Friday, February 27, 2009
I set a goal for myself probably five years ago that I would work at the U of M at some point. At that point in my life there were few goals I had that I had complete faith in. Knowing that I would someday work at the U of M was one. I wasn't sure if I wanted to stay in development, but I started applying for development positions in 2006. I was passed over for one position I was really excited about and I received the warmest call a few weeks later from the woman who didn't hire me, encouraging me to apply for the position I have now. I knew as I ended my call with her that this next lead would pan out. I just knew it.
When I started this position I was eager to start taking classes again (tuition is covered for employees) and working toward a PhD in adult education or higher education administration. I slowly began to realize that development work at the U was unlike anything I'd experienced in the past. The work environment was normal and healthy. People weren't really competing against each other. Our philosophy was truly donor-centered. And we weren't raising money to keep the lights on. Providing access to education, I learned, is a deep passion for me. Working with people who are at their best is the best fit for me. People who are giving to make learning possible, to give a student confidence in their abilities and dreams, are filled with joy. For them, it's not about a tax write-off or their name in annual report. It's about connecting generations of learners. Once I realized this, I put the PhD idea on the back burner and allowed myself to be content as U employee.
I also have the privilege of working with amazing people. Honest. Hard-working. Intelligent. Passionate. Collaborative. I believe the U is the best place in Minnesota to do development. Others might disagree - but our employee turn-over is very low, which says something for a profession with typical movement every two to three years.
So, for these reasons it would break my heart to lose this job. There is little I can do to control the state's budget situation, so I try not to let these thoughts take over my day. What will be will be. And I'll figure out new opportunities if needed.
I was talking to a co-worker the other day about my first job out of college. I actually started working for this organization, St. David's Child Development and Family Services, between my junior and senior years of college. I worked as a personal care assistant with young adults with special needs. Mostly giving their families respite time, and also working on skill and community integration with the three young women I worked with. I told my co-worker this was probably the most meaningful job I've had in my life. Meaningful in a different way than my current job. I learned the incredible strength and resiliency of the human spirit as I fed a young girl through a GI tube and apologized for another girl eating food off of another's plate (while she grinned ear to ear) in a restaurant. I learned that it's a generalization to say people with Down Syndrome are happy-go-lucky and generally docile. And why should we generalize behaviors for child with special needs vs. a child without special needs? My mom asked me every week how I couldn't feel sorry for these kids. I shrugged and would tell her they are just like any other kid - they just needed some extra help in life.
The sad truth of this experience wasn't the young people I had the privilege to get to know and share smiles with - it was that I earned $7/hour and didn't qualify for benefits. After four months working as a PCA after I graduated, I realized I wouldn't be able to make student loan payments and car payments and save money in case I got sick working this job. If I wasn't living with my parents I probably would have qualified for government assistance. The irony of this situation was that this $7/hour job required the most responsibility of any job I've had since. I was responsible for the most vulnerable humans. I had to keep them safe and help grow their skills. It's a sad, sad irony - those who aren't able to add to the economic engine of our world and many of those who care for and teach these individuals - young and old alike - really are treated as less than.
I come back to that I've been thinking a lot about work lately. Wondering what I would do if circumstances changed. Wondering how I will be making a living in 30 or 40 years. . .
Sunday, February 15, 2009
made crepes with strawberries and blackberries for breakfast on Saturday
admired my V-day gift to myself - prints (picture) from etsy.com
mailed off my literacy tutor application for the local adult basic education program
visited a new place for me on Saturday
read Speaking of Faith
registered for a class at The Loft
paged through the Kitchen Window class catalog to find a "free" class for my "volunteer" hours from last year
went out for pie with Mom
spent some time with my journal
attended a new member class at Hennepin UMC on Sunday - with 32 others!
ordered photos to frame from here
watched Northern Exposure, Season 5
made Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday (not as good as Mom's!)
laughed on the phone with Tammy and my sister
spent (too) little time on some scrapbooking projects (maybe next weekend. . . )