Friday, March 09, 2007

Things that Don't Go on My Resume

Dear Sir or Madam:

In the course of my academic life, I've found some extremely interesting ways to make money. In college, I worked as a camp counselor, cocktail waitress, STD peer counselor and a resident dorm advisor. I also taught drama classes, modeled for art classes, worked at a comedy club, and wrote a travel column with a friend of mine. In graduate school, I have done everything from working full-time in corporate America to answering phones. I've done temporary work at a Planned Parenthood, and even put on my best smile and push-up bra from time to time to make some serious money at club promotionals in NYC. I know how to make a mean martini, serve you food with a wholesome smile, research big and important things, change a diaper and comfort small children, sell stuff on E-bay, size-model, act on stage and film and inspire a ton of college kids at once to be big thinkers and good, good people. But aside from the NYC bar promotionals and the teaching thing, the most memorable and rewarding way I have every made money was working an as Overnight Supervisor at a transitional rehabilitation home for young men with traumatic brain injuries.

You see, Sir or Madam, I was pretty broke two years ago. Because I had successfully passed my comprehensive exams, I was no longer eligible for academic funding. There also wasn't a teaching position in sight, and the person I researched for went on sabbatical. What's a poor girl in academic career limbo to do? I suppose some would either cry or quit. Sure, I cried...a lot...and I thought about quitting every day, which, of course, made me cry a whole lot more. So, in honor of my overwhelming depression, I found myself a little job working at a residental head trauma place in town. The deal was that I could work on my school work while the men in the house slept. The pay was reasonable, I was already suffering from insomniac misery to being with, and so I took the gig without hesistation.

Only...the men in the house....they didn't sleep. Because of their injuries, they often got up and wandered in the night. Sadly, there wasn't a night when one didn't cry out in pain. I, the social scientist (and sometimes professional go-go dancer), had to learn how to administer medication to sick people. Many nights, I was there all alone, in a big, spooky 100 year old farm house, just me...and 8 men with serious brain issues. The concept of dozing for a few minutes at 4am was out of the question because of my night-prowling charges, who, by the way--I failed to mention earlier-- were all returned soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan. Not only were they recovering from their injuries, but they were once trained fighters and killers. And I, sweet, nerdy Namaste, standing at 5 feet, 5 inches tall, was well aware of what I could possibly be up against should someone refuse his sedative.

Fortunately, I never once had a problem in the 6 months that I worked there. My sleep schedule was certainly a mess, and I didn't get a whole lot of academic work done in the middle of the night, but I learned a lot very important things. For example, I learned that how we care for our sick and wounded is really a reflection of who we are. I saw that some of my co-workers were not as nurturing as I would have preferred, which impressed upon me the need to conduct myself better. I learned that once a person is deemed "disabled" in our society, he or she is put into a mill of personal obstacles that are often extremely hard to surmount. I watched as these men struggled to regain their sense of self, and they were truly a source of inspiration. Some of the men in the house liked to follow me around, but they were never disrespectful to me. I listened to their hopes and dreams, looked at pictures of their families and girlfriends and got to know them as people and not just medical patients. I didn't see them as just their brain injuries or their appearances because of what happened to them. Instead, I saw them as people looking for the respect that they deserve. Like all military men, they consistently called me "ma'am", which was funny at first, but also very nice.

Before I left the job, I received two marriage proposals and one, beautiful, hand-crafted stained glass window made in my honor. The glass piece now hangs in my office as a daily reminder to me that I haven't always been contained in the comfortable walls of the academic existence. Each fleck of perfectly-placed glass reminds me of a time when I thought about quitting almost every day and not pushing through the to the end because there was no support. And at the same time, it reminds me of why I didn't quit, because I learned from the craziest job of my life that the choice to live one's dream means finding a way to get there and never giving up.

On my resume, you'll find a long list of the more austere things I've done with myself over the last few years. Sure, ok, I look pretty good on paper, those two printed pages really don't do me much justice. What's also not mentioned is that I can parallel park just about anything with an engine, do the full splits, stand on my head and cook a gourmet meal for your family, if you so desire. I'm good at calculus, escape artistry, fixing lawn mowers, looking cute and rigging electrical things. However, I am not good at taking out trash, being yelled at or unnecessarily talked down to, remembering to eat in a timely fashion, or remembering to pay my bills on time. I think you should hire me because I tend to be pretty good at most things and I seem to be somewhat popular among the student crowd because I will forever be a fan of hip-hop and trance music and I encourage my students to sit in meditative yoga postures and say 3 ohm's in unison at the start of class. But we can discuss my pedagogical style later.

So, thanks for your time. It would be really sweet to work for your department, even though you aren't going to give me healthcare and overwork me anyway. But it's all cool. Hard work is my friend. I look forward to your hollah.




Anonymous said...

You're hired.

Anonymous said...

You can do the splits? I need to start taking yoga again....

WiB said...

If you weren't averse to bread, I would look forward to your challah.

kwais awie, namaste; kwais awie.* :)

*I hope that makes sense; I learned a few phrases in Cairo but never nailed down spelling...

VJ said...

Just Lovely N, and a highly valuable experience to have. Me, I'd be proud to put it on my resume. I also was anticipating some of it as I read it. TBI, the signature wound of the Iraq war. Still somewhat preventable with the right equipment & tactics, but remaining one of the most under diagnosed & under treated conditions for returning Vets. I'm very familiar with some of the sleep issues, and as I was reading, I was predicting the marriage proposals. And of course these guys may be as serious as a heart attack about that too. We're so seriously unprepared for this 'surge' of wounded warriors, it's not funny. And 5 years on, it's really a crime. Support the troops? Not this Bush bunch. Not now, not ever.

Be that as it may, I'd hire you, but we'd probably have to beat down the boys in the shop when you were in the office I imagine. Cheers & Good Luck! 'VJ'

inowpronounceyou said...

I absolutely LOVED this post. Very well said. Those soldiers were lucky to have someone that had thoughts like these.