After graduating college I didn’t take the typical path. I didn’t want to take the typical path of getting a “real job” so I didn’t, however taking the atypical path for me meant a few extra turns.
Because it took more than one attempt to be accepted for long term service I was determined to not screw it up. My ducks were in a row for a month before I left, and checked and rechecked, and checked again. If they were going to find fault with my placement they weren’t going to find it on my end of the deal.
“I swore they were going to send me home, like come in, look at me, tell me to pack my things, they made a mistake, send me home, for months.”
All of the sudden, after countless months of waiting, I’m sitting at the dining room table with my 3 housemates & a few other pseudo housemates talking. And what I’ve just said has made everyone stop & stare. I realize I need to explain myself.
There are things I keep close to the vest. I know it doesn’t seem like it most of the time but it’s the truth. Some would consider it secret keeping, others self preservation. This fell into the later category. I didn’t want a previous rejection to affect my chances on a second try so I kept it quiet. Now months in I was going to let it all go.
I tell my story. I don’t go into all the details. I kept it as general as possible. Then I wait for the other shoe to fall.
I’m not sure what I expected that “other shoe” to be. I knew these people well enough to know that running to the phone & calling the home office probably wasn’t in order. But there was no “other shoe,” in fact their reaction was all around supportive. If I remember correctly someone said my experience was “really cool,” or at least my reaction to it.
“I’ve never had someone worker harder to understand our program & their position. I’ve never had someone dive deeper in such a short period of time either…..”
I really wanted to fit in at my placement. That’s why I worked so hard. I wasn’t big on kids back then, especially little ones in big groups, so I was way out of my element. I was first given simple tasks with a few days to complete them. I did them quickly and efficiently, and then went to the next thing that was given to me, or that I could think of. I spent my limited “free time” in classrooms, whether I was needed or not.
I wanted to prove that nobody made a mistake in taking me in. If there was going to be fault found it wasn’t going found with me. I didn’t know it but somewhere in my subconscious I figured that if I make myself indispensable & irreplaceable they couldn’t send me home, and if they did they’d miss me like hell.
My first interviewing experience was years before but it was often on my mind. The pain & bitterness had lost its sting but I was far from over it. I wanted to show the first recruiter he had made the biggest mistake, even if he probably didn’t care & would more than likely never find out. It still mattered to me.
It mattered to me, because it wasn’t just about me. I had started this whole experience wanting more out of my life & if it was a little out there it was O.K. with me. Even though I see myself as an average person, I wanted a not so average experience. I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives, as cliché as it sounds.
It took failing to realize it had just as much to do with me as it did the other people, with disabilities & without. Just because you failed once doesn’t mean you should give up, something better may just come along, but if you quit you’ll never find it.
I kept picturing the recruitment posters I’d seen all over campus a few years ago. My picture could end up on one of those. Someone from DSS could see the poster & wonder about me, a few might even ask. I didn’t want my legacy to be “the girl that got sent home.”
The first interview & my failure were about me. I had to prove to myself I had it in me to keep tying if I really wanted to do this. When I actually got there & hit the ground running, that was when it wasn’t about me anymore. It was about proving that recruiter wrong. It was about showing my directors & coworkers that including me in their programs wasn’t a mistake. It was about everyone who was even thinking of coming after me, a sign that it was possible (even after failing).
During our last weekend together our larger group gathered in a circle, the idea was to come face to face with each other & say something nice about the person in front of you (basically); some were easier than others, others were simply put really really hard.
One of the final people I faced was sitting at the table when I devolved my big secret. It didn’t even occur to me that she’d reference that afternoon in the dining room, but she did. I had known I had made the right decisions throughout the last year and a half, but hearing someone else say it was just icing on the cake.
There was no mistake here.
Neither was the journey to get there.
Next week I’ll be writing about some of the main tenants of long term service, and life after, of course in keeping with the theme of CP awareness.