This is a wonderful, straight-forward, no-holds-barred inquiry and I thank you for it.
You are using your mind.
You're using your mind to think of ways you won't have to use your body in this changed world of ours.
I don't think you did anything "wrong" - you got caught in this maelstrom of lousy timing, in my opinion.
But it is what it is.
You said something interesting:
My desire is to return to a job where I use my mind. A place where I can be rewarded for how hard I work, rather than being purely compensated for working hard.
Someone said something once (it may have been Michelangelo) that if you're a streetsweeper, be the best streetsweeper you can be. That notion may not appeal to you but if you think about it, and embrace the concept I have a feeling understanding might flow out of the experience - understanding that in your 27 years of life on this earth might surprise you.
Yes, Florida can be very, very HOT in the summer. It's unfortunate that your job requires you to be out in the sun all those hours and you're wondering why you're doing this along w/ others who haven't accomplished what you've accomplished in your life. You're wondering if the bar has changed and I'm wondering if maybe it hasn 't. I'm thinking that you're there for a reason and that reason is escaping you - you mention that in six months you've received bonuses for customer retention. I doubt very much if that isn't related to your management degree and I also doubt that those bonuses came because you aren't able to manage people.
Can the company you're working for HANDLE increased business? If it can, why not work to increase their market share - is/are the owner/s willing to have you work in a project management capacity where you oversee a job while working the "street" for increased business? A hand-out and a knock on a door from someone well-spoken (I'll bet) will go a long way towards increasing market share for the company you work for. Are they open to that and can they handle it? It seems to me that may be one way to earn more cash doing what you're doing now and I'm hearing that you need to earn more.
Listen, you never know where one job might take you. The experiences you're going through now, though physically taxing, are teaching you something - that something may not be apparatent to you right at the moment but as time goes on I'll bet you realize what these times brought you. What's happening to you right now may just turn out to be one of the most valuable lessons in your life.
Good luck and let us know how things are turning out for you.
Here's a discussion that might be of interest to you - it was from a couple months back and called "6 months and no placements..no nothing...what's going on?" Pay special attention to Christian Fauchald’s answer on Page 4 of the responses…