketplace in the garden center lined up, and I told them upfront that I would stay there only until I found a social work job. I was hired as a seasonal worker, and it was well understood on both sides that I would not be there forever. I hated that job, but I was grateful to have it and to be getting 40 hours a week. Around the middle of June several of my managers started to ask me how much longer I expected to be working there. I was getting married in a few weeks and was scheduled to take my SSW licensing test in mid-July, so I told them probably another month or so. One day after a manager asked me this question and I answered, she said, “Just so you know, it’s probably going to be less than a month. Because of the weather we had this spring and the parking lot mess, sales are way down in garden and we’re cutting back hours.” I wasn’t too surprised.
The next day I was informed that my last day would be the following week. This was surprising. Even though I knew I was only a seasonal worker, I was expecting to be there another two or three weeks, especially where I was a seasoned veteran of the garden center. However, it was nice to see a light at the end of the dark tunnel that was Smith’s Marketplace.
The next week I got married and my job ended at Smith’s. I celebrated the 4th of the July for the first time in years (the past several years I had worked on the 4th). Then my husband went back to work. The first few days were good. There is a lot to do in our house, and I kept busy. Then things started to get old. Now, periodically alternating between doing dishes, organizing piles of gifts, and writing thank you cards is getting monotonous. I am a 22-year old unemployed housewife. I have way more free time than I should, and I feel too guilty about this free time to really enjoy it.
While my unemployment is my own doing, I’m somewhat of a slave to a decision I made two years ago. Two years ago I got a grant from the State of Utah in which I received a certain amount of money and took a few extra classes on child welfare. In return, I am supposed to find a job at a state child welfare agency and work there for two years full time. After three months my obligation is up and I can find any social work job. Thus, unless a child welfare job opens up soon, my hands are somewhat tied until August. A job opened up at DCFS and I applied for it, but never heard back from them. I would have been happy to get any job, but I do feel like I dodged a bullet. DCFS is not an agency for the faint of heart, and I’d rather not become a hardened DCFS worker. I’ve been given a few leads of jobs that might be open, but all have turned out to be dead ends. In theory I could find a job outside of child welfare and cross my fingers that nothing in child welfare opens up, but I’m not sure I want to take that chance. If a child welfare job were to come up while I was otherwise employed, I would have to quit my job or reimburse the the State with about $8,000.
So here I am. Stuck in the mud and sitting on the ditch bank waiting for the opportunity to reach my destination.