Tag Archives: college

WHEN I WORKED IN A JAIL

When I graduated from college I moved back home with my parents. As is common for most. However, Im not sure most parents give you 8 weeks to “get a job and move on”. I know. Cruel, right? It explains a lot about me however. I am kidding of course. They had two other kids and Im pretty sure plans to rent my room out but whatever.

So in December of 1995 there was no such thing as an Internet Job Search Engine. Or if there was the Ellis’s did not have access to such new technology. Yes- I am old. So job hunting had to happen the old fashioned way. Newspapers and hitting the streets. My grandmother had told me that she worked for the City of Denton for a few years and loved it. They “had good benefits” she said. So off I went to the City offices to look at job postings. And let me add that a 22 year old girl with a degree in Psychology and work experience at a Deli and a tanning salon is in HUGE demand. HUGE