I’ve been so busy watching inauguration coverage on tv this past week that I haven’t taken the time to update my blog. Not sure if I have any regular readers, but I can hope. 🙂
Well, since I’ve been recommending volunteer opportunities here, I thought I would talk a little about my experiences volunteering for Martin Luther King day, and mention my plans for the future, under the Obama victory banner.
I drove to the SHARE warehouse in Pulaski, Virginia after an light snowfall the previous evening, which made the drive there a bit slower than usual. Once I got there, the coordinator was in a tizzy, because the pipes had burst overnight – there was about an inch or two of standing water on the concrete floor, running underneath the pallets! So first we helped mop up the mess, before we started processing the food in another, much dryer room!
We bagged potatoes in 3 pound sacks for the discount food kits which SHARE sells in local counties, passing on the discounted cost to the consumer. The kits are available to anyone regardless of income level. They just ask that each person donate two hours of time to the program, along with the $20 cost. They provide about $40 dollars worth of groceries for that discounted price. The SHARE program is meant to be a transition for people who don’t qualify for food stamps or food banks, but who still are having trouble making ends meet. It seemed like a good cause to support.
Obama’s election and now inauguration has been tremendously emotional and personal for me. After the hard and sometimes tedious work of volunteering during the campaign, it was nice to see that effort bear fruit. However, one can’t listen to more than a few seconds of his speeches since the night he claimed victory at Grant Park, and miss the clear message of continued effort and sacrifice that he is sending out to all of us, especially those of us who gave many hours and dollars to the campaign.
I have to admit that at first, I was a bit daunted by the idea of continued involvement, since I’ve never really been that politically active in the first place, and the work I did during the campaign seemed to bring about plenty of change for the time being. But I’m finding that Obama’s ascension and now influence and authority in our lives has really helped unlock some dormant ambitions I’ve had to further my professional career, but this time in the realm of public service.
During the dotcom bust in 2000, while many of my friends went back to school, I took the challenge from several of my blue collar friends and launched into a retail “career”. Working food service and at a hardware store definitely grounded me, after working in the relatively high-flying worlds of law firms and internet startups. The other thing it did was limit my future career options. By worrying about accumulating any more debt, I stifled my chances of career advancement, by taking entry-level jobs and just “making ends meet”.
I majored in Philosophy as an undergraduate in the early nineties. The logical step from there would be law school or possibly teaching, but I didn’t want to go $60,000 to $80,000 in debt, with no guarantee of a job afterwards. At the time I looked into it, I heard that many lawyers were coming out of school with no job prospects available, so they were forced to take paralegal positions, which certainly don’t pay enough to rapidly pay down that kind of debt. After running into problems in my late twenties with consumer debt that I had accumulated during college, I really didn’t relish the idea of going any further into that quagmire.
So now that I’ve moved back from the heady climate of the Bay Area, wiser but still not meaningfully employed (despite my ongoing education in the retail world’s “school of hard knocks”), I’ve decided that I’m finally ready to take the plunge, and go back to school. This time, I’m looking into applying my skills towards a Master’s degree in Conflict Resolution. I found out there is a good school nearby (UNCG) which has an online program – this is quite helpful since I live so far now from any nearby urban areas. I’m going to give it a try, I think.
This seems like a career path that I could really get behind – for example, providing mediation and negotiation services to various groups, including families, churches, and communities. Another way I’ve been looking at it, is that I’d be operating as a “discount lawyer” or a referee, although the field really seems to go far beyond that, including examining nonviolent strategies and methods of reducing global strife. I’m about five hours from DC, where I could possibly find a job in the non-profit sector.
With such a shining example of achievement embodied in Obama, I feel inspired to live up to my full potential once again. As a “gifted” child in school, I grew up with a sense that I was expected to achieve more, since I was the lucky recipient of these God-given gifts. I also experienced the desire to be just like the other kids, and often would compromise myself in order to “fit in”. Something about Obama’s rise challenges me to go back to the drawing board and fully apply myself again, in order to be of the most benefit that I can. This is welcome news.