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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Introductions are in order

So this is how it all began.....

I was the good smart kid in school, pretty, perfectionist, straight A's through elementary and high school and college. Then I got into an Ivy-League school thinking that somehow, with my unique perspective on the world as a multi-lingual, brainy, cultured somebody, that maybe I could do some good for the world.
Well, that dream flew out the window very quickly!

This is what happened instead:
College was a nightmare. With my lower-middle class background in an elite institution and my short, female, ethnic visibility, it became very obvious very quickly that I was invisible, inaudible and didn't really count. I wasn't a part of the swimming team, I wasn't a part of the girl's rugby team, I didn't join any sororities, I was never invited to. While my classmates came back every September of tales of how they spent their summers in Europe or working some humanitarian camp in Africa as a volunteer (plane ticket and living expenses paid for of course by mommy and daddy) I had nothing to offer except my tales with irate customers working at the local drugstore on minimum wage.
I also had to work jobs in order to have any sort of pocket money whatsoever, while my classmates were free to study and ace their classes and watch their GPA's rise, finding study time was difficult to say the least. At one point my single parent was incarcerated, leaving me to fend for myself and my younger sibling.
I graduated, but barely, my grades belonged in the dumpster and so graduate school was out of the question.

And so I worked jobs for which I was overeducated for. I speak 5 languages and had a degree in international trade, yet I don't really fit the mold of the white, male, tall businessman. My family background is such that I don't have those connections to tap people for informational interviews and "get my foot in the door" to use job-search jargon. So I ended up doing call-center work and positively hated it. Even a basic screening of job boards at your local employment center will show jobs for administrative assistants, customer service representatives, retail store manager, legal secretary. I don't fit any of them and I quite frankly don't want any of those jobs either.

I also have wanderlust. I finally grew tired of the customer-service job and got myself to Turkey to teach English as a second language, met some nifty folks there and stayed for three years. While my classmates were making it on Wall Street or husband hunting and starting families and buying their first home, I was backpacking and roughing it in Turkey, Greece and Cyprus. I slept on the platforms of train stations, in tree houses, lived in a student dorm for a while and somehow survived on less than $800 a month. I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything now.

I came back and started working in Washington DC as a trauma counselor, worked mostly with inner city African Americans in suicide prevention , but also worked the palliative care wards in oncology and HIV. While school gave me the IQ skills, DC gave me EQ skills. I then got a job as a Director of Education at a very visible non-profit organization which was fine for 4 years until a new Executive Director came in who was, in essence, a bigot, but she used to be on the Board of Directors and so has many highly placed friends, I was a sitting duck and she made sure I left quickly, as she made sure she got rid of everyone else who didn't jive with her world view based on color, language and ethnicity.

So what to do?
I quickly got an underpaid job as an administrative assistant since I had bills to pay and left that job when the person I replaced came back from sick leave.
So this past year I've been collecting unemployment insurance which just ran out last week. I still have not found a job which I am well-qualified for and which would be meaningful and so have no choice except to resort to welfare.

So I'm starting off this blog with an invitation to those who are also downtrodden, frustrated and are itching to change the world. Bring your woes here, post often, I won't censor anything. I want to hear your stories of how you broke the glass ceiling or found your dream job, how you overcome social barriers like class and race.

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