The website is still underdevelopment. When it’s up, it will have a section on both my literary and non-literary work. This is a draft of what will be on the “non-literary” work page:
Curriculum Non Vitae
Not long ago, when I was looking for a job, I aced the interview, but then the boss’s boss called me on the phone. “Your resume is how shall I put this? Bizarre,” she said.
The jobs were all over the map, geographically and in many other ways. So here for your perusal and amusement and perhaps as a cautionary tale for the young folks is a history of my working life:
When I graduated college I believed that after a year or two I’d go to the Writer’s Workshop in Iowa where I wanted to go because it was the most famous writing program in the country. But I first I needed to work on my portfolio and get some real life work experience.
After working for a month as a waitress as Shraft’s (this will mean something to New Yorkers of a certain age), I began to work at LaGuardia Community College, in Long Island City as a tutor in the Writing Center which was at that time (circa 1980) filled with many young and not so young people with hopes, dreams and various artistic aspirations.
Eventually, I decided to go to a more local MFA program – Sarah Lawrence. I continued tutoring and began to teach part time mostly basic skills English with an occasional freshman comp thrown in.
In addition to needing more cash, I wondered if as an aspiring writer there was some work I could be doing that wouldn’t take quite so much mental energy, and so I learned to type and to “Wang.” For those born in the last 30 years, Wang was a company that existed long before the series of tubes known today as the internets. They made bulky monitors hooked into a mysterious system that was often “down.” These monitors could be used to process words which required people to type in those words. I wanged days and eventually nights. I wanged at banks and law offices. Midtown and Wall Street. At some point when I was neither teaching nor in grad school, my wanging led me to an offer for a permanent position as a secretary to the economics group at what was then Shearson Lehman Hutton located at 5 World Trade.
At first I refused. Taking a permanent position would have meant thinking of myself as a secretary while I was actually a writer and besides there was a required “physical” which was a drug test and although I wasn’t on drugs, at least not so much that I couldn’t have avoided them for a test, I was against the idea on principal. When I told the HR lady my stand, she replied, “But we don’t even test for pot.” However, badly in need of health insurance, I relented. Over the next few months I got much needed dental work, a pap smear, a physical and had a cyst removed from my mouth. Then I quit to go back to temping/adjuncting.
Nearing thirty and confronting the reality that it might take longer than I thought to succeed at the writing game, I decided that I needed to do something more meaningful with my life than working as a cog in the great Financial Services machine. I volunteered at a suicide hotline and then applied and was accepted into The Hunter College School of Social Work.
Hunter is part of the City University system, so if you’re a resident, it’s ridiculously cheap. Several required practicum offer stipends, so if you’re unsure what to do with yourself, this is an excellent way to spend a couple of years. My practicum were working as a counselor in a New York City high school and working with homeless adults at a drop in center in (pre-Disney) Times Square.
Like many people living in New York at that time, I was becoming obsessed with leaving the city, and even though I’d only been there once, I wanted to move to Burlington, Vermont. Very shortly after graduation, I found a job working for the County Mental Health in Burlington. It was a graveyard position – like back in my temping days — seeing people who presented in the ER in psychiatrist crisis at what was then known as the Medical Center Hospital.
Three years later, after management changes at work and a disastrous personal relationship, I left Vermont and went to South America for a few months to travel and do the language school thing. Then I moved to Seattle where a close friend was living. I found a job as a shift supervisor at the suicide hotline and started to get back to my writing. The job involved working with volunteers who manned the phones, so it was great opportunity to add to my skill set. However, Seattle never seemed like the perfect fit and I kept thinking that if I could get away to somewhere really cheap for a few months, I could nail the manuscript I was working on, and so I quit, wound up in a backpacker’s beach paradise somewhere in Southern Mexico and finished my novel draft.
I returned to the US thinking now my fortune will be made! However, I couldn’t get the work agented or published and soon found myself back in Burlington working in human services and teaching. By 2001, I had three part time jobs: teaching at the Community College, subbing at the Children’s Crisis Service which meant home visits, office, police and hospital outreach), and facilitating case review meetings at foster care. The jobs were all interesting, but my COBRA was going to run out and then I’d be screwed.
I returned to New York and began my high school English teaching career. (How I got through the Board of Ed beaurocracy is another story and will be up soon as a podcast!) I worked at a “transfer” program for kids who weren’t making it at their old schools. Life was good for two years until the newly formed Department of Education closed the program and I wound up elsewhere eventually leaving the system for a job back at LaGuardia Community College where I became the Assistant Director of the College Now Program which involved bringing college classes to high school students.
The Director, my boss, died suddenly the first week I started. I wound up in charge but with no title change. This led to some awkward moments when people would ask me if they could speak to the Director. I managed however, to run things without missing a beat, to add new programs, get more funding and generally do a fine job. I was told that my title would be changed to Associate Director and that the new Director – whose job description I wrote, would be in charge of pulling all the school college programs together while I would running and managing College Now with his/her help, guidance and supervision. Of course, there was no title change or raise for me and within a month my new boss was happily accepting praise for programs that I had initiated, worked on and saw to fruition before she arrived. It became clear that I would continue to have the same responsibilities and 50 plus hour weeks while someone else would receive the glory. While most people in these circumstances would have eaten crow and smiled, I quit.
I soon found my present position which is part time. I work for a community based organization in Washington Heights that is the founding and lead partner for a community-health themed school. My job is to help create and implement health themed partnership programs to benefit the kids such as mentoring, hospital tours, symposiums, etc. I also work on grants and proposals for school, after school and other programs.
The part time piece has allowed me the time to get back to the writing. I’ve revised the novel and have started to send it out again, written another novella which I’ve entered into a couple of contests and am working on oral storytelling and short memoir pieces. As unlikely as it seems, I continue to hope that I am now at my final day job.