Expanding Her Horizons
While growing up, Jackie’s step-father was in the military and they moved around a lot; living overseas and on various military bases in the United States. In fact, one year Jackie attended six different high schools. It didn’t add up to a stable educational setting. At 15, Jackie quit school and got a job at the Yum Yum Ice Cream Parlor in San Antonio. She was energetic, personable and had no trouble finding work— even without a high school diploma.
Jackie married at 18, to a man in the military, and they started their family. Before long her husband was transferred to Germany. This marriage was short-lived and Jackie found herself living in Germany with a small child, without a driver’s license or high school diploma, and needing to support herself.
She never had trouble finding work but it was hard to find a long-term stable job being on her own with full responsibility for her daughter. Jackie had several jobs in food service. Her first consideration was always her daughter. This was during a time when employment was not user-friendly to women with children. She lost jobs when she needed to take time off to care of a sick child. After a while Jackie moved back to the States where she met another military man and remarried. They also spent time overseas, and in due time Jackie had two more children. She enjoyed being a wife and mother and again settled into military life— really the only life that she had known.
In 1985 her husband was sent to the Twin Cities to work. Jackie had never lived in the north before, but found she liked it. When this marriage ended in a divorce, Jackie stayed in the Minneapolis area and found work. Without a license, she had to rely on public transportation. At one point she had a job where she had to walk 45 minutes (each way) and somehow get her three children where they needed to go. It was very difficult to manage, and the children temporarily moved in with their father who was living in New Ulm. Jackie needed to be near her children and soon followed. In New Ulm she was able to find work, get her GED, and at 41 years of age she finally got her driver’s license. In January of 2000, she hurt her back and that marked the end of easily finding work.
When her ex-husband was again sent overseas, Jackie remained as a full-time mother for her three children. It had always been of prime importance to her that her children have a good, stable home life and a good education. Now her children are grown and have finished their educations. Jackie’s time as a full-time mother is complete and she is in the huge transition of taking care of herself instead of others.
With definite physical limitations and no other means of support, Jackie turned to Life-work Planning Center and especially the Over 50 group. She said that she had never really had the opportunity to think about herself, and that the workshops helped her take a broader look at things. It was demoralizing to dwell on her limitations. When she talked to others they would often see only the negative aspects. She said, “I had to come to a lot of realizations; I wasn’t really ready to pack it in and go and live with relatives.”
She also reached out to ReHab Services and a work program through MVAC. She realized that she enjoyed office work but needed to improve her skills. Jackie is now enrolled at South Central College and is working toward an Associates Degree in Legal Administration. She stated she is finding that she really likes to do her homework, and is enjoying the challenge of going to school. She’s found that there are a lot of people at the school who are older than her and that age really doesn’t matter. She’s regained her self-confidence. Jackie still looks to Life-Work Planning Center to find direction, and says that she is doing her best to stay away from negative people. Jackie is expanding her horizons.
– Christine Olson, Peer Counselor