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The Parts We Play

“Do you ever feel like breaking down?

Do you ever feel out of place?”

High five if reading this immediately took you back to middle school! Hey, don’t judge me. We’ve all been there. Confusion about who or what we’re supposed to be. Back then, that might’ve just been teenage angst. At this age, though, I’m going to say it’s legitimate.

This brings us to the topic of Blog Week 2: Roles. More specifically, confusion about what our roles are in this program, at work, in our group, etc.

Prior to arrival, I thought that the biggest challenge I would face in Seattle was going to be the tasks assigned to me. NNEERHH–wrong!

As I enter week 3 at work, I’m becoming increasingly comfortable with Salesforce. When my supervisors ask me help populate our database, I’m happy to do so because it’s gotten easier and easier for me. I can also see the value in my work, which will help keep YUPS’s relationships with others clear and organized, an effect that will stay remain after I return to Durham.

Last week, we took semi-professional photos of our Class 2 students for the grad book. I assisted by standing as still as possible while holding up the solar reflector, which brings light to the subjects’ faces. Not only was I happy to be outside in the gorgeous day helping out, cracking jokes with the students, but I also was glad that the staff felt comfortable asking me to help them with this mini-project. From the profuse thanks they gave me, I got the feeling that maybe they thought I would consider it grunt work. On the contrary, it was the most fun I’d had all week, to watch the students do silly poses and give the camera their best GQ faces.

In the midst of all this job satisfaction, though, a nagging question hatched.

What am I considered as at this job? Am I a staff member? An intern? A volunteer? I think it’s a mix of the first two. I don’t mind being either, but I can’t help but be bothered by the question. It’s like an identity crisis.

On one hand, the work that I do seems intern-esque: slightly repetitive, but necessary (which I don’t protest. I can’t deliver a pitch, nor do I want that responsibility). On the other hand, the treatment I receive–like gratitude for doing what I thought was just my job–makes me feel like maybe they see me as a junior/new staff member doing an intern’s work.

And to make things even more complicated, my relationship with the students is incredibly ambiguous. Working at the front desk, I get more interaction with the students than I do with any of the staff. The students are also all about the same age as me. Perhaps they see me as a peer rather than an authority figure. In any case, we’re on easy, casual terms. They’re not afraid to be themselves around me, which is a good thing and a bad thing. While I’m glad to have the opportunity to get to know the group that I’m working for–that Year Up is working for–better, I sometimes wonder…no, I believe, that there should exist some boundaries between intern/staff me and student X. In truth, if I am an intern, the boundaries are fuzzy. Still, I’m guessing there’s some faint or ignored line there that needs to be acknowledged.

This wraps up week 2. Changes continually happen, so let’s see if the next few weeks bring some clarification.


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This entry was posted on July 6, 2012 by .
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