I was really “OK” with “retirement.” I didn’t “need” anything; not really, although there’s always some “thing” a woman wants to buy, and I couldn’t always do that. When I broke my foot; Jerry and I decided that I would not go back to work at my part-time job. We both agreed that if something came along that I was interested in, I most certainly would consider it, but otherwise, I would be a community volunteer, gym rat and grandmother, as well as keeping my household running and MAYBE, even cooking! (Let’s not go overboard!)
Something came up. My long-time and very good friend Ellen called me about a position as a “care coordinator” at the Fairborn Senior Center. This would be 30 hours a week and it would be casework, information and referral, and God only knows what else.
Back up a little. I went to Wright State University from June of 1971 until August of 1974 and earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Social Work. At that time, the peak population of the Baby-Boomers were clamoring for every type of job in every industry. It was no different in Social Work, but I had a plan; or so I thought.
I moved to Columbus—yeah, for a guy, who I quit dating in a month!—and I had a job working in a wholesaler for flooring, carpet and linoleum. I worked the phones and took orders for hard surface. I didn’t hate this job; it really was like family to this 21-year-old girl who was on her own for the first time. I didn’t make much, but I put food on my own table and I was independent. But the idea was to find a Social Work position and then work toward my Masters. At that time The Ohio State University and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland were the only schools in Ohio with Masters in Social Work Degrees. It made sense.
I took tests and applied, but I never found a job; although I enjoyed many things about that year, but for me it was that “away year” that I did not experience while living at home attending college. However, when my father had a heart attack on my brother’s 12th birthday, September 14, 1975, at the age of 45; it was a very simple decision to just come back to Fairborn and go from there.
Since I only had two more years with my Dad, I have NEVER regretted that decision, and the ultimate change it made in my life’s path.
I got a job working at the old Farmers and Merchants Bank on Main Street, and that is where I worked with Ellen as 21 and 22-year-old young women. I met Jerry in October of 1975 and I lived at home until December of 1976, when I moved into an apartment by myself. That year was a year of reestablishment of my life and helping out at home as I was able.
Jerry proposed—I guess that’s what we called it—in January of 1977, and we were formally engaged (putting-it-in-the-paper engaged) in April, and married in November. As I have mentioned, my father died in August of that year.
So, life changed. Although I worked hard at my job at the bank, I never had the opportunity to go back to school and I never pursued anything else. We were 31 and 24 when we married and our first child was born six years later, and our second five after that. We weren’t young parents.
The one thing I was adamant about was raising my kids myself. Since I didn’t have a high-paying job, and we had not invested in my education to change that situation, I was NOT spending a large percentage of my income on daycare. And I wanted to be a mom!
So, I was a mom! And during those years, I contributed in many ways to the household budget and I am not going to bore you with all of those ways, but I never got back to Social Work.
In early 2008, while I was employed by the Springfield Museum of Art, Ellen called me about a position at the Senior Center, but it was part-time and at that point in my life, I couldn’t afford to work part-time. HOWEVER, this encouraged me to get my license!
Now, thirty four years after graduation, getting one’s license is as invasive as a colonoscopy! First of all, I had to apply and be accepted to even TAKE the test. I had just moved back to Fairborn, and God only knew where my transcripts were, so it was in my best interest to send Wright State University a nice crisp check! I had to have the thorough state and federal (read: expensive) background checks, and I could THEN apply to take the test. It was scheduled for September 2008. I had all summer to study; I bought study aids and took an online class, and I actually took TWO practice tests and got in the mid-80% range, which I thought was fabulous thirty four years after college graduation!
I must have had some anxiety for the test itself, and I wasn’t thrilled with a 78%, but you know, NO ONE asks what you got on the test. I passed it and thereby was licensed as a Social Worker with the State of Ohio Counselor, Social Worker and Marriage & Family Therapist Board. My actual license date is the end of October, so it took another six weeks to achieve that.
I had a certificate. I had a license #. I was licensed!
I applied for several jobs, only to be told I didn’t have enough experience. I know that one of the organizations hired a recent college graduate. Yeah. After a period of time, I realized this wasn’t going to happen. I renewed my license in 2010, which involved getting 30 credit hours of continuing education and a check to CSWMFT for $60; but I wasn’t planning to renew in 2012.
Until Ellen called.
I hope you have stayed with me, I have written 1000 words, and am just getting to the meat of this story.
On July 25, 2012, I began my work with the Fairborn Senior Center. I am already doing stuff that I remember how and what to do—even though all the laws and procedures have changed. I have clients to see and I need to learn what agencies to refer to. They all have their procedures and I need to learn that too. It’s a lot to learn!
However, I work with very nice people; and I will be involved with the Center on two levels; some social events, but primarily the social services area. There is paperwork. There are phone calls. There are walk-ins. There are home visits. It is all going to be challenging to me. But I will get it, and at the end of the week, I will have helped people, and I feel great about myself!
And......listen to me, nothing, and I mean nothing, beats the feeling of signing my name on all that paperwork,
Denise Derge, LSW