After graduation, pay the rent with a good heart

So here’s the thing about plans: before you graduate, it’s good to have them. Long are the hours I’ve spent dreaming of the lives I might lead had I gone to that Teach for America meeting, applied to that graduate program, booked that one-way flight to Denmark.

After graduation, however, the world looks a little different. Time shifts from the gentle rhythm of semester, semester, summer, to a stilted, fluorescent grind of five days on, two days off … or, more desperately, five minutes on Monster.com, five on Craigslist, 30 seconds on Gmail to see if anyone wants to interview you, etc.

Finding myself on that last track, I decided, to take matters into my own hands. I got a haircut that made me look scarily like my mother and thought about grad school and Europe some more.

Then, all of a sudden, I got a job.

I applied months ago for a “peer navigator” position at a community organization that assists families experiencing disabilities access services and resources.

I heard nothing, and assumed that they had hired someone else or, eliminated the position.

Then, a little over a month ago, they called, interviewed and whiz-bang – a week and I was gainfully employed.

Well, I’m not sure gainfully is the right word. In case you haven’t heard, social services jobs don’t exactly pay the loans, nor are there many full-time positions that do not require a professional degree or patience and self-sacrifice.

The burn-out rate is high, so they – places like the Howard Center, Lund, COTS – are usually hiring.

Useful employment might be a better term. These jobs involve improving the quality of life of the state’s most vulnerable citizens, and require great senses of compassion and humor.

They are not for everyone. In my first few weeks, I struggled to balance the gritty and upsetting realities of poverty and illness with my poetry-and-“Mad Men” wardrobe aspirations.

Above all else, I think I feared losing that English-major idealism that has colored my view of the world since I can remember (yes, I declared my major in preschool.)

Can I witness the devastation inflicted by fate and human error or, worse, intention and see still the beauty of everyday?

In those first few weeks, I wasn’t sure. Now, I’m beginning to find balance.

This job isn’t exactly what I planned on, but it’s something real and useful

And it sure beats scraping a kitchen utensil.