As I have mentioned before, breaking into the museum field has its challenges. Now add being a mom, a military spouse who frequently moves around the country or even overseas, and being out of the work force for three years. Landing a job has been almost impossible this last year. It isn’t for a lack of interviews or interest either. I have had a number of those, but I don’t really have a knack for marketing myself, or interviewing for jobs. I believe the gap in work has also played a role. Not only has the job front been difficult, but the inability to network as much as possible has been disappointing. While this is starting to change since we moved to San Diego, I feel behind compared to some of my peers. In hopes of changing that I submitted a scholarship application for my first museum conference. The Museum Computer Network conference to be exact. This conference would be an excellent opportunity for career development and for me to network more.
Prior to living in San Diego, my family lived in Okinawa, Japan. The island is part of the Okinawa and Ryukyu island chains about 400 miles south of mainland Japan. Okinawa is an incredibly beautiful island filled with so much history, amazing food, and warm and friendly people. I miss our time there, but I am happy to be closer to family. The move was a difficult one, especially at 8 months pregnant with two cats in tow. Yup, you read that right. I was 8 months pregnant when I quit my job, packed up everything in our house in Quantico, Virginia, and flew thousands of miles across land and water to the small island of Okinawa. And when I say small, I mean 70 miles long and 7 miles at its widest, small. We had a lot of hoops to jump through before we could get on that plane. From getting a TB test to additional vaccines necessary for that area of the world. The overseas coordinator assigned to us was suppposed to make the process easier, but she made it anything but easy. From forgetting to submit our paperwork for approval to making wild assumptions that my child would have to be delivered by C-section because he would be too big to deliver naturally. The woman was infuriating.
We were approved to move to Okinawa two weeks before we boarded a plane to California to visit my family. The next couple weeks were spent traveling between Texas and California spending time with each of our families before we left. I logged A LOT of miles that month, and I was huge, uncomfortable, and tired. Ofcourse this move wouldn’t have been complete without missing our military flight from Seattle to Okinawa thanks to food poisoning. While my husband spent all night and the better part of the next day with his head in the toilet, my big belly and I scrambled to figure out how we were going to get us to put of the hotel and on another flight to Okinawa. It was a nightmare, and the military did not make it any easier for us. We spent two days in a Seattle hotel with our cats until my husband was well enough to fly. While my husband worked with the military to rebook our flights, we flew to California to stay with my family until our new flight to Okinawa. We ended up flying commercially out of LAX. Which in hindsight it was probably a blessing in disguise. It was not the end of our troubles either. Upon our arrival in Okinawa, we spent the next several weeks in a hotel while hunting for cheap cars and a place to live. It was a whirlwind of paperwork, moving and unpacking. Once we found our house, we were still without furniture for a week. 9 months pregnant and I was sleeping on a blow up bed when the island was hit by Typhoon Vongfong. Thankfully our house was made of solid cement and located on a hill, so we avoided both wind damage and flooding. We had our house completely set up two weeks before our son was born. Not ideal, but these experiences have made me more flexible, and given me the ability to switch gears on a moments notice.
Living in a foreign country with a newborn and little knowledge of the language put me out of my comfort zone in many ways. Even more so the first year when my husband deployed twice, my son refused to sleep, and I am fairly certain I had Postpartum Anxiety. Sleep deprivation does some strange things to the mind. Once things began to settle and we found our feet as new parents, I was ready for more. Working was not a viable option as we lived out in town away from most jobs on the military bases. I didn’t speak enough Japanese to work at a local business, and the closest daycare was still out of the way. Even if I had been able make it work, the sheer number of spouses and locals applying for these jobs made it unlikely I would get hired in the first place. I would have loved to have worked in one of the local museums there. The Okinawan culture and heritage is so fascinating. The Okinawans aren’t just Japanese, they have their own distinct culture and dialect that is unique to their island. Since working wasn’t an option, I decided to go back to school and get my Masters. A goal that I had for myself even before I had completed my Bachelors. I had always told myself that I would finish before I turned 30, and here I am just shy a month before my 30th birthday, and I have completed my program. Despite working hard to earn my degree, taking this time off from working has left me at a disadvantage. I am behind in experience and some of the newer programs companies are using as part of their business operations. Regardless, I am hopeful and determined. These struggles are what define us. Since I have started job hunting, I have found it to be a weird balance of selling yourself, but not revealing too much either. I can’t mention my family or that I am a military spouse because then I am looked at as an unreliable employee that won’t be around for more than a few years. Even though discriminatory hiring practices are illegal, cases are difficult to prove. The struggle is real!