Rosie’s hierarchy of deeds

Level I:  The Bottom Line – (breathe, eat, sleep, crap, pay rent … repeat.)

I like my job.  My day job … respiratory therapy … yeah, like it. I like the hospital where I work, and the folks (day and night shift) that I work with. I do not  love my job. I don’t love it for reasons that have nothing to do with the job itself, more so than I do not enjoy being under the employ of others. I do not like other people having the ability to decide (at their on discretion, by the way, in this great state of North Carolina) whether or not I will receive a pay check that I will use to support myself and my family.  What I have come to learn though is that it’s not necessarily the employment, but the attitude that I carry in with me that determines whether or not I am happy.  We gotta work, there’s no denying that, sooo …

I work.  And  on my way to work this past Thursday, as is often customary, I was listening to NPR.  Then this warming humanitarian piece came pouring through the car stereo:

(the entire piece can be read here.)

All manner of bells, whistles, and alerts went off. Negro spirituals ebbed and flowed, pickaninnies danced spirited jigs, visions of Haile Selassie with a shine kit ready to buff well worn loafers into golden sandals appeared and disappeared.  Then Rush … Rush Limbaugh in all his boundless wisdom entered and said, “Goddam liberal media.” –– and I agreed with him (terrifying, I know).

Maybe in an America in an alternate universe where the African Slave Trade never happened, where blacks many years post slavery were not largely prevented performing anything but menial work due to roadblocks in education, financial, and sociological advancement, this story could be a soul stirring human interest story.  This ain’t that America.  And I could not conceive of how this story got green lighted.  I mean JEEZ:

At Concourse D, there’s one shoeshiner with a thick African accent, a soul patch, and an interesting story to tell.”

 Like what in the entire fuck  is and “African accent” or a soul patch for that matter.  Ok … digressing.

During my post listen nausea I began to think of the very sordid and stereotype riddled relationship with blacks and labor in this country, and realized that this was probably another source for my disdain for work. Then some of my humanist buddhisty thought kicked in (which is great, because being frustrated with racism in this “post racial” world is  exhausting.)  This allowed my view to broaden enough for me to arrive at the next level.

Level II: Be SOMEBODY! – (I want you to want me, I need you to need me.)

I dare say that everybody wants to be important/significant/necessary.  In our society, and in many for that matter, a person’s livelihood or role in that society is the means by which people arrive at their “somebodyhood”.  Which works, except when it doesn’t.  I will refer to my healthcare career again here.

During my career I have met the most brilliant CNAs (nurse aids as they were once called) and the most brilliantly idiotic doctors (some dangerously so).  In the healthcare hierarchy of deeds it is the MD that receives all the respect and accolades in the general public, followed closely by nursing.  What the general public does not often see, unless they have the misfortune of becoming ill, is the entire healthcare team.

Respiratory therapists, pharmacy techs, secretaries, lab, x-ray, PT, OT, Speech therapists, the social work team, environmental services, clinical engineering … we make up an intricate web of people who take care of those who have limited or no ability to take care of themselves. We are where the rubber meets the road, the folks that carryout the orders of the good (and not so good) doctors. I’m not saying that I haven’t worked with some amazing doctors in my time as a therapist because I have and without nursing there would be a gaping hole in healthcare that would be impossible to fill, but it sucks that as important/significant/necessary/ as our jobs are people often don’t know or care that we’re doing them … unless we’re not.

So why do we still do the work? Mainly because of the bottom line, but when you find folks that have hung in there for years and are still generally happy there’s usually a bigger reason (either that or they’re masochists 😉 ).   At our core, or at least at mine, I enjoy people.  My patients, my co-workers, err body.  They make the work I do bearable. Over the years we have loved each other through unspeakable tragedy and limitless joy.  I have laughed harder than I have ever laughed at work and cried harder than I have ever cried.  It was this that I was thinking of when I made my final decent into the parking lot of “The U” last Thursday.  I was glowing with the light of universal love and brotherhood. I had arrived at …

Level III:  I AM somebody.

