Excited About Work? What?

Hi Californians. Sorry about that governor thing. I don’t know what to tell you. Sorry. I’m sorry. I would have voted no recall for you if I could have.

Things is busy here, kids, yessirree. I had a great weekend (yeah, three or four days ago) with three quarters of the ABL, as foreseen. We ate a lot of brunch. Also, I was scrubbed forcibly and with great vigour by a tiny Korean lady. Apparently, I have a lot of dead skin. That’s the only thing she said to me the entire time. She’s all scrubbing up my girly bits, scrubbing with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns, scrubbing as if the League of Scrubbing Prohibition People were howling at the back door, scrubbing as if the world was going to end tomorrow and only the well-scrubbed would be saved. Scrubbing away, and I’m wincing and trying to breathe through the pain, and she’s all “ You got a lot of dead skin!” Hmm. I was very soft afterwards, but I don’t know if it’s worth going again. I don’t know if I like the scrub too much.

But that’s not the real story, the state of my freshly-scrubbed skin. No, the story here is my CAREER. Or lack thereof. I ‘ve bewailed the job thing many many times in this journal. So many times I’m not even going to link to all the entries in which I have done so. You all know the drill: I went to social work school because I had some sort of vague feelings that I wanted to “help people” and also because I wanted to move away from Southern California…and a good thing I did, isn’t it? What with Arnold as the governor and everything. I would have voted No Recall, my poor Californians. You could have counted on me. Anyway, moved up here, went to some school with NO idea of what I really wanted to get out of it or what I would do after I graduated or how I would go about paying off the ridiculous amount of money I now owe in student loans. Two years was not enough time to figure myself out, it seems, because…I sure didn’t! In fact the first thing I did after graduating was be unemployed for three months. Then I got the temp job from hell, which I also won’t bother to link to here because, well, you know. It wasn’t pretty. Seven months in temp hell, during which I was job searching the entire time and during which I would continually get interviews and go through the entire process, only to be cut at the last minute. Temp job ended and I was unemployed some more. I had some unemployment that time but it still wasn’t pretty and I was feeling pretty down about everything.

Then I got this job and I’ve been sailing along for over a year. For someone who is underemployed, I certainly don’t feel very good at what I do. I haven’t spent much time over the year thinking about that because I’ve been thinking that I was very happy, instead, to think things like “I have a paycheck and health insurance and also I can join the gym for cheap, not that I have, because, damn, baby, have you seen my butt lately?” You know? Work = work. That’s all there is to it. I get up, I go in, I sit at the computer, I come home. Work is work. You know the drill.

For a while I’ve felt sort of unhappy about the fact that I paid all this money and spent all this time to get a couple of letters after my name and I’m not any more fulfilled, job-wise, and certainly not getting any better paid than I was before I spent all that money and time. I’ve desultorily looked at the want ads but I haven’t been able, really, to think very much about what kind of work I’d even like to do. I have mostly been able to think things like “My job shouldn’t suck.” “My chair at my job shouldn’t hurt my back the way this one does.” “My paycheck shouldn’t be so small and my vacation shouldn’t be so short.” Not very helpful when mapping out a Life Plan, right? After Burning Man I began to really resent that I do work that I am sort of only sometimes okay with, and every time I felt that way, I would immediately flash back to when I wished I had any sort of unfulfilling job at all, and I would be grateful for my paycheck (I still am!) and then I would stop thinking about all that.

But still. Still, you know? So a couple of weeks ago I decided to look around a little and see if there were any agencies or organizations that do anything that I might like to do. I mean, my List of Dream Jobs sounds like a seven-year-old’s, you know? “Ballet Dancer. Child Psychologist. Safari Hunter But Not A Real Hunter That Kills Animals Just A Hunter That Takes Pictures. Dolphin Trainer.” I would kind of like to be an NPR commentator. I wouldn’t mind working at a science museum. Probably I would like to travel the world over and stay in fancy hotels and get paid for it. I’m not picky. Synchronized swimmer, that would be cool.

So I came upon Seattle Midwifery (pronounced “mid-wiff-ery”) School as I was aimlessly trolling around one day (“Electrician, maybe? Muppet sculptor? Smoothie technician?”) and I checked out their doula training program. My Friend Marah is going to have one, I think. I saw that they have information sessions once a month, and that the next one was coming up, so I RSVP’d and yesterday I took off work early and headed down to Beacon Hill and listened to what they had to say.

It was great. Various midwives and doulas talked about their programs and their experiences and what their days were like and the kinds of people they work with and their feelings about birth. Birth. I don’t know anything about birth or motherhood or anything like that, but it seems they can teach you. About half their students don’t have kids, so apparently I am not the only childless person who has thought about doing this. They are extremely political and activist and they are big into evidence-based practice and mother advocacy and all that. That all sounds pretty social-worky to me, which is cool. In fact several of the doula professors are themselves MSWs, which I found interesting…after the session I was talking to one of the doulas there (for an hour and a half) and she said that it is a good thing for someone with clinical skills. You already know about boundaries and you already know about assessment and writing treatment plans (which in this case would be a birth plan, but whatever) and above all, you already know about that extremely social-worky concept, “the tool of the self.” Like, the way you try to help someone has very little to do with the techniques you have in your arsenal but about the relationship you have with the client. Except, well, you know how I feel about traditional therapy-in-a-box, right? This sort of stuff, this hippie woo-woo doula stuff, might be the kind of thing that would allow me to use a lot of those clinical skills but would also allow me a little more freedom with clients, you know? Therapy always felt so stiff to me. Granted, with a lot of clients you want a lot of boundaries. I don’t know if doulas feel the same way. I have a lot of research to do about all this.

What you do, practically speaking, is take either one or two four-day courses to be a birth doula and/or a post-partum doula, and then you do an apprenticeship with either a regional or national doula organization and then you get certified and then I guess you hang out your shingle and get to work. If I did this, it would entail starting my own business. How scaaaaaaaaaaaaary is that, y’all. I can’t imagine. But that’s what you do. You have a couple of clients a month and you visit their houses and I guess you hold a lot of babies and you’re on call and that’s what you do. I’ve decided that I am going to take the next six months to research the hell out of this, the way I didn’t research social work. I’m going to read books and go to meetings and talk to anyone I can about doula stuff. I’m going to figure out all the pros and cons and crunch the numbers and try to understand how something like this would fit into my life. I’m going to try to decide if I like this population, if I like babies, if I like to work with people at all, period. I have already decided that I’m not going to go ahead with this or with any other career change unless I am absolutely passionate about it. I am so tired of spending so much time doing…just whatever. I was so impressed with everyone I talked with last night, they were so excited about what they were doing, even as they spoke about the negative aspects of their work. I’d really like that for myself. And one woman I spoke with, she even seemed impressed with me and told me she thought it would be a good fit for me. Do you know what it was like to be told that maybe I would be good at something? That hasn’t happened in such a long time.

I know I have to be realistic about the kind of work I can do and about my expectations for my career. I know I can’t jump into anything right away. But let me tell you, everyone I’ve told about all this has said the same thing: “Wow, it’s great to see you excited about work.” I could get used to that.

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