What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Thursday, March 24, 2011


So given my last post I think it's pretty safe to say that I am coming up upon a transition point.  Two years of "little" to show for my passion, past, and hard work is tough to take, and I now may have a decision to make.  I got another call from the organization in Connecticut that I had spoken with about working for them several months ago.  They now want me to come up to their Massachusetts office for the whole of next week and feel each other out and see what kind of future could be possible there.

The previous position they had talked about was basically an entry level position with barely enough of a wage to justify moving to Connecticut, nevermind getting really excited about the immediate career option.  That position, weighed against the piecemeal system I have set up here in NY that caters toward my long term ambitions, my Africa work, and family/friends, was tough to justify moving for.  However, they are now talking about something entirely different, thus a dilemma.

The organization, New England Business Associates, is based in Springfield, Massachusetts (with several other offices in MA) and is a non-profit organization that specializes in working with people with disabilities.  They are now expanding their operations into Connecticut.  It has been three months since I originally interviewed with them (and they then unceremoniously fell out of touch with me).  However, they have now reappeared and offered me what seems to be the number two position in Connecticut, and what may be the highest permanent position there.  Their Director of Development is spearheading the expansion and overseeing everything right now.  As would be expected, she seems to be getting a bit overwhelmed as things take shape there.  Thus the need for more wo/manpower.

This type of position completely changes my evaluation of the options in front of me.  Obviously nothing can be decided until the end of next week when all the details of my options will be directly in front of me.  However, this doesn't mean I can't lay out my options here in advance and help set a foundation for a decision (and solicit advice).  So here we go, present day:
  • Living in my family's home, which they are in the process of trying to sell.  Meaning uncertainty presently, and that I would then have to either find my own apartment (which I can't afford as am), live in a car (which I have yet to attain - though am close), or move in with my grandparents (which requires a discussion within itself).
  • I am committed to working as a girl's lacrosse official which would bring in a livable income and is between 50 and 91 dollars per hour.  Good money, but only lasts through mid June.  I could get another flexible retail position, and there is a pittance from unemployment should I not make enough in a week.
  • I am volunteering with Safe Harbors in Newburgh on two events there, a community clean up day and a 5k road race.  I must admit though that it has been tough to do this given a depressed state of mind and/or trying to focus on getting myself out of this state.
  • I have a long standing network of friends here, one that since my Africa trip and malaria, seems to have become really important to me.  It's almost like since my time alone in the hospital I want nothing more than social interaction and genuine friendly compassion.
  • Family.  My grandparents are 87 years old.  They have lived a long full life and deserve to have people there for them (they live about 3 minutes drive away now).  My parents have been helping them their whole lives and are in a tough position right now in terms of housing and will be moving to Rhode Island.  My grandparents will be left alone here in the NY area.  I want to stay here for them.  It would mean so much to both of us.
  • Time to write and read.  My long term goals are about thinking, reading, writing, creating new ideas and systems.  I have time right now to spend doing all these things.  I have gotten off track a bit with the malaria, but am finding my way again.  I could try to publish some things I've been working on, and make myself more knowledgeable.  
  • My Walking Lion project, both Sierra Leone and locally.  If I took a job in Connecticut I'd have to mostly leave this behind.  I could not travel to Sierra Leone for more than a couple weeks a year and I wouldn't be living in Newburgh or even close enough to do anything there.  I put in a lot of work, said a lot of things that I want to stand behind, and made some serious sacrifices that I would hate to have go to waste.  Granted there is not much to count on (I think I'll have to write another post on that), but as I've said, the whole thing is notoriously slow.  I just spoke to Yapo and then got a follow up email from him as well.  The solar lamps aren't looking so great right now do to legal issues.  Other options are being discussed, but there are lots of uncertainties.  But I have time on the ground and a part of my heart is there, I want to do things, the things I said I would try to do.  If I take a different job, I can't do them.  I couldn't actually go there for enough time to get things done as I'd like.
  • Future PhD, I have been thinking about this for years and always come back to it.  I was thinking to take a class at CUNY in NYC (a top choice for me) in the fall to try to help them see me for what I am, rather than the poor dyslexic test scores I have.  I would then apply next winter for School in 2012.  I could then stay in NY and be around for my grandparents indefinitely and move toward my longer term goals and the future I want.  (Success with my Africa work, and time writing, would really help my application as well). 
  • Freedom.  I would be free to come and go.  Africa, Central Asia, Europe.  Wherever I could be learning and bettering myself, and writing about it.  Nomadic, poorly funded, but working towards my goals one shoe string at a time. 
  • Basically, I have established a nomadic, poorly funded, and fluid lifestyle but am working towards my goals one shoe string at a time.  But there is no stability.  There is no security.  Perhaps if I had a stable home it could be.  I have enough unemployment and part-time work to survive while I try to attain my goals.  Housing is the only real uncertainty.  Yes, it would be nice to have finances to live off and to set up other things such as Africa, but it is not life threatening with out.  This road would be much more difficult and risky than the other, but could get me where I want to be longer term sooner, and only makes sense if viewed in terms of these long term goals.
 Option two, details TBD:
  • Be an intricate part of setting up, and then running, an expansionary program for people with disabilities in Connecticut.  It sounds at this point that I would be in a key position and perhaps the regional manager in the future.  A challenge with a good level of responsibility, and satisfaction doing something I would believe in.  A very appealing option.
  • Stability.  I would have a decent salary, benefits, vacation time, etc.  I have not had this for a long time and it could open up many doors for me.
  • Moving to Connecticut.  This by itself does not present much of an issue, except for what I would be leaving behind.  I would be an hour and a half away from my grandparents.
  • I could save money, set myself up for future endeavors, donate to Africa or wherever, travel on vacations.
  • Write in my free time, which I would think I would have a decent amount of.
  • Basically, this option is the standard American option.  Same normal life that everyone here thinks of when they think of an ideal life.  A job, a home, stability, etc.  Something I need, something I would really like.  I could do this for years and find comfort in it.
  • I will not know the extent of it in terms of scope of work or pay until next week.  We shall see... 
I think the essence of all this is that it is a change of life.  I will be walking away from everything that I have been doing and working towards for the last however many years.  I will be committing to the US, to a career pathway I haven't necessarily always wanted.  I will be giving up a lot of the things that have been important to me and i have worked towards.  I always want to be abroad, seeing, learning, doing, helping.  So many friends abroad, a way of life that feels more comfortable to me.  I have sort of fallen into this sort of alter ego, "walking lion", and I like it.  I like who I am and what I am working towards.  Settling in in the middle of Connecticut, making new friends, meeting knew people.  But will they be the type of people I will really identify with, want to be around and help me move towards my longer term goals?  Will my life really be a life that I can identify with?  I feel a bit like I would be settling and giving up for a bit, swimming with the tide, becoming a part of the system, part of what the problem, the band-aid, in our world is.  But I would also be able to breath while doing something I would believe in and enjoy.  Something that could facilitate any number of things in the future.  Which is this the right thing to do?  Be a part of society to change it, or stick to its fringes?  I know everyone's advice will be to take the job, but will any of those people ever change the course of history?  Will I?