My mother is the foundation of my beliefs about work.  She worked hard from age 16 to age 42 at a job on which she was one of the first blacks.  She had to take a test to even get the job, an effort by a then lily white company (New Jersey Bell) to keep blacks out. My mother went on to become a union delegate.  She fought (sometimes literally) for the rights of the worker that while they might not be recognized individually that they be respected and treated fairly.  This I believe this to be the real bottom line, decent work for decent compensation and fair treatment. My mother was never one to see one person’s job as important and another person’s as insignificant. Work was work.  I couldn’t appreciate her example then,  but I do now.

As much as it pains me to admit it, even the shoe shiner’s job is important/significant/necessary.  It provides a moment of respite for the weary business traveler, a means of financial support for “Shine”, his family, and the league of Ethiopian shoe shiners in training he has back at home (I’m sorry … I’m trying to let it go, but can’t he find something else to do?) Just as the healthcare team is a bridge of support for the sick, we are a bridge of support for one another in life. Each section of the bridge from the bolts (shoe shines) to the the planks (doctors) perform a function that we might not necessarily understand, but without which we would be lacking.


Pushing the car.

Best Advice
I used to have horrible cars, because I never had money, so I’d always end up broken down on the highway. When I stood there trying to flag someone down, nobody stopped. But when I pushed my own car, other drivers would get out and push with me. If you want help, help yourself—people like to see that. –  Chris Rock


I read the above article around the time I suspected my Singaporean goose was cooked.  What got me at the core was the bit about the car.  Was I doing enough on my own behalf?  I can honestly say, I wasn’t.  That’s even hard to write, but it’s true.  I could have worked more hours, I could have dedicated more time to fleshing out more feasible better planned fundraisers.

Would these things have made the financial difference that landed me in school this year vs. next year? Probably not, and since I’m drinking from the fountain of self honesty, on my gut level I knew this.  My credit rating, an F.  My current student loans, while not in default, are a reflection of my youthful (and not so youthful) wastefulness. Add what I owe in taxes, and my day to day bills, and making it over without a wealthy sugar daddy or a co-signer (which would have been an incredibly irrational direction) was going to be highly unlikely.  Even with all this reality lying in wait I prayed that somehow my effort (albeit half-hearted) would part the heavens and allow for some Dickenesque Christmas Carol resolution that would allow for my passage into all that I’d wished and hoped for.  But, a wise man did once suggest that I wish in one hand, shit in the other and see which one fills first.

I could see this experience as one of the most humiliating in my life (and it probably is), go hide, and give up on the idea of grad school in general, let alone on the other side of the world, but that would make me a quitter. Quitters suck (unless it’s self defeating behavior then by all means quit dammit!). No, I shan’t quit, and while I appreciate all the support I’ve been given, the reality is that I have to push my own car.   I have to take this year to get my shit together financially, physically, and emotionally … basically shit I need to do anyway. I have to go back to working night shift (bleh), pick up extra hours (bleh!), and many other things savory and unsavory … all legal I assure you. In short,  I gotta know on my inside space that I gave this shit everything I got before I’m willing to give up.

So here we go world. With the help of a HP with a fairly wicked sense of humor,  I’ve got 365 days to make this thing happen. Help is still appreciated, but it’s time for me to get out and P.U.S.H.

Watch me work.



Art in the R.A.W. : Invest now!

Antoine William‘s art is the truth.  It is straight up, unapologetic in its militancy and well … R.A.W.  Being a sucker for a good honest story, it did not take me long to fall in love with his work.  It did not take many  conversations after initial meeting to know that I had a friend in Antoine for life. We are on currently on the same grind with to attend grad school for the betterment of our poor artistic negro existence. In August Antoine will be off to the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill!

I am incredibly excited for him and want to pay forward to him all the love and generosity that has been shown to me on my journey. So without further ado for your virtual stimulation a R.A.W.  art sale with all proceeds to enable a smoother transition into the grad school experience for Antoine and his beautiful partner and daughter (see familial adorableness in the video below!)


