The summer prior to my last semester of college I had worked as a Guest Services Representative in the Conference Services department of an ivy league university that I did not attend. It was a sweet job that paid $12.00 per hour, came with a free apartment, and required very little of me. I had gotten that job through my friend Molly who had worked there the previous summer, and she had gotten it because she has the sort of family members that know people. It was the director’s first year in the program, so at the end of the summer she asked for written suggestions on how the program could be improved. I wrote a seven page essay about how things could be run more smoothly, which led to a phone call the following February asking me to run Summer Session housing. I loved that job, and I was good at that job, but I was hellbent on moving to Chicago, so when the director wanted to hire me on full time at the end of the summer I declined. I recently saw the job she had wanted to hire me for posted on the university’s website, and it started at $52,000. That was not something I knew at the time, and also I was 22, and stupid.
Midway through my senior year of college it dawned on me that I was months away from graduating into a terrible economy with a liberal arts degree and no job prospects. I wanted to go abroad desperately but didn’t have any money. After I was rejected from my *dream* international fellowship (still bitter about it) I started googling “Teach English no TEFL free” and eventually found one program that didn’t require any certifications and was completely free. The assignment was in Thailand. Though any country that boasts a monsoon season isn’t my first choice, I figured that learning more about Thai culture other than the obvious (beaches and Pad Thai) would make the whole trip well worth it.
In the trailer just behind the post office, that’s how I tell people where to find me—and it’s often that I have to tell people where to find me. Addresses are no good here, though they function better for out-of-towners, like me, than for the locals. Hillsboro, West Virginia, where I live, only switched last year from using the old route model—numbered county highways—to street names, and to house numbers instead of boxes at the end of the road. The state decided to revamp the nomenclature of all its rural areas, worried that emergency services wouldn’t otherwise be able to find people in need.
I find out tomorrow whether or not I have the publishing internship. Should I take it—bail on Americorps and children who need my help, take the risk that I might be unemployed again in three months—or stick with the job that I know I have?
I’m an AmeriCorps member, serving as a quasi-social worker helping low-income families with their financial difficulties. I’m explaining to my client in painfully incompetent Spanish that there’s nothing she can do legally, that the landlord’s letter she handed me says she needs to move herself and her family out of their apartment by tomorrow, that the county will probably offer her shelter since her kids have social security numbers, even though she doesn’t.
As it turns out, God and country is trumped by my desire for cold hard cash.