Reinvention. I like the spin that word puts on where I am right now, but I am not sure it really describes my path. Someone else talked about finding my identity and that could be a little closer to how I feel.
I ruptured my achilles tendon a little over 10 years ago. I have told the story often because it demonstrates my personality and also *could* be an example for karma, if you believe in such things.
I was working at our local Job Corps Center as a career counselor at the time. I really loved my job there. Talk about great kids who just needed someone to connect to–I am still connected to some of those great kids, actually. They aren’t kids anymore. They have grown up to be wonderful and amazing adults. That job was another job I thought I would never leave…haha…it’s always funny where life takes you.
Back when I worked at Job Corps, the population was pretty diverse in relation to where I grew up. I grew up in a hard working middle class family in rural Maine. My high school had ONE African American student. Job Corps had all races and socio-economic classes represented. There was white middle class America, but there was a lot of representation from rural Maine-specifically poor, rural Maine. It wasn’t unusual for students to lack running water where they lived or to come from limited access to consistent heat in the winter.
In opposition to that were the students from the cities. I had students on my caseload from Bridgeport, CT. New Jersey, Puerto Rico. Students who were legit members of gangs. One of my all-time favorite students was a member of the Latin Kings. Well, technically he was a former member because you can’t be affiliated with a gang and be enrolled in the Job Corps program. The story was, he had a young daughter who because of his gang status, had literally been born into the gang. He had come to Job Corps to get away from all that.
Imagine ME the most naive person on the planet trying to connect with and gain the trust of ANY of these populations. Especially those who hail from outside of Maine.
And those were just the surface level demographics. Of course there is way more to a person than where he/she lives.
I did the only thing I knew I could do I embraced my naivety. I asked a billion questions and believed everything those kids said. I supported them and tried to help them create a career plan that worked AND…
I talked smack.
The center had a mostly male population, so that’s what they were doing to each other. I razzed the SHIT out of them. In a good way. I told them about my basketball career. Talked up my time in college. It got them to open up a little. We talked smack to each other. We connected. It was fun and we laughed. Then when they let their guard down, I would hit them with the hard questions. (wahahaha- that’s my evil man laugh)
Then in 2007, someone planned a staff/student basketball game.
Then Big Mouth Denise took over and she couldn’t stop. I talked more smack leading up to that game! And I had no right to talk so much smack. I had nothing on these kids. They were teenagers and had been playing street ball since they were toddlers. But I just kept talking! I was gonna shoot the lights out because I was a kick-ass 3 point shooter.
They were probably annoyed. I didn’t care. It was really fun.
When the game started, I ran down the court maybe 2 times before I experienced what felt like a hard kick to the back of my calf. My friend/co-worker/teammate, Blaine was right behind me.
Friends, I remembered this vividly. I looked right at him and asked incredulously, “Why the hell did you kick me?” I don’t remember exactly what he said, but he probably said something like, “Woman, what are you talking about? I didn’t kick you!”
I limped to the bench and kept trying to stretch out what felt like a charlie horse in my calf muscle. Every time I tried to get up to go back in, it would seize up and I wouldn’t be able to run.
I blocked out the results of the game, but I’m sure we lost because I couldn’t play. 😉
I walked around for a week on that leg. It wasn’t until I realized I couldn’t point my toe that I grasped the significance of the situation. I googled it and, yup, I had the symptoms of a ruptured Achilles. Right down to the feeling of being kicked. Go figure.
Because I waited so long to go to the doc, my tendon had creeped up inside my leg. I had emergency surgery and had to wear a cast from my hip to my toes for about 6 weeks. Then I had a boot and crutches. I had months of physical therapy. I couldn’t work for 3 months.
That time was really hard; I did experience a loss of purpose. I couldn’t do anything. I had a 2 year old and a 7 year old at the time, neither of which I could really care for. It was winter and the doctor didn’t really want me to go out for fear that I would slip and put pressure on my leg.
I remember feeling sad and depressed and I remember my friends being worried for me. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but looked back and articulated it as that loss of purpose. The loss of contact with the world and what I felt happy doing. I wasn’t getting the ongoing give and take from the students that I was accustomed to or the social interaction I needed from the adults in my life.
Not only that, but I felt like I was failing those I had worked so hard to create relationships. I wasn’t there to intervene or help when they were having moments of crisis. I was finding out about students being terminated and sent home. That favorite Latin King I told you about? He had caused a pretty big incident on center that involved the police. I was sick that maybe if I had been at work I could have done something to prevent incidents like that.
Nothing seemed to be going my way. My smack talking couldn’t have brought on that much negative Karma, could it?
Those were the feelings I described to people when I told that story. You know, back when I had The Universe by the balls? That’s why I told the story. I thought I was relating to people who couldn’t work or couldn’t find a job or who changed jobs. And in my defense, it’s all I knew. I was being authentic and I wasn’t being patronizing intentionally. However, I was being patronizing.
Sorry about that.
Flash back to 2018, present day. I still see many of the people I used to work with before I was laid off. Quite often they ask me where I am working now. The question is usually light-hearted, upbeat, positive. The relationships I created in that job are strong and people feel comfortable asking. When I say, “I’m doing some part time work, but I’m mostly I’m home. I’m really good though.”
The person often seems embarrassed for asking. I don’t understand. So then I feel embarrassed for saying , which then makes me feel like I have to make them feel better. You know, FIX IT?
“It’s ok.” I usually say. “I am right where I am supposed to be. I’m good.”
“Oh…well, that’s good to hear. Good for you.”
I am good. I don’t feel depressed or angry or confused. I feel supported. I go back and forth about whether I have lost my sense of purpose or not. Perhaps I don’t want to admit it. I do know I don’t feel like I am making a difference. I feel like I should be doing something bigger. I feel like I need a ripple. And there is guilt in that.
Guilt between making a difference and making money. Both are important in different ways and both create fear in different ways.
But Corey says I laugh more.
Even though I shower less. A lot less.