For purchase contact:

Antoine Williams

(click photos for larger images!)

1. The Problems We All Live With 
acrylic on canvas- 
 60”x 36” 

2. Reign Dance
 mixed media on wood
24″x 36″ 

3. Beauty Mark 
acrylic on wood-

4. Rupert’s War collage on wood-
24”x 36” 

5. Circa 66’ mixed media on wood
 36”x 48”

6. Watch the Throne 
acrylic on canvas
36”x 48” 

7. Illusions of Success 
acrylic on canvas
-2010 90”x 84” 


8. Counterculture Clash
 acrylic on wood

9. From Warriors To…
  acrylic on canvas

9. Exodus
 acrylic on canvas

10. Babies Ain’t Watching TV No More
  acrylic on canvas-2008

11. Babble
 acrylic on canvas
-2010 40”x30”

12. Rebel
  acrylic on canvas

13. UZI Mom
  acrylic on canvas-2006

14. Home Grown
 acrylic on Canvas

15. Rupert Murdoch
 acrylic on canvas-2011

15. Deja Vu acrylic on canvas-2010 36″x 36″ $500

*Antoine with fellow John Hairston at their joint exhibit                                                    Here’s Hoping It Rhymes for a Reason in October 2011

Uncle 2.0 (A kinder gentler surrender.)

When I began the graduate school application process I tried to maintain the belief that no matter the outcome, “good” or “bad”, that it had nothing to do with my ability to write or my value as a writer. I probably should have taken it to the next level and said that it had nothing to do with my value as a human being, because ultimately it doesn’t.

Grad school was to me was about what I valued.  I value education.  I enjoy becoming educated. Academia is my home girl.  However, I do realize that there are non-conventional ways of receiving the education I desire, and if it ends up that those are the avenues I have to stroll down that it is okay.  The sting of my experience comes from valuing the means of getting my education more than I do the education itself.

There is a balance I seek to find between my desire to achieve and the realization that my achievements do no supersede my humanity. There is absolutely nothing wrong with me wanting to succeed, but that success should not come at the expense of what really matters, my life and happiness. Looking back over the last few months I can see that I have been highly driven, but not exactly enjoying my life, even during times that were intended to be enjoyable.

I’m entering an easier phase of surrender as I continue to raise my white flag and wave it at Tisch Asia (the game is not entirely over, but it appears to be a blow out). At this point, I’m not too clear on “what’s next”.  I’m still feeling some residual yuckiness, but I know it is dangerous for me to live here.  I want to hide because I am embarrassed and ashamed, but I won’t.  Instead I’ll volunteer to be the fool that is brave enough to fail fantastically and be willing to tell the tale.


Uncle: (an angry rageful prayer of surrender not intended for the faint of heart.)

I am utterly defeated. I have nothing else to give to the cause of me attending Tisch Asia.  I have hustled, planned, acted as if (I quit my fucking job! Great!), prayed, meditated, and burned incense. I am tired. I have a $20,000 per semester gap in funding.  I do not qualify for the Grad Plus loan.  This morning one of my final doors/windows of opportunity closed. My white flag is waving.  I don’t have anymore to give this cause emotionally, spiritually, or mentally. Right now, I don’t give a shit what the lesson is.  It hurts too fuckin’ much for me to care. I know it won’t always, but today it does.

Being hopeful about this situation has only intensified the shitiness of my feelings and fueled my desperate actions to force this thing to happen.  These are the times I don’t want to be in recovery.  I want a license to be completely reckless and unconcerned about the damage I leave behind, but fucking recovery. Fucking spiritual principles won’t even allow me to indulge. Because underneath this raging heap of fuck the world I have going on I know that the shiny happy recovery Stacey would suffer in the long run along with those she loves.

If you have donated to my noble cause, know that your funding will now be re-purposed to cover my ass as I eat crow and I slither back into my life as a Respiratory Therapist. Universe … I turn it over to you, because I have not shit else.