Saturday, January 23

What do I want to be when I grow up?

My sponsor wanted me to try and do something nice for myself every day. Some things are simple and easy, like smiling at myself in the mirror, and other things aren't so obvious at first but when I reflect back, I realize I did something nice for myself.

When I was a kid, I wanted to grow up to be a writer. I couldn't not write. I wrote piles and piles of stories. Later on, my best friend told me I ought to be a lawyer because I was so logical and could debate so well. I felt flattered. Writer? Lawyer? Teacher? Whichever, I would need college ...

Sidetrack to tell what happened to my dreams?

Sidetrack #1: Writer's block, a result of depression and angst and, I don't know ... a lack of confidence? It kind of started when I had a kid story of mine appear in the Sunday weekly magazine of the newspaper way back when I was 8 years old. My teacher told me about it and I proudly went home to tell my mom. Mom thought I was lying. No way could I write anything well enough to go into a newspaper. I went back to school the next day, deflated, and the teacher then gave me a copy of my story--from the newspaper. Wow.

I began writing stories about a kid with a really mean and evil stepmother. My mother found my stories, read them, and screamed at me. How dare I tell everyone she was a bad mother? I said no no no no, it was a stepmother I was writing about, not her. My mom just said she could tell I meant her. I was thirteen. So what did I know about disguise? Duh. But the other thing is ... she violated my privacy. Hard to sit down and write creatively after that. That very year, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, the war in Viet Nam was escalating, there were riots, there was protesting ... my stories with happy endings really seemed stupid.

As for college and lawyering or teaching, I thought we had no money for it. I didn't know from FAFSA or aid from the government. On the one hand, my parents would say they could "help" me go but on the other they made it clear what a heart rending sacrifice it would be on their part. I figured I'd better work full time for a year and help them out with the bills.

Long story short: didn't go to college. Didn't become a writer, a lawyer or a teacher. I became a clerk typist and then a secretary.

At the third job I had, I was the unit secretary for an audiologist and speech pathologist at the Maryland Rehabilitation Center. It was the best job I'd ever had except for being an interpreter. My boss was Esther, the audiologist. Stuart was the speech therapist and both of them were young, hip and totally fantastic to work for, encouraging me and treating me like I was a real person and not fingers that typed.

Esther taught me to use the audiometer and I began to do screenings of people who'd come in. It was easy-peasy. I learned which was the range of normal hearing and which signified a mild or moderate loss. I never got to test anyone other than that. People with severe or profound hearing losses underwent more tests and only Esther could do those. Esther thought I was fully capable of becoming an audiologist myself and encouraged me to try.

More psychological BS got into the way. I didn't. Instead, I became a secretary at the National Center for Law & the Deaf in Washington D.C. While I was making coffee one day, a deaf man said why on earth was I doing that when I was such a fantastic interpreter and the need for qualified people was so great? So I became a certified interpreter for over 20 years. Best. Job. Ever.

The only other one that came close was getting hired at a facility that treated a large deaf population in Baltimore. I got special training in the WIC program, learning to screen women and children at risk for malnutrition or iron deficiencies. I learned how to give blood stick tests to them, how to counsel them on basic nutritional needs and to set them up for monthly WIC benefits. I loved that job but it didn't work out because of major transportation issues. Oh well...

The point of all this is that I went to see my DVR (Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor) to talk about getting help finding a job. Let's face it, it's gonna be hard for a 55 year old who's been out of work almost 10 years, who has fibromyalgia and hand injuries and whose last job earned her $50/hour. I can't even get interviewed as a teacher's aide although I have tons and tons of experience.

I was talking to her about what I thought I could do, running down the list of typing/data entry from home, counting lunch money, playground aide, classroom aide, etc. etc. etc. and she just looked at me. Then she said, but what do you want to DO? Like I have a choice? I told her about why I felt unhireable. She said they could work through all that but she's a strong supporter of training. She just wanted to focus in on what I'd like to do so they can figure out the best training or education for me.

Wow. I am so not used to this. I was all of the mind set of just needing to find a job, any job, didn't matter what, didn't matter if it was mindless or would hurt my hands. Go home and try to figure out something I wanted after all these years of putting myself at the end of the list? Yikes!

So I went home and thought about it, did a lot of online research and stuff and after some thinking and searching, I figured out and prioritized what I wanted.

There's an A.S. degree at the community college for hearing aid science--in other words, it would sort of be between what I did for Esther plus a little more. I would work with people, probably older, who would benefit from aids. I would love to do that. I need to earn 36 more credits though--18 months of school at least. Would DVR pay for that?

But ... there's the next best fit, a job I would really love. It's called "human services assistant" and it would be on a level with what I did at WIC. It could be taking applications at Social Security or the Welfare office or anywhere people go for human services. I really love working with people. I almost have an education degree (A.A.) and would just need about 15 credits.

After that would be a job I could do NOW with the right self-marketing skills: in education, a teacher's aide. I would like that too.

I realized after researching this stuff and then prioritizing my list that I was doing something really nice for myself--I was actually putting what I wanted first. It was a cool feeling.

What did I do today specifically that was nice for me? When my little guy came running in the house looking for me, throwing his arms out to me, I thought to myself: wow, you really are a good nana that this little boy runs to you in excited anticipation of seeing you and I patted myself on the back real good as I hugged him to me!

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