Does Working For The Government Mean Selling Your Soul?

Does Working For The Government Mean Selling Your Soul?

“The Carrot and the Stick:” Part One

“Maybe you’ll work in government. No, don’t sell your soul. Or maybe go undercover and then write a book about selling your soul!”

o-OBAMACARE-WEBSITE-facebookFor being over 6,000 miles away, my year with Obamacare and my friend Val’s year teaching ESL abroad in China’s southern Fujian province were eerily similar.

Val and her partner Kevin were counting down the days until their assignment was over, just like I was. And, to emotionally distance themselves from the roller-coaster of severe ups and downs they were experiencing, they had begun to conceptualize their life abroad as one long video game.

“Oh, the kids actually understood what I was saying today? Extra coins!”
“Oh, we have to give you an 18-mo. surprise lesson plan? In two days? New boss level!”
“Oh, Kevin has food poisoning? Game over!”

marioSince China was already such a land of magical realism and oddities (and real tortoise shells available at the local apothecary to deliver Mario Kart-esque ‘power ups’), there was really no other way to remain half-way sane.

My own sanity was similarly and consistently precarious.

I often felt like a baby for complaining about my job, which was only a half-an-hour commute away from my home and my loved ones, full of (mostly) wonderful colleagues (who spoke English!) and where my professional duties were hardly demanding.

But my anxiety disorder wasn’t reacting well to the disorganized, improvisational nature of the work.

My psychiatrist had told me on Halloween, a month into the work, when I was visiting her for my regular 6-month check-up, “You’ll either adapt or quit. People with anxiety disorders generally don’t do well at this kind of job environment.”

I wondered if I was doing a bit of both.  Had I quit my job the very first week when I stopped believing in the project, and begun running through my work days by fits and starts in varying degrees of zeal?

During a Skype “date” with Val, I was bragging about a client of mine who had sent a personal letter to Tony Beltran, the board head of the Lake County Health Department, praising the help I had given her in enrolling her 20-something daughter in non-parental coverage for the first time. She congratulated me and declared:

“Maybe you’ll work in government. No, don’t sell your soul. Or maybe go undercover and then write a book about selling your soul!”

Since by this time I had already begun jotting down my experiences in order to — who knows? — make those 9 months seem like they had a larger purpose? — Val’s words struck a cord.

Was my version of the “adaptation” my psychiatrist had mentioned this taking of notes for a book I hoped one day would (a), prove that I was strong enough to stick out even the most trying of environments, and (b), expose all the terrible truths I fancied myself having ‘uncovered’ in the course of the project?

Regardless, it seemed that everyone, from my friends to my gynecologist, wanted to know more about my experience. So, since it’s a mite bit awkward to spin stories while receiving a breast exam, I created this so that you, dear readers (and I), can try to make sense of my year with Obamacare.


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