As a child, I grew up on a farm in Indiana and I believe it’s there that I learned about high expectations. After my parents divorced when I was 12, I started my career as a “hard worker”, doing chores that my father had done such as splitting wood and shoveling manure…all the while being heavily instructed by the boss of all bosses, my mother, Dora. A militant and intelligent woman, I continued working hard straight through my teenage years without the usual teenage troubles. My younger brother, my grandmother and my mother were tiny folk and because of my large build I figured if I didn’t do it, it may not get done. Finally, at age 17, my brother had his growth spurt and I had saved enough money from cleaning toilets at a state park to escape away to college.
At college, I was amazed that I didn’t have to work very hard to make good grades nor to make money at a job. On weekends, I would go home to help the family on the farm. I had unusual jobs during my college years such as bathing dogs which entailed cleaning out their anal glands, killing fleas and ticks. I had a job as a word processor in a small office with a professor that smoked every chance he got. I worked as a dishwasher, laundry attendant and a nanny for the rich…none of these jobs expected greatness.
When I finished college, I moved to Cincinnati and because I could type 70 wpm, I landed an office manager job in a small insurance agency. After a few months, I became rather depressed due to the lack of mental or physical stimulation. Every day around 1:30 p.m. I would look outside and wonder if this was “it”…life as I would know it. The expectations were low and so was my spirit.
Almost a year into the office job, I applied for a entry level job at a non profit agency that worked with homeless individuals and families even though the pay was lower. I had zero experience but when I said I was a “hard worker” in the interview, the job was mine. My supervisor was a militant and intelligent nun who had extremely high expectations and by the end of the first day, I knew I had made it back to the farm. I helped move furniture into my client’s first apartments, visited people in the hospital, listened to many personal accounts filled with sadness and survival and assisted with organizing advocacy events. Twelve years later, now a supervisor, I have expectations for myself, my staff and for the people we serve. I believe in high expectations because I believe it brings out the best in all of us.
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