Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ay Dios Mio!

I start school tomorrow! Holy f-word! As much as I am worried about taking Spanish IV, I am more worried about the after school program I am just starting to work for.

I thought I was going to feel more excited about this. I feel scared shitless. I have never had to deal with more than three kids at one time. Now I will have 18 to 26. How on earth am I going to entertain them?

Growing up I was sent off to numerous summer camps, but I don't remember any of the songs or games! That was over 15 years ago! Pearl Jam & Nirvana were the newest jams. I haven't even listened to the radio in at least four years. My ipod doesn't have commercials. 

I suppose I had the same fears organizing for the labor union. What did I have in common with men who collected garbage for the city of San Antonio? Not a damn thing. I'm a white girl from upper middle class Houston. Both my parents have university degrees. Some of my garbage workers didn't finish junior high. 

But I connected to them somehow. I gained their trust. I was consistent. I listened. After awhile, I realized I had more in common with them than I thought & economic background didn't play as big a role as I had first guessed. A few of them I cussed out. I will have to remember not to use this tactic with the children. 

I suppose I need to calm down and stop worrying so much. I know how to build relationships. I know how to cultivate trust and I know how to put someone in their place. Plus, I have no problem being a goofball. If you have seen me do karaoke you know this is true. Wish me luck.
-- Sent from my Palm Pre

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Losing Streak Is Over

Yes, I have not only found a job but I have also gotten back on my chosen career path. Looking back on my stints in the "for profit" field - what a waste of time. I HATED those jobs. I put in 100% effort, but they weren't rewarding. It was just work for works sake.

Last Sunday I interviewed for a child care specialist position at a San Antonio non-profit and was offered the job on the spot. I will be part of the after-school staff at a local elementary school. I am so excited. I've done administrative management in the non-profit sector & have worked as a union organizer, but I've never worked with kids.

Oh, and it pays minimum wage. Which is totally fine. I'd rather be paid peanuts and doing something meaningful than making a pile of money and coming home drained and wondering what I was really adding to the world.

I know some days are going to be tough. I have already heard horror stories about severed fingers & broken arms, but more importantly physical and sexual abuse victims. Some kids will have normal childhoods, some will not. The Bob Dylan song "Shelter From the Storm" comes to mind.

As I start this job & finish my BA, I am going to remind myself the bottom line is PEOPLE. Money comes and goes. Building relationships, building strong families, communities & cities - this is what will save America. Not some over-educated prick on Wall Street or the privileged class in our Congress.

I know I will be poor college kid again for at least another 2 1/2 years. Fine. I get to keep my soul. My self worth does not come from Gucci or Cadillac. I will never be a hamster in a wheel & they will never make a zombie out of me. I am impervious to selling out.

-- Sent from my Palm Pre

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pretty Vacant

I hate to admit this, but in eight days I will be vacating downtown for Alamo Heights, or Alamo Whites, whatever you prefer. I know what you are thinking: isn't that a little too waspy for Grace Ingeborg? The answer is yes, but with good reason.

I am sick of smelling urine while walking down the sidewalk. I am sick of the city pressure washing the sidewalks at 2am outside my window. I am sick of the stupid tourists and their rugrats trying to pet my dog. He doesn't like it.

I am sick of the gorgeous old buildings that lay empty, rotting into crack dens. I am sick of seeing the same homeless people over & over. They opened Haven for Hope months ago, but I haven't seen much of a difference. 

I am sick of seeing the vacant expressions of young men & women high and completely numb to the world around them. Do they have a mother somewhere? Doesn't someone in the world love them? 

Last week I saw a guy maybe a few years older than I. He was decked out like he had just left Whole Earth Provision Co. Maybe he was on his way to Austin or Boulder or somewhere equally crunchy. Since then I have seen him laying on the sidewalk grate in front of the Travis Building high on god knows what. Hiking apparently was not on the itinerary.

When I moved downtown I started seeing a blonde guy, about my age as well. At first we just thought he was down on his luck. A year later I still see him occasionally. Sometimes coherent but sometimes completely vacant, still, like nothingness. Now he looks like he's fifty instead of thirty. 

I used to wonder how people get to that point, but after this summer of unemployment I feel lucky to not have fallen into that trap. There are a lot of horrible circumstances that can make a person feel worthless.

Truthfully there was at least a week or two this summer I didn't get out of bed or didn't leave the building. Getting fired, unfairly, really took a toll on my self-worth. It was just devastating. Especially since there are literally no jobs out there. Before this summer I had never been unemployed for over two weeks. Two months felt like purgatory.

We wrap so much of our identity into what we do for a living. And if we love our job, what's wrong with that? But getting the "its not personal, it's business" line is a slap in the face. Jobs are personal. It's how we feed our families, and pay our rent, & put clothes on our back. What could be more personal than that? 

So, when I see these people living on the streets of San Antonio I can't help but wonder if something similar happened to them. Pair job loss with feelings of worthlessness and you have a potentially dangerous situation. Can't go to the doctor if you lost your healthcare. But there's always a needle & a spoon somewhere. 

-- Sent from my Palm Pre