When I got back from Mexico, my fears came true. I began the next chapter of my life, which I had decided was going to be amazing. It turned out that it was anything but amazing. I worked odd shifts and most weekends, which didn’t leave much time to help people, spend time with my friends or my beloved George. I didn’t make new friends at the factory. There was a noticeable divide between the temps and the full-timers, and I got very depressed.
All I did was work, sleep, and watch telenovelas. After I had saved enough money, I bought my very own car. I often went on road trips to nowhere and hung out with myself. At the time, I thought that that was terrible, but it was time well spent. I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I am a person who is fine on her own and needs to spend time alone but also needs to connect with people. I realized that the reason I felt so empty was because I wasn’t capable of connecting with the car parts I was assembling at the factory seven days a week, seven hours a day.
During that time, my thoughts were always in Mexico. When my nightmares about windmills yelling at me while I was drowning on my way to Posen Land came back again, I knew that I had to change jobs. But I hung in there until the temp agency laid me off. I decided that I needed a fresh start, time to figure it all out, again. So I gave up my apartment, packed what fit in my car and drove to Mexico.
I spent three months in Mexico living with my parents. Mexico had undergone a lot of changes, thanks to a new government. By that time, most members of the colony had forgotten that they had once rejected me and didn’t seem to care one way or the other how I dressed, or what I was up to, for that matter.
Aaron Neudorf had vanished into thin air. El Guero and his crew had left Durango and moved on to another part of Mexico. Once in a while, I ran into one of El Guero’s bodyguards, who seemed to be the only one who was still living in Nuevo Ideal. He always acknowledged me with his typical cowboy head nod, saying, “Guerita!” when he saw me.
I spent time at an internet cafe in Nuevo Ideal, and learned computers while staying in touch with George, Josh, and occasionally Kristina and Sam via email.
I spent a lot of alone time in the mountains. I visited with Irma and the Bueckert girls once in a while but other than that I helped mom around the house. After a while, my thoughts went back to Canada, and when I acknowledged what my life would be like if I stayed in Mexico, I decided to go back to Canada. This time I had no problem finding work, but I made interpreting as a volunteer my priority, and soon realized that I had found my calling. After my first interpreting gig for the police, they offered me a job and training, specifically for police and court interpreting. In addition to that, I began to volunteer as an interpreter for childcare providers at a health center that ran programs for Low German-speaking Mennonites. Within a couple of years that turned into a part-time job as a Low German peer worker, and eventually turned into a full-time position as a Low German health worker.
Every morning I would wake up in disbelief that I was getting paid to connect and build relationships with both the “Dietsch” and the “non-Dietsch.” I worked and connected with incredible people every single day. I received nothing but compliments and much praise for the work that I did on a daily basis. My supervisor often said, “Anna, I think you should go back to school for social work.”
I resisted the idea. “But I already have the best job in the world, and besides, I think I’m too old now anyway,” I most often replied.
“Nonsense,” she would say. “I went back to school in my forties.”
I often thought, “Man, these people go to school forever!”
After ten-plus years of working, taking courses here and there that were required for certain jobs, I reached my limit on promotions. I finally decided to take a chance and apply to go to college.
I had no more doubts about what I wanted to do. I had years of experience under my belt, and I was ready for a new adventure when I decided that it was time to go to college and earn the certificate to make it official.
Nineteen years after finishing my OSSD, twenty-some trips back to Mexico, and many adventures later, while relying heavily on technology to do all my writing, I finally applied to the Social Service Worker program at Conestoga College.
I was invited to bring my resume to an information session at the college, where I learned that they had received five hundred applications for that particular program, but only had seventy-five spots. Just sitting in that crowd listening to the professor tell us to handwrite a short essay about why we wanted to be in the program was enough to send me into the worse panic attack I had ever experienced. In spite of my lack of practiced handwriting, I wrote what I could, but I was sure it was terrible. I drove home feeling awful about myself, thinking that I was the biggest loser for even thinking that I could contribute or be part of such a group.
During the weeks that followed, I spent time thinking of other opportunities I might explore to keep moving forward. Finally, five weeks later, I received that dreaded envelope that I was sure was going to say, “Sorry, Anna! Nice try!” It didn’t. Instead, it said, “Congratulations! We are pleased to offer you acceptance to the Social Service Worker program.”
I was beside myself. I took a picture of the letter and sent it to my favorite person, whom I had confided in during the wait, and asked, “What does this even mean?”
“You're going to college, Anna!!!! Didn't I tell you? What will it take for you to believe in yourself?”
“Holy shit!” was all that fell out of my mouth.
When I told Mom the news, she asked, “Why?”
“Because this is what I want to do, and I will make more money when I am done.”
“Okay,” she replied.
Thanks to an army of incredible role models who, ironically, happen to be mostly men who have crossed my path, believed in me, and made me recognize my potential, I am going to college. It’s a full-time program, and I’m starting this fall. That won't leave me much time to blog, and that’s why I will have to leave you here for now.
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