Friday, September 23, 2011

Boots on the ground

Wow. It's been a month.

I'm still immensely overwhelmed. I'm still not sure what I'm supposed to be doing. But holy cow, I wanted a change and a change is what I got.

My first weekend here there was a hurricane. Really in this area it turned out to be more like a big rainstorm. Not much different from tornado weather at home, except that tornado weather you get dramatic clouds and flash-bang thunder and lightning, whereas here it seemed like just wind and rain. We were luckier than the rest of New England, though - a lot of folks lost power around here but there was relatively minimal damage.

That weekend, having just arrived, I was utterly alone. I got here on a Friday afternoon, they showed me where I'd be staying, and then all the staff went home for the weekend. The storm was expected to hit on Sunday. I got myself settled in, I unpacked a bit. You don't think about it, but for most of us spending 48 hours with yourself can be a bit overwhelming, especially after being in the car for two days, especially when you've been advised not to go out in the storm. I was sure I'd go insane. But then the solitude was part of the plan, something I knew I was facing when I picked up and put a thousand miles between myself and everyone I know and love. More on that in later blog post, I think.

The day of the hurricane was the only day since I've been here that I had no responsibilities, no hours logged. Tomorrow, Saturday the 24th, will be my first official day off. Seriously. I've thrown myself into this job, partly because it's up to me to make it worth my while and partly because I don't really have much else to do and sitting at the tea shop on Facebook gets old quick.

So the first week I was here was spent getting things ready. Cleaning the houses, outfitting the kitchens and living space, developing school and residential policies. It was a blur. I remember a lot of coffee - including my first foray into the cult of Dunkin' Donuts. No comment.

The second week the kids arrived. That was a whirlwind too. I think for my own sanity I've blocked a lot of it out. Week two was suddenly week three, and I started to realize a couple things. First, I needed boundaries. I had worked two sixty hour weeks and I got really sick really quick. Because I'm me, I still put in fifty hours last week, but spent the rest of the time trying to sleep my way back to wellness. During that time I made myself a rough schedule that would hopefully help me steer towards 40/wk. So going from no structure to a set of hours and tasks has given me a sense of ease and ownership and I'm back to being really excited about what's coming up in the next month.

Next post will be more about what exactly I'm working on and some Maine trivia. Get excited!

Monday, September 5, 2011

origin stories (or how I came to be here and why, including where exactly "here" is, etc.)

note: I will refer to friends and family by name (unless you ask me not to) but students and coworkers will never be. FYI.

Sometime in early May I started to scheme. As I told my friend Derek, I was going to develop an 18-month plan, and this was going to be my summer of discernment.

I felt like my time in Mpls was drawing to a close. I had moved up in 2002 for college, so I was quickly approaching the 10-year mark. I loved my job because I loved my coworkers, but otherwise I was getting bored. When I started at the Wedge I was looking for a career, something I could grow, and if I stuck around I could have had that. But in my personal life, a lot of things changed over the two years I spent there - we don't need to get into that now, except to mention that I started doing yoga and really getting to know myself. The me I was when I started at the Wedge in May 2009 had shed a lot of insecurities and emotional baggage, so in May 2011, I started thinking about where I might go, what I might do to keep pushing myself. At a personal plateau, I began to explore the idea of change.

After describing my 18-month plan to Derek - basically that I would spend one more winter and one more summer in Mpls and be fully on my new path by fall 2012 - he went on a two week vacation. We sat down for coffee when he returned and, with a wicked grin spreading across my face, I told him of how my 18-month plan had become an 18-week plan. I had found the perfect conduit for change, for escape, for adventure. I was going to Maine.

I had this thought that I'd like to live by the ocean, but I didn't want to move to the West Coast, or to the South (which, really, meant anything south of New York City). And so, coastal + New England = Maine. Being somewhat practical, I knew I should have a job lined up before I left, but I also knew I didn't want to work retail any more. The first place I looked was Americorps. The first job I saw was this one. It was the only one I applied for. It was just right, right for me, right for now. So I just decided. That was that.

The day I had my first interview was the same day I sprained my shoulder in a bike accident. The interview happened first, though. The Americorps staff person I talked to totally got it, got me and why I would be a good fit. It was one of the best interviews I've ever had. It was only a matter of time, even the accident couldn't dampen my spirits. I was sure I'd hear back within days. Days became weeks. Weeks became months. Somehow I was still convinced. It was still right. So I went about my days confident that change was coming. It was a good summer, tumultuous, filled with sweltering afternoons and nights on the town.

Exactly eight weeks after my first interview, I had a third interview (there was a second, more of a screening really, just in case you were thinking my math was wrong). It was, by far, the worst interview I had ever given. I had spent my summer banking on this, and now it was done. There was no chance, I was going to have to figure out a plan B.

Two days later, I was offered the job.

Two weeks later, I was in the car, on my way here.

(Now where is here exactly?)

Good-Will Hinckley is an old place. It used to be a school for at-risk youth, until state funding dried up a couple of years ago. More than 100 people lost their jobs. Acres of property, historic buildings, sitting unused and empty. I don't know who came up with the idea for MeANS, or how it came to be a reality. I'm sure it will make for an excellent tale for another day. But the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences has 21 students enrolled for the 2011-2012 school year, and eleven of them are from rural Maine (well, really, all of them are from rural Maine, but eleven of them are from a more rural place than Hinckley, which is saying something.) Anyhow, those eleven - eight boys and three girls - they're living on campus. It's what this place is for, after all. And somebody's got to be responsible for them when they're not in class. So why not me?

My official title is Campus Life Advisor. I'm basically an RA, but I get to do cool stuff like plan cultural events and cooking classes and get involved in the classroom, taking what kids learn in school and figuring out ways for them to incorporate it into their everyday lives, into the real world. I'm making it up as I go. It's rad. Or, it will be. I hope.

They arrive today.

Friday, September 2, 2011

I really am going to update soon. For now, know that I am not avoiding blogging, I am just up to my neck in projects that all have to be done by Monday. So after Monday, I will share with you my many, many stories from the week I've been here.

I can't believe it's only been a week. I can't believe it's already been a week.

More soon. I promise.