Elusive Solitude and Minutiae

January 20, 2008 at 11:38 am | Posted in Life in the US, Nonprofit, Quirks, The Bucket, Uncategorized, Working | 7 Comments

If any of you are only children, or know only children, you will understand that many of us can spend long stretches of time alone and be perfectly content.  In fact, it’s almost necessary for our survival.  I can’t remember the last bit of time that I was completely alone for any length of time, and this lack of solitude is making me batty.  I wake up in the morning gritting my teeth, knowing that I will not get a moment to myself. 

People take it as an affront when I express my desire to be alone.  But I’m really my own best friend, and I haven’t spent any quality time with my best friend in some time.  I’ve only seen myself through the lens of others recently, and I’m slowly losing my mind.  When I’m alone, I really don’t do anything substantive or productive, yet I’m the happiest girl alive.  I putter, I write down my thoughts, I reread passages from books I have on my shelves, I daydream, I plan. 

Let’s hope that I can find the space to do these things before I go postal.

On another note, I’m loving my job.  It’s inspiring, ridiculous, hectic, and hysterically funny.  Everyone I come across is wonderful and supportive.  The youth I work with really want to be good people, and I hope that I can help move them towards that despite their past records, challenges, and traumas.  I haven’t laughed so consistently and hard since I taught low-income mothers English.

My most recent bout of hysterical laughter was this Friday, when I spent a few hours doing intake at a group home for boys with behavorial problems.  Most of the kids were younger, but there were a couple of older ones who are living in more independent housing.   They had to fill out reams of paperwork, and some were getting tense and angry, and others confused because they just didn’t have the ability to comprehend some of the questions. 

I often have issues with the ethnicity portion of this god-awful eleven page questionnaire they must complete because some kids just don’t fall into any of the ethnic categories.  Most of my clients are Cape Verdean, and there is no box for African, despite the fact that Pawtucket has a huge population of refugees and immigrants from Africa. 

So after a brief argument in which three kids yelled about what continent Cape Verde was on which ended in a “fuck you, you don’t know what you’re talking about,” one small white child asked what Indian meant.  He was just acting up and being silly, but being my teacherly self, I asked if he meant Indian as in Native American or Indian as in from India. 

He looked bewildered, and I realized I missed the boat with this explanation.

So an older kid translated for me: “She means are they feather-in-the-hair Indian or dot-on-the-forehead Indian?” 

I can’t think of any response more un-PC or more on point than this little gem, and I think a little pee came out I was laughing so hard. 

The ethnicity portion of our convo ended with someone screaming “Are you a mother fucking Eskimo?” to a query about whether one kid was an Alaskan Native and then moved on to a rousing debate on whether you had to check yes to the any arrests or convictions box if your charges had been expunged.

I can’t think of any better way to spend a Friday afternoon.

Of course, even the most perfect job has its challenges and mine (and all my other co-workers’) is my boss.  This ain’t just your run-of-the-mill “I hate my boss” talk, this man is truly incompetent and out of touch.  He will surely drive our organization to the ground if someone doesn’t step in and stop him.  Perhaps I’ll find a way to rant about the situation here without being too descriptive and having it come back to bite me in the ass.



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  1. I know what you mean about being alone, I always think that when I get a day alone I will get a lot done. But time alone is not about getting things done, it’s about being.

    As for the ethnicity stuff, it just doesn’t work to classify people. I used to work with US Census data, and the race and ethnicity classifications never made sense. My Mexican husband is WHITE by their definition, but he’ll get mad if I tell him that and he sure as hell ain’t white like me (with my English and Irish blood).

    But they fix the race problem by labeling him Hispanic. But the definition of Hispanic is blurry. What if you are Mayan and speak no Spanish and have no Spanish Conquistador blood, are you Hispanic just because you are Mexican? As my kid would say “WTF?”

  2. I am the youngest of ten kids and trust me, I NEED to be alone as much as I can. There were just too God damned many people around when I was growing up. Sundays (like today) are generally all about me.

    On another note, I have to deal with the ethnicity issue when I am closing mortgage loans. Page 3 of the standard 1003 (application form) has a spot for the borrower to say “what” they are, but they also have a box that says “I wish not to say”. I had one sub-prime lender that I used to get into it with regularly that would have an extra form in the loan package for the notary (me) that said if the borrower checked “I wish not to say”, WE had to tell the lender “what” they were. Um, no. If they choose not to say, they don’t want to say. The box is on the application for a reason. And I’M going to be able to tell what a person’s race is just by looking at them? Yeah, not my job. I would never fill it in (just put a blazing line through it) and then wait for the funder to call and tell me she wasn’t going to fund the loan if I didn’t fill it out. I won, every time. I always win.

  3. I think more questions should be answered with “I wish not to say,” and one’s ethnicity is a great one to start with!

    Those ethnicity check boxes are making less and less sense, especially when you’re not able to check off more than one. And, I know what you mean, Hispanic isn’t even accuarate…when I hear Hispanic, I think “of Spanish descent,” when they seem to mean Latino, or from Latin America.

  4. Sources who have visited say that Cuba has not tracked ethnicity since the revolution. At a small-scale level, it might open the door to discrimination, but at the large-scale level, like the mortgage comment above, it makes everybody just people.

  5. Got something re: The King wink wink nudge nudge but not for public. Email and I’ll send a link. You’ll definitely wet yourself.

    Two words: Passive Aggressive

  6. Frymaster: I can’t wait!…I eat that shit up.

  7. Having a kid attached to me 24/7, I totally understand the need for some alone. Any kind of alone. Maybe even “I’m locking myself in the bathroom til everyone else is asleep” kind of alone.

    Your description of the kids banter had me giggling. What a ridiculous thing to have to answer! I frequent a “Latino Families” board (that is the title) and there is often debate about the topic. Is it Latino? Hispanic? Chicano? Is all of it offensive? Should you only be identified by the country of your birth or by your parents homeland as well? I know, so many questions, but no one ever comes up with the same answer.

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