It’s early in the morning, 6:16 am February 7, and I am at work talking with one of the clients of the group home. My day starts at 5 am and when I get to work this particular client is always awake pacing the house. In the beginning it annoyed me because I cook breakfast and he circles around the house through the kitchen. Every time he comes through I am having to stop what I am doing to let him by.

These clients are in one form or another developmentally disabled. The problems they deal with are autism, schizophrenia and other behaviors that make it tough to live independent lives.

From 1998 to 2017 I worked as a dental hygienist. My pay rate began at $30 an hour. After nearly 20 years practicing I have bad pain in both wrists. Especially, my right, dominant hand. The neurologist said that I had two options for relief. Surgery or change profession. This is why I have returned to college at 46 and am pursuing another career.

Working in this group home as a direct support professional is a challenge. I think it’s good for me because I am learning to deal with ‘patients’ who have challenges all their own. My early riser has a speech impediment. I really have to listen to understand him! Lesson #1 Listen hard!

My duties include cleaning up after all the residents have left for the day.

Lesson #2 Keep things tidy! Each of these clients have their own issues and personalities. I must adapt to the client that I am dealing with and consider their personal struggles. Lesson #3

Each person needs to be dealt with in a way that serves their needs. The lessons that I am learning through this minimum wage job are more valuable than what I learned scraping tartar off mostly ungrateful dental patients. These lessons are creating habits that boil over into my home life. I haven’t ever been the greatest housekeeper in my own home, but I find myself keeping things tidier at home!

Taking care of my very sick momma is providing me with an unpaid nursing internship while I attend school pursuing the nursing profession.

My job is giving me a whole new appreciation for the value of cleanliness, empathy for others and money.

The world could look at how much I have lost. My home, my ability to work and practice in my chosen profession, my marriage, my estranged daughter

and grandchildren, my car (repossessed), and pity me. I see it as a reset! I can’t tell what I did with the $30/hour I earned for 20 years! I have absolutely nothing to show for it!

Today makes about 7 months working for minimum wage in this profession and I have grown exponentially in character. Money isn’t everything especially, when you don’t know it’s true value. Doing without it can be tough but I haven’t done without one basic need, and for this I am so grateful.

If you’re struggling in life and don’t know what to do. Start with examining yourself. I hope you find a way to get through and grow from it. I’m no expert but I am finding my way!

Signed Hang in there