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* work of the volunteer sort

As my job search continues to venture forth through what seems like a dry and weary land I have also now begun several volunteer positions. One of them is with the Center for Victims of Torture (CVT). An international organization with its headquarters in St. Paul, MN which seeks to provide healing to refugees around the world, both by working directly with them and by supporting others who are doing this important work.

My tasks thus far have been varied, but mostly in the training side of things. Helping with the sort of things the organization just doesn’t have time for. Nice for me as they are well-defined with time to spend on each one. Nice for CVT as there are never enough people to do everything which needs doing. Thus far this work has included transcribing webinars, editing a newsletter, providing feedback on a training program, providing suggestions about how to go about doing site-visits and working to organize several hundred PowerPoints which have been developed and gathered over the years. I’m there twice a week with somewhat of an inside seat as to what is going on.

A second job is with what is now called “Alight,” up until recently “The American Refugee Committee.” This is also an international organization which works with refugees primarily in international settings in quite a few different countries. Here I’m just getting started so the task is a bit more mysterious still, but initially I’ll be working on an internal online training system they have which their employees around the world can benefit from.

The hope in both cases is to see if I can become more engaged with one or both organizations to the point of possibly doing some paid consulting for them. Of course that’s a big unknown, but in the mean time there are positive things I can be doing which I appreciate.

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* writing

Writing–sometimes it comes easily, sometimes not so much. Lately it’s been in the “not so much” category. Where do the words come from? Where do they go? When I’m in the writing mood it feels like they’re waiting somewhere in my brain as they generally just spring forth without a lot of work involved. Thoughts that are there which I’m willing to share.

It’s not that I’m not willing to share these days, I just don’t have much to share. So what causes thoughts to spring forth? Is it thinking going on in the background of my brain, thoughts which are triggered by other thoughts or just something original? Depending on where and how these spring forth is it something I can control at all? Do I just power through and write whether there is something there or not? I think so. And probably helping myself do this by creating lists of possible things to write on that I review on occasion to ponder them a bit more before venturing forth.

Given I’m 61 and have lived a third of my life in Madagascar, there are most certainly things I can be writing about. Here’s to finding and sharing them!

* Act 3 – but what is it?

So let’s just assume Act 1 was my life from birth till I finished undergrad at of the U of Minnesota. About 22 years, 2/3rds of them as a baby to a high school kid. It was a time of growing up. Given I went from a kid to a young adult in the last few years, a lot happened the last third of Act 1. An intensive time where learning prevailed over most everything else. Where I almost entirely lived with my family, primarily while growing up in Madagascar.

Act 2 then began when I got married and started grad school. It lasted till 2010, age 53, when my time at my last full-time job ended–30 years. A time of moving from young adult to middle aged to just into my 50s. A time where work predominated, full-time jobs all of them. The first 15 years with the clarity of my work overseas and the 10 years of grad school preparation I put into that. Since then, the last 15 years of this Act, it was much more confusing. A series of jobs that have each ended with disappointment. At least some of this especially now in retrospect at least in part due to the late onset bipolar I’ve ended up with. Lacking in anything near the clarity of the first 15 years.

But most certainly not just work. From newlyweds we fairly quickly became new parents, blessed with a daughter and two sons. Moving multiple times across the oceans and back. A time of several major health scares. A time of successful doctoral studies. Years of a great deal of time spent watching one or more of our kids engaged in sports which they all loved. Working hard to raise our little family. And then seeing each of them graduate not once, but twice. And move out on their own.

That was till 2010. At which point many things had changed. I was not well. In spite of 4 years of therapy and meds I was not improving as much as any of us had hoped. Still some crushing times of depression. And unexplained times of thinking too positively to be realistic. Or wise.

And so the start of Act 3 in 2010. Fortunately, before I got too deep into it I was diagnosed as someone living with bipolar 2. This provided new insights on a decade or so that hadn’t made sense as my being someone “just” living with depression. And got me connected to the meds and wise people I needed for the treatment of bipolar instead of what I had been doing when we thought it was “just” depression.

Now, in Act 3, like when we came home from Madagascar, I don’t know where I’m headed? I spent much of from 2010 to 2016 looking for work. I was able to teach in higher ed part time so that helped. Then a part-time job with a nonprofit I enjoyed but which only lasted 2 years. I’m now over 60 so no longer so much young. Also living with Charcot Marie Tooth (CMT), a form of neuropothy, which, while not that serious, is life-changing as it slowly takes away my mobility.

In terms of work, in an age that looks for specialization, I’ve been a generalist. I’d still like to work for some time in an area which makes use of the concern and compassion I have for those who are struggling in this world. But what to do? What to do indeed?

Part of it’s where to look? I don’t appear to have been looking in the right places. But where are those places? Who will still have me? Who can help me figure this out? Higher ed? Nonprofits? Something else?

* growing old(er)

Some signs one is no longer young:

  • your pharmacist knows you by name
  • a moderate workout is just thinking about doing a moderate workout
  • the ground grows further away and is much further down
  • hair of any color is a luxury
  • hearing? not so much
  • your lawn has increased in size by at least 50%
  • it’s dizzying enough to just watch your granddaughters run around the front of you without trying to spin in time with them
  • one nap is mandatory. two is a delight
  • more and more life is done by watching others live through times you’ve already had.

* what do Tiggers do best? (part II)

Since part I of this post much has happened. NAMI is no more. This became inevitable and my therapist felt this was for the best anyway given how they were not making use of my skills. Job searching has been very disappointing–I’ve only had 3 initial interviews, all by phone, all the same week. On the other hand, I finally found work (though unpaid) with the Center for Victims of Torture (finally!).

So as to bouncing career-wise, not so much at this point.

And that silly grin displayed by Tigger? Not so much–though I need to spend more time focusing on all there is in the rest of my life to celebrate. And grin at least every so often! 😎

* way over there

I’m an MK. As in “missionary kid,” someone who grew up “way over there” as in other than my parents’ home country. This is also known as a Third Culture Kid as someone who grew up in a culture in between my parents and the world I was raised in. In my case this was Madagascar. As in somewhere very far indeed from Minnesota. Another world on the other side of this world.

I grew up in a little town on a peninsula sticking out into the Indian Ocean with ocean within a mile of me on 3 sides. (Here in Minnesota we do have Lake Superior but it’s several hours away and not so much the same thing.)

One of the challenges of my time “way over there” is it’s easy at times like this for my thoughts to float back there. Memories of times past, wonderings of times present. This is especially true at times like this when I’m so much in between jobs as I am again now. It’s easy to go back to previous days, especially when some aspects of the present just isn’t much fun. Back there I never lacked for things to do. This just wasn’t a problem. Here, on the other hand, while there is much to do, I am unable to find a paid way to do this. If retirement was an option then I could just volunteer. But in my case at this point in time, not so much.

So one of my challenges these days is to not slip too far back into “way over there” memories and “If only…” wishes. For they are but memories, some of them quite old now. And “If only…” wishes are just those and no more. As in “If only…” is not to be. I am thankful it was, though.

* blogging

As I sit and reflect on life at this point one of the things that is working is this blogging that I continue to do. I can do it in small pieces, letting go of whether what I write is good enough as I can always go back and edit or even remove what I’ve posted. It allows me to venture out with thoughts without having figured out exactly where I’m going with them. It comes quite easily and I get positive feedback from it.

At a deeper level it allows me to surface things I’m thinking or at least partially have thought. To reflect in writing on some of what roams around in my head, as in reflections on this life of mine. Hopefully in so doing to get some of them nailed down better as in “been there, thought through at least some of that.” Or at least written down as far as I’ve thought through some things. With the opportunity to add if I so choose.

Are there any hints here in terms of what should come next? Ways the above can suggest for me next steps?