Life has been stressful. Whenever I hear a statement like this, I wonder if the person is stressed because of their circumstances or because they have an anxious personality. Right now, for me, it’s both.
Why has stress become my default setting? Recently, I took on a new case. The kid I work with is active and fun-loving but also can be oppositional. Take today: he spit at me, tried to stab me with a pin, screamed at me, ran out of the classroom several times, and told me to my face that he doesn’t like me. Even though I buy him prizes to earn, study behavioral techniques in my spare time, and have experience, sometimes, I feel like I just can’t win.
That said, I’m passionate about helping kids, and I know that as a future neuropsychologist, I am going to need kids like this to cooperate long enough to test them for two+ hours. And, I’ll be honest: at this job, I am paid what I deserve. I negotiated the pay and am happy with how I’m compensated.
During recess one day, I became friends with another aide (let’s call her Sally for privacy reasons). Sally is a badass when it comes to negotiating what she’s worth. Today, we tentatively embarked upon a conversation that all professionals should have: we candidly discussed our salaries. “Why did you decide to work at a religious school?” I asked. Sally is fluent in Spanish, and I know a public school ABA company would love her.
“Honestly,” Sally began, which is how I knew this was about to be good, “I agree with you. Reading hebrew and dressing like this,” she gestured at her floor length skirt, “isn’t what I’m used to. I interviewed with the public school ABA companies, but they wanted to pay me minimum wage. I did not spend four years in college only to be completely unable to pay my bills.”
“Amen!” I said, laughing. “I had the same problem.” Which is why I don’t work for an ABA agency. Sally started working for her current agency because she negotiated a much better salary, they paid for her certification, and her clients are nearby. Sally’s business savviness and passion for her work were a winning combination.
I left that conversation feeling extremely happy that we had it. Sally is a bright spot in the day for me.
Our kids are best friends, and we are their aides, so we end up spending a lot of time together. Nothing fazes Sally. I waved goodbye to her and marveled at how composed she looked. In contrast, after draining days like today, I come home cranky.
I will be honest: when you work three part-time jobs AND are a full time student, some things get pushed to the back burner. After school, I had neither the energy nor the gas to drive to LA Fitness. Instead, I went to my home gym and watched Michelle Reed’s vlogs. As I warmed up on the treadmill, I thought about how there were days when I prayed for the things I have now: being a doctoral student and branching out in my work.
And now, that day has come! On one hand, I love waking up every day with a clear purpose. On the other hand, I end up doing some things halfway. One of those things are my readings for class. When you are in a doctoral program, half of your life is spent reading textbooks. I haven’t had the time to do all of the readings I should be doing. And, for classes like intellectual assessment, I wish I put in more work than I already do. Sure, I skim through the readings, but I wish I was practicing more of the test administration while I have the chance. I have siblings who are readily available to practice the WAIS, so what’s stopping me? I really need to work on that.
Update: my night went from a 6.5 to a 10/10, and in the best way. I just got off the phone with someone from my program, who, for privacy reasons, I will call Jennifer. Jennifer and I started off by talking about practicum. After that, we continued talking for a whole hour (it flew by!). We discussed a variety of topics, including clients from more affluent backgrounds.
Jennifer told me something really wise about her perspective on privilege. I wanted to share it on my blog. “A person may be privileged in one area of life, let’s say financially,” Jennifer started, “but you may have privilege in another area, for example, a loving family or a devoted partner. Saying ‘someone is privileged’ is very short sighted because their kind of privilege may be different from yours.”
It was a really comforting thing to hear in an age where everyone is comparing their life to other people’s lives. I think that’s what I want to end this post with: if you find yourself comparing your life to other people’s, just keep in mind that your types of privilege may be different.