The Long and Winding Road

Goodbye Boulder, hello Denver!

So obviously I have been away for quite some time.  So much has happened in the past year.  I found myself meandering through jobs, moving closer to Denver, and readjusting what had become normalcy.  After moving across the country, it’s hard to move all over again two years later.  At least this move was 40 miles instead of 1,700!  After my husband completed his MBA, there wasn’t much keeping us in Boulder.  We have friends there still, and of course we loved the atmosphere and outdoors, as well as being able to walk nearly everywhere, but we always knew it was temporary.

In May we moved south of Denver, just a few miles outside the city limits.  Although I had worked in Denver previously, by not living there, I didn’t realize what a great city it is!  There’s a plethora of activities for the adventurous, foodie, and shopaholic.  Our neighborhood is quiet and welcoming, and having horse and running paths within feet from our front door is a huge plus.  Our community is small, but so accessible to Denver.  We even bought an adorable Chihuahua puppy named Rocco (more on this later, he is worth his own post), so needless to say we’ve settled in nicely.  Home ownership is a whole other issue, but the transition has been a great one.  The major challenge when we first moved was where would I work?

I spent a little over a year working for Boulder County government, after having left a five month stint with the state’s unemployment insurance program.  I am no stranger to government, in fact it’s what I know best.  I worked for the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction over two summers and paid witness to the bureaucracy and complexities of Congressional productivity.  With the county I served as a case manager and internship coordinator for a federal program designed to help low-income families find work and become self-sufficient.  It sounds like a phenomenal program, and could be for the right person.  But I quickly learned that I can’t want it more than the client, and sadly that was often the case.  The office in which I worked was phenomenal, and my team was particularly amazing and supportive.  The job itself, however, was a constant test of patience, empathy, and tough love.  Being a parent to a grown adult with children of their own is no easy task.  Wanting them to succeed more than they do is even harder.  Suffice it to say, it taught me the government cannot fix everything, as much as it would like to believe it can.

Of course this “it” derives from my own home town of Washington D.C.  The nation’s capital is truly a beast of its own, but some federal programs simply aren’t designed to work.  Throwing money at the problem isn’t actually a solution.  I don’t want to get political, but I have experienced the failures and shortcomings of some of these programs.  It’s hard to watch, and worse to be a part of.

I know now what motivates me and where I can be my best self in order to make a meaningful contribution.  I will never begrudge my government service, federal, state or local.  All of my experiences have helped me to realize where I can do the most good.  Motivating the unmotivated and trying to pacify the infuriated are not jobs for me.  But I have gained so much through all of these opportunities.
Here are some of the lessons I have learned:
  1. You cannot (easily) motivate the unmotivated.  This is a sad truth.  You can want people to discover ways to succeed until you’re blue in the face, but they have to want it.
  2. There will always be those who work harder than you, but more often than not there are more people just getting through the day.  Although frustrating, it’s best to focus on the end goal, and do your best work.
  3. It takes a very special person to work in the field of counseling and social work.  I am not one of those people.  That is okay.
  4. Call centers may be the most horrendous work environments ever.  Unemployment Insurance call centers are the absolute worst.  I pray to never be unemployed long enough to require it, because I know that I will be waiting on hold for at least 3 hours.
  5. Congressional hearings are not as exciting as they appear on (fictional) TV and movies.  C-SPAN has it right.  Iron Man isn’t prone to making flashy appearances in the Rayburn building.
  6. Having a great team to work with everyday can make any job worth going to.  These people also make it incredibly hard to leave.
  7. On that same note, having a great supervisor is the greatest gift a job can give.  I have been blessed on many occasions.
  8. Never take even the worst experience for granted.  Sometimes knowing what you don’t want to do is more important than what you want to do.
  9. Never be ashamed to keep looking, but relish the job that makes you never want to job hunt again.  Looking for employment isn’t just for you, it’s for the employer.  A good match is like a great marriage.  Mutual respect, enjoyment, happiness and trust.
I am happy to say I have found the job that I was meant to find.  I work at the University of Colorado Denver, and love coming to work, not only for my coworkers, but for the work I do.  I have a phenomenal supervisor who challenges me and allows me opportunities to learn and grow.  In this position, every day is different.  Working with students is a blessing, and helping to support their educational journeys is rewarding.  It was a long road to get here, but I am so grateful for every step of the way.