I noted in my last post that I will start a new, full-time job in January. As things turned out, I started yesterday on a part-time basis. I’m working as the Communications Coordinator for the Houston chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)-Texas. On Monday morning I had orientation and yesterday morning spent three hours on my very first full-time job working in an office with real people since 2003. I realized yesterday that this is also the first job I’ve ever had whose basis was not supporting someone else (clerically or administratively), but working on a team in support of an organizational vision.
My first “real” job (as an adult, not enrolled in school) was as a secretary. For 20 years I worked at different levels of that class of work. I was a secretary, an administrative assistant, and ultimately an executive assistant (although never given that exact title). I finally completed my bachelors degree in 2002, at the age of 41, and that year I was promoted to the position of associate director of one of the four inpatient facilities run by the healthcare organization I worked for. It was “associate director” because I would be reporting to the organization director, but I would be the administrative head of that facility. It was the place I belonged after a couple decades of supporting other people.
Literally days before I was to start in that position, my supervisor – the medical director of the organization – told me that someone had discovered that the NJ Board of Health required a bachelors degree of the person in an administrative position such as I was about to take. I was in my final semester, just a couple months from graduating with my BS. But I was out. They didn’t wait till June to fill the position. I’ve never known what the real back story was and at the time I didn’t care. It was humiliating to walk through the halls of the hospital and have to repeat to people over and over why I hadn’t transferred to the other facility, how I had been demoted, or un-promoted, or whatever name you could choose for the disappointment of working my way up from departmental secretary to assistant to the medical director, of finally completing my bachelors degree 20 years after initially dropping out, of being recognized for my accomplishments and intelligence, and then having it all taken away.
At least they let me keep the raise.
But it didn’t matter. I was done. Less than a year later I was enrolling in a graduate journalism program, and fast forward to today, when I have finally taken the kind of position I nearly had 12 years ago – one that is not defined by what someone else needs filed, or typed, or copied or otherwise managed because their job keeps them too busy or too advanced to do it themselves. It is daunting already.
But at 52 this is the opportunity I should have had a long time ago, and one that suits my education, my skills and my temperament. Now I just have to figure out how to re-brand myself so that my journalist identity is shifted over to my communications coordinator identity.
I don’t plan to, and don’t need to, do any more commercial magazine articles, although I will focus on creative writing, such as I’m working on in my MFA program. Today I am turning in my final edits – late as usual – on what will probably be my last magazine article for as long as I have this job.
I know today is only the second day of my new job, but it feels like much more than that. It feels like redemption.