I’m being tested. In 2013 I took a break from my corporate job to find a calling. I had always had an interest in working with people who have cognitive disabilities. So, I ran off into the fairytale world of job coaching. Let me tell you, it was no fairytale. It was for the most part depressing, however in order to do this kind of work, one must be patient; and not to mention have a huge sense of humor.
I say the humor part because you’ll find yourself in the oddest predicaments. It’s almost like living vicariously through the person. The girl with bipolar disorder bags groceries as you stand there and help. She suddenly tells the cashier that she thinks they’re creepy and would never be friends with them on Facebook. (Awkward) Later that night you’re outside with her pushing carts in 1 degree weather and she pulls her shirt up at a car passing by to show them her belly button ring. (Oh my) Then all of a sudden she’s running from you and leaving you out there with a line of carts in front of traffic. (Ummm… I mean, this is your job young lady, technically) You find her later flirting with the butcher and then even later on you find her crying in the bathroom. (Typical shift)
I did these kind of things for 2 years. I actually had a blast. I became close to a 30 something year old man who was autistic and never spoke. However, if he saw me looking at a bag of Doritos, he would gently tap my shoulder, rub his belly and then shake his finger in no no manner towards my face. I could open a map and ask him where I was born, and he’d turn the pages to Kentucky and point straight on Mayfield without even having to look for that tiny town.
After a while though, you begin to feel like you can’t make a difference. Perhaps that’s just something inside me that I struggled with. I left and went back to my corporate job. They took me back. Same salary, same vacation days, even immediately put back into the pension. Was I happy? For about 6 months. Then I began to long for someone telling me my black and grey hair matched my black and grey shirt. I began to long for someone telling me about how they would like to wear a princess dress and ride a frog to town. Boredom.
Yesterday my father crawled around on the floor begging me to cancel his surgery for Thursday. I felt like he was testing me. He said that I was ruining his life. Am I really ruining your life, Mr. Muffin Man? So, eventually I made a call and spoke to the surgeon and albeit, we all know this is necessary; when lasers are involved and you have a patient who isn’t compliant, disaster can strike. It was cancelled. You win, Mr. Muffin Man.
Do I feel defeated? No. I feel, I guess I feel, okay with it. The one thing I learned in the 2 years of being a job coach, patience. Patience my dear friend, as you cannot control it all. You don’t have the power to step inside someone’s mind and tell them what to do. Ever.
I’ve also learned that the Muffin Man doesn’t have to have a mental illness to live on Drury Lane. It’s not up to you to judge if someone should be happy or not. I’ve driven down Drury Lane several times. I’ve parked on Drury Lane a few times. I bought a house on Drury Lane. Eventually I moved away.