Saturday, September 13, 2008

Reflections of my first week

I wanted to write some kind of update about the first day, but to be honest I wasn't sure what to think until after I let it stew for the weekend. The first day of internship I woke up sick and found that C had stayed home sick too. E got up, and what do you know? So the boys stayed home while I started the day. I got up, got dressed in my "first day of school" outfit, and got out the door. I had my fancy Mapquest directions I got horribly lost and squealed into orientation about ten minutes late. I hadn't accepted Mapquest's hatred of me or my new home state yet. So squealing in late and full of apologies I find the new intern group, sitting quietly, waiting for me. All three of the other interns are sitting together on one side of the table. They're all blond and they're all wearing matching clothes. No joke. Right off the bat the internship director asks them to please make an effort to include me in the cohort. He may as well have said "I know she's weird and smells bad, but it's not polite to ignore people."

The first few days were excruciatingly slow and boring. Typical orientation type stuff. The highlight was setting up my direct deposit. You know, because I'm getting PAID. However, I think I screwed up the tax forms and may only be getting enough for lunch. We'll see. My new colleagues warmed up a little and I think that they are genuinely nice people. It's just a little weird that they've all known each other for four or five years and I'm totally new. If I think about that for too long I have a rant for the intern selection folks, so I try not to think about it too long. I think that the four of us will get along fine, but I don't think it's going to be the same as if we'd all come from other places.

Wednesday we got to go into an actual prison for another orientation. It was essentially the same thing that I had to do a few weeks ago, but with a really dynamic presenter and geared towards the interns. I was very grateful that I had worked in prison before, but I am realizing more every day that this place is not much like the last prisons I've worked at, and mine is even less so. I'm slowly learning that this is going to be a whole new gig and I will be well served to stop thinking "Oh yeah. I've done this before."

The first three days were full of "This is C and she came clear from..." followed by "Why'd you come here?" Nothing makes you feel more welcome than having to defend why you would move and having people make fun of how you say your home state. No matter where you go, it's not "Ory-gawn" It's just not. Those comments were followed by laughter and "oh, you're in for it" when they found out which institution I was assigned to. Lots of self-deprecation and good humor got me through.

Thursday and Friday were spent at my prison. This is when things started to look up. I also learned that my prison is kind of the red-headed step-child of the DOC and so that may have contributed to some of the weird vibes I was picking up on. My supervisor (for now) is super nice and the other intern is awesome. I wasn't sure what to think about that situation but I think now that it's a benefit. She's one of last year's interns that had to stay a little longer to finish. Right now she's pretty much running the place. We had lunch and talked a bit and I think she's going to be a huge resource and advocate. She's also just really fun to talk to.

Thursday and Friday I followed people around, went to meetings, and sat in on a couple of sessions. Once it started going I found that "job-shadowing" wasn't as mind-numbingly boring as I had expected. I loved going to the meetings and am starting to think that I may want to work towards being a warden someday. I'm meeting a lot of people and starting to figure out how this place works. It's so odd because it's such a unique place. There's a culture that's different from any other prisons that I've worked at and I'm going to need some time to get my bearings and figure out how it works. The sessions got me excited about starting clinical work again. I needed that after such a long hiatus. There's also a guy who's an expert on the MMPI and a woman who is well-known for her work with sex-offenders. I'll have an opportunity to work with both of them sometime this year.

I left work Friday really excited to start working. I have a badge (ID card that gets me in), half of an office, and now, keys! This means that I can go to the bathroom whenever I want. The power! The freedom! It's not a place that I can jump right in, but I think that it's going to be an extremely valuable year and I'll have lots of good stories to tell.

So that's it. I don't hate it. There's a lot of great opportunities and I think I might fit in okay. The other interns and the intern director are really nice. My supervisor and my co-intern are great and smart and really dynamic. There are a ton of experts at my prison that I can talk to and shadow and learn from. The biggest struggle is going to be revising my expectations, but I think that's going okay so far.

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