Working at the DHS.

Uff.  I’m not sure I’m cut out for this place.  I’m at the County Human Services.  I volunteer for 4 hours a week to interpret for people who are applying for emergency assistance, food stamps, WIC, health insurance for their kids, that kind of stuff. The clients are poor and usually they’re somewhat traumatized by an injury, a job loss, a divorce.  I help translate the forms, and in theory, I will eventually interpret between them and their social workers at the DHS.

So far the most frustrating this about being there are the employees.  I work (or volunteer) alongside two people, Luis and Alexis.  Luis is in his 20s, he’s Mexican, but Americanized.  Educated here in the US, he has long hair and wears jeans.  Alexis is older than me, maybe 55 years old.  She’s American born and bred, but spent a year in Columbia.

We keep getting into conversations where she complains about the United States and how corrupt and wicked it is. She argued as how in this country we have no right to speak freely without risking life and limb.  ‘Just look what they did to Paul Wellstone’.  This put me right up a tree because Paul is totally mine and people shouldn’t be able to just drop his name like that. My faith in the press has me convinced that he wasn’t assassinated as unsettling as that is.

She talked about how ours is the most violent country on earth, and that she felt safer on the streets of Bogota than in Minneapolis.  When my jaw dropped and the Mexican co-worker furrowed his brow, she said all the bad stuff we hear about the Americas is just government propaganda, I had to go take a breath.

Being as how she and I spend our hours together assisting immigrants who are asking for help from the government, my mind had a hard time computing what she was saying.  I got flustered and less than eloquent.

I came back with two questions: If Bogota was such a wonderful place, why on earth didn’t you stay there? (answer:  I don’t know, I thought I could do more good from the States) Why is it that people from Mexico and parts south of there are filling up our lobby here in Minnesota if life there is so great? (answer: TV makes them think they’ll be happier here)

The first wave who came across the border could have been brainwashed by TV.  But how stupid does she think the follow-on throngs are?

Luis put her in her place a little, although the slam of the doors in her mind was deafening.  He reminded her that people come here because they don’t have to pay the police, because the drug dealers aren’t more powerful than the police and the army combined, because if their children are hungry or sick there are services for them, schools for them and because if  (at least for the blue collar class) they work hard, they really can have a better life than they would at home.

Now, I just finished a week I’ve been looking forward to for what seems like years.  On Tuesday the 20th of January 2009 Barack Obama was inaugurated as President of my country.  Barack Hussein Obama, no less.  Hearing him say his name in the oath gave me chills.  It isn’t going to make everything happen the way I want it to, but it makes me much more willing to speak up on behalf of liberals who Love this country.

Doctor No Part 3

I did go back.  I gave myself a lecture about not knowing unless I tried.  I also told an old professor of mine about the idea; he said I should absolutely follow through.  So I went. I parked, noted the level, color, and number of my parking spot before I went in.

Dr. McC was nice.  He was retired, in his late seventies or early eighties.  We chatted, I told him my bottom line was that I wanted to go to  medical school if it’s possible for someone like me.  By someone like me I meant, forty years old, retarded in math, and with an unrelated undergraduate degree.  I wanted an honest assessment of the likelihood I would be able to finish school and find a job.

Well part of me wanted that.  Another part of me wanted him to talk to me for a few minutes and say that because I was so beautiful and intelligent, so sparkling and articulate that he could see no alternative but to drop me into a slot that just came open in a special program for math idiots who love medicine and anatomy.

We hashed it out together a little while and he calculated I could be ready for medical school in maybe 3 years, doing the chemistry and other math I would need, a little at a time.  In the end, I would probably be close to 50 when I came out of the process.  I would be competing (not sure how that works) with other baby docs who were in their 20’s.  I would be the oldest graduate, or maybe the 2nd oldest graduate their program had ever had.  He couldn’t recommend it.  He wasn’t going to say it was impossible….

We tried to talk about other options in related fields.  Epidemiology dovetails nicely with my anthropology background, yadda yadda yadda.  I’m not going to be a doctor.  It just isn’t in the cards in this life.  I hunted down my car and went to process.

By not telling my close friends and family, I had created a weird situation for myself.  I was sad. I was disappointed.  But  now I was also embarrassed.  Nobody really knew I went to do this stupid thing, so if I wanted them to support me now, I’d have to tell them the whole story.  The Whole Story.

I’d have to tell them about losing my car, about returning a Second Time to do battle with the cranky receptionist and the car-eating ramp.  About picturing myself having to cut open a cadaver in class, about leaving my stethoscope on as I left my imaginary office, about being the oldest in a class full of young punks, but busting my butt and getting respect.  It would be a difficult story to get across.

So I ended up spending a weekend, maybe a week, being ornery and sad, but not able to lean on the people I was closest to.  Why?  Because I’m an idiot, that’s why.

I’ve decided I sort of manufactured this whole situation.  I hadn’t lost anything.  Nothing in my day to day life had changed.  All that happened is that I talked and daydreamed myself into an idea, then I got the brutal truth. When that daydream bubble burst it exposed a few things that were real that I needed to deal with:

I am getting older.  I can no longer be anything I want, even if I work hard, even if I’m smart.  Ouch.

I will never make as much money as my husband, never be able to support him the way he has supported me; nor could I support myself if he disappeared.  That bothers me.

I am not an expert in anything, I probably will never be one.

I will always be average, which is one of my deepest fears.  I need to approach this demon and look it in the eye.  Deep breath.

Watch this space for updates on phase 3 of my life.  I went straight from Childhood to Parenthood and now I’m about to be ready for what’s next.