I’ve worked at Poets & Writers (usually referred to on this blog as “my org”) for eleven years. Setting aside the continuously mind-boggling fact of how old I actually am, this also means that I’ve only had one job since grad school. It’s only my second professional job (if you can call writing about TV for a startup that has a video game station in the office “professional”). Sometimes I think about the story my mom told me once, about how my Aunt Vanessa once raised ducklings in a cardboard box, and by the time they were grown, their tail feathers veered to one side because the box was so small.
|Duck in a box.|
All of which is to say: I love P&W, but I’ve been feeling like it’s time for something new. The past three years of my life have been personally tumultuous, and it’s been a godsend to work at a place that respects the needs of its employees, and is calm and quiet and predictable. At the same time, I want/need to believe that this is the start of the Next Phase of my life. And so I kept my eye out for other jobs.
I couldn’t ignore a posting I saw for a grants manager position at Homeboy Industries, an organization I’d admired from the first time I’d heard about it. The same is true for many Angelenos, but if you’re not familiar with Homeboy, they provide job training, employment and a bunch of feed-the-soul-type services for former gang members. It was started twenty-five years ago by Father Greg Boyle, a priest with a master’s degree in English (I feel like this is relevant; he delivers a good parable).
I applied for the job and got it and accepted it, and for the month of January, I am working half time there and half time at P&W, and it is as insane as it sounds. I’m still getting to know Homeboy. I have learned that there is a lot of work for me to do, and that the environment is the antithesis of P&W’s mellow, methodical vibe in ways that are both overwhelming and fun.
But what it is, first and foremost, is a place that understands the whole person, and tries to break down the barriers between those who provide “charity” and those who receive it. Some employees have master’s degrees and some have murder raps, and maybe a few have both. I don’t know who’s who, and I’m not trying too hard to find out. Even though no one there knows me very well yet, and I feel a little bit like the new kid at school, I feel intrinsically understood, because my recent story is chalk-full of trauma and this place knows trauma.
What Homeboy isn’t is the place where Jamie and Cathy and D work. It’s not the place that asks about my writing morning or can snicker knowingly about McSweeney’s list of “Small Poetry Journal Names That Reflect the True Nature of Writing Poetry.” (Examples: The Bi-Weekly Journal of Not Great Ideas and Expensive Marble Pen Set.) It probably won’t be the place that lets me leave to go to MacDowell for three weeks.
I did some car-crying last night, about the stress of the new and how much I’ll miss the old, and how I didn’t want to sell the little Honda that got me through so much. Then I had the thought that maybe I could sell it to one of Homeboy’s trainees who need cheap, semi-reliable transportation. It’s the circle of life, man, and it moves us all.