Jan 30, 2020
I started out in the eighth grade. I went to the guidance counselor office for some reason or another and they had little brochures on jobs. So I found a brochure about social work and I read it and I decided that’s what I was going to be. But I sort of forgot about that because my mother wanted me to be a teacher.
I tried student teaching and kids were throwing dictionaries around the room. And I was subconsciously encouraging it because I like anti-authoritarianism and belligerence and that kind of stuff. I like people to break out of their shells, their normalcy. I really couldn’t do teaching. I wasn’t equiped to be a teacher. I didn’t have the personality or the organizational concept or whatever.
I went to VISTA–Volunteers in Service to America–and because I didn’t know what to do with myself. There we had different assignments. I was assigned to Latin American Community Center. We worked with the farm workers setting up boycotts of grapes. We did a lot of things for them.
When that was over, I didn’t know what to do. It was only a year and some people were starting an underground newspaper. So I stayed in. I stayed there and I worked on the paper. And then the people who were running it decided they weren’t going to do it anymore. They were going to take a paid job instead. So I took it over as editor-in-chief.
It was an underground newspaper. It wasn’t all that. It wasn’t the New York Times, but it didn’t want to be.
Then, after almost a year and a half of that, I started having a breakdown. The work was so intense and I didn’t have any vacation or any time off. So I worked myself into a frazzle. So I came home. Then I moved into Brooklyn. I started working in the city, and I got an apartment. At that time apartments were not that expensive and people were doing collective housing. So I found a group of people and we lived together and shared a house. That made it possible to get a start and so those were good days.
Shortly after that I went to social work school. I said I couldn’t get any jobs with an English degree. I didn’t know about social service. Some people who are in my position would get jobs for Social Services Department of the city of New York, but I didn’t have any contacts leading in that direction. So I just went to social work school. And then when I came out of there I was put as a director of a small settlement house. I really felt that social work provides an opportunity to do a lot of different kinds of things. You can work with many different people. You could work with jail populations. You could work with children. You could work with women’s centers. You could work with men with balding hair who have self-consciousness about that factor. There’s anything. You can really have a choice.
And I finished my career working with the Board of Education with teenagers. I was a counselor and I loved it.