Over What Hill?
On august 31, 2011 I retired from a career as a WorkFirst case manager and social worker at the Washington State Department of Social and Heath Services (DSHS).
I began my state government career in April, 1993 after an assortment of career changes that were essentially a reflection of my successful plans and intentions of providing for a family that included 5 children.
Until I discovered the DSHS and the DSHS discovered me, I supported my family while on active duty in the military (USAF), as an insurance agent (twice), labor contractor in Texas and Oregon, warehouse worker and later manager, truck dispatcher, independent freight agent, trucker bookkeeper, trucking company operations manager, Army reservist, contract interpreter (including a contract with DSHS) until such time as the DSHS offered me full-time employment which included medical coverage and a retirement plan (things I thought I’d never acquire.) The success in obtaining what I considered meaningful government employment occurred because of language and experience.
I qualified as an interpreter in Spanish (which I learned as a young LDS missionary serving in a foreign country named Texas) and Russian (which I learned at Syracuse University and the Defense Language Institute in Monterrey, Calif – both paid for by the USAF.) As a contract interpreter I was paid what I considered a generous hourly rate to interpret in Spanish and Russian during DSHS interviews with non-Engish-speaking clients.
In addition I worked occasional appointments for the City of Vancouver, Wa police department and Clark Country sheriff’s office interpreting at the jail after arrests had been made. (Although I once had to testify in a court proceeding after which I received a letter of commendation from the judge who praised my interpreting ability generously but had no idea as to how good or bad my Russian was.)
In truth I obtained employment with the State not because I got a foot in the door, but a tri-ingual tonge. I became a tri-lingual case worker handling predominantly Russian and Spanish speaking case loads in Vancouver, Mt. Vernon, Bellevue and finally, South Bend, Washington (on the Washington Coast north of Astoria, Or.)
Welfare work is not for the sensitive nor really for tender-hearted social workers … which means the challenge is more about avoiding a callousness in dealing with the needy while at the same time paying attention to truthfulness, behavior and nuance in discerning sincerity or dishonesty in the intentions of clients and neediness.
By the time I retired I had had enough, still having maintained what I considered the integrity of judging/discerning equitably the neediness of clients, making available public assistance funds, medical coverage and food assistance where applicablle. But I was ready to quit/retire a couple of years before I did. The joke among those who knew me was whether or not I would even look at the South Bend DSHS office when driving by after I retired.
Fixed income is one mean, ornery and relentless reality once you retire. Two years after retirement and we had moved to Spokane and the Eastern Side of the state where the cost of living is a little more gentle than the “California”-prices side of the state, I realized that almost constantly I seemed to be in a mental state of “counting the money and planning the spending” … and I mean CONSTANT.
That sense is still in place somewhat but nowhere near as dominating of my attention as it was in the early months.
This past August marked the end of the third year of retirement.
We moved to Spokane somewhat on a whim in agreeing to a short term role as grandchildren-tenders during which time we realized that we really enjoyed Spokane and could think of no reason for not relocating permanently.
… Easier said than done … but eventually accomplished but not before – as my wife will tell you – I acquired a post-traumatic-stress reaction to U-Haul trucks and have to resist being triggered every time we drive past one.
We’re here now … free at last … whatever that means.