Here I am working in the ER during an ice storm reading fragmented writing drafts from last August about how awful my experience was here during those first six months. And about the adjustment of procuring new name: confusing. And, most recently, the evolution of this weird life we have in Indy put into perspective by a visit to Belize. So, in my 7th hour of a 16+ hour shift during snowpocolypse 2011, after having watched all the episodes of SATC I brought with me, and after eating my lunch and dinner in the first 45 minutes, I have nothing left to do but talk with myself on the internet for a while and draw some kind of insight.
It’s kind of a let down, working. In the ER. At night. Where I continue to be initiated, which is the worst.
I thought it would be magical. But nobody trusts you till they trust you. And just when you think you’re almost good at something, you find out a baby you believed was at the fire station (because that’s what the girl told you) is actually in a box on the side of an interstate. Or, your own department believes you conspired with the ol’ manager to resist 12-hour shifts. You didn’t. 12-hour shifts mean less work days! Or, like, due to the shift thing, a handful of well-known staff are now circulating the rumor that you’re rude, per the departmental lady with the most seniority who really wanted those blasted 12-hour shifts. Plus, you were hired before the interns, who’d provided a year of unpaid service before you so obliviously accepted the open position they now can’t accept. Everyone comes from the same school, except you. And where did you come from, anyway? Ohhhh, New Orleans? Do you think that makes you special? They hate you.
You think you’re paranoid. You ask, am I paranoid? The nice ones say, nope. This is real.
Fake complaints come in, and the nice co-workers from other units who like you say: B, just ignore it. There’s nothing you can do. The nice people invite you to lunch and movie nights and things, thank goodness. Because without them, in this new city with this new job in this new home with this new husband (who also works in this place), your little social work wings might get all crumpled up and you might always wonder if there is chocolate pudding on your face as you round the ER, because in your normal life there is always something chocolate on your face, and this is your normal life only it’s the naked-dream or chocolate-pudding face part. You don’t feel comfortable being yourself, which has always been your secret weapon: being yourself. I mean, you’re funny and likeable, right? You are. (Right?) You are.
No one here thinks I’m funny. I’m recalling that Hallmark card with the little lamb wearing a red bow tie and a thousand other lambs not wearing a bow tie looking at the one lamb like he’s an idiot. The caption: “Adding to my misery. No one here thinks I’m funny.”
That’s me. A lamb in a bow tie, here.
Oh. And then there’s the issue of my name: Amanda Brooke Wilson Hartman.
First name: Amanda, but answers to “Brooke”. At Doctor’s offices, the library, the licence branch, Grad school, etc. I almost always adhere to the following script:
What’s your name?
Brooke Wilson. I mean, Amanda. Well it might be under Amanda, but I go by Brooke, so maybe check both.
Or, waiting to get my flu shot:
Everyone looks around.
Oh! Me! That’s me. I’m Amanda Wilson.
Over the years I’ve accepted that the name Amanda, although foreign, when combined with Wilson, means me: Brooke. But then I went and got married. Now my name is Brooke Hartman. At Doctor’s offices, the library, the licence branch, work, etc. the script becomes:
What’s your name?
Brooke Wilson. I mean, Hartman. Brooke Hartman. Well, it might be under Wilson. I just got married, so maybe check both.
You see where I’m going with this. I recognize Amanda Wilson. I recognize Brooke Hartman. But God help me when I am at work, on the phone with insurance agents, making a Doctor’s appointment, at the library, at the licence branch, even signing my own paperwork, and someone asks: What’s your name?
I mean, Hartman. Brooke Hartman.
I mean, Amanda.
Amanda Brooke Wilson.
Wait, Amanda Brooke Hartman.
Okay. Can you just look all these up: Amanda Brooke Wilson Hartman?
I smile, they look at me like I’m an identity thief
So. Here’s the kicker. Post-marriage, my work email is Amanda Hartman 1. Whaaaa? Who the H is Amanda Hartman?
There’s something unnerving about not being able to be yourself at a place you don’t even recognize your own name, am I right?
I’ve come to the following conclusion: Amanda Hartman must be that pudding-face ER social worker who is incompetent and hates those stupid 12-hour shifts.
Me? I’m Brooke. I’m a good social worker, and everyone likes me.
In January, I went to Belize. Big surprise. It had been a year since I was last there doing my professional project. I worked with the only social worker in BZE employed by the Ministry of Education, and provided a compilation manual of coping exercises to be facilitated with kids who had witnessed or experienced violence. I trained a lot of staff, worked with a lot of sad kids, and the project was amazing. The resources transferred perfectly, the improvements were documented on paper, I made great friends and colleagues, and I walked away feeling like I could do that type of work for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, God didn’t get my order right, and I ended up working in a hospital, providing bus tickets and violent crime compensation applications to people who are dealing with things like: gunshot wound to penis.
As expected, the adjustment to my job at the hospital was hard, and the learning curve was steep, and while the work here is equally as important, there are moments I find myself staring at the lady in the waiting room who is demanding an apple and a cab ride, dreaming about this oh-so-meaningful life I once had of facilitating coping-skills groups at schools and providing 1:1 counseling with kids who really show progress and growth, whose grief and trauma indicators decline, like, on paper, where co-workers are encouraging, and my actual developed God-given skills are put to use. Do you know how many times I’ve had to say to people here at the hospital: I’m good at things. Maybe not this, but other things. For example, counseling a 10-year-old whose dad has just committed suicide. Her grades went from Ds to Bs. Or a 5-year-oldo who saw his mom murdered. Or a 14-year-old who is real scared of hurricanes. True, though, I don’t know how to get a nebulizer at 2am on Thanksgiving night.
(Don’t worry, I’m going somewhere with this)
So I go to Belize, and I sit down in my old supervisor’s office, and she asks me about work. I say all the good and exciting stuff first. You know, all that crazy ER stuff. Then there’s a lull. Then I explain how lucky I am to have a job at all. Then I slump a little lower. Then I get all teary-eyed for no reason. Then I admit: nothing I’ve learned or done or created is being used at home. My binders and manuals and therapeutic games are in a tub in my garage. My best skills are untapped. This treasure of a manual I really believe in is going unused when there are a million kids in this city who could benefit. For example: the kid of gunshot-wound-to-penis guy. Or the brother of 12-year-old sudden death girl. I don’t know why I’m here. I don’t know how to not be. This is where God put us. This is where I have to be.
So she gets up and opens the file cabinet. She pulls out like 158 files and spreads them out on the desk. I start opening them one by one. They’re drawings and colorings and narratives and “about me” pages full of all the tools and resources I left there in Belize filled out and helping 158+ kids. She says, “Your work is being used here, Brooke. Every day.”
(Full-fledged tears, you can imagine.)
It appears that God doesn’t need a person in order to use a person. It also appears that sometimes we don’t know we’ve been used, and many times we don’t get to see the outcome. Except me. For an hour and a half, I got to see those files. I don’t even know those kids. I guess my role in the plan was never to be the hands and feet. Maybe I was just the transporter.
I can feel okay about that. I’ll just make J play all my therapeutic games. And I’ll trust that God knows my heart, and knows our needs, and will provide for all accordingly.
(I mean, but could He hurry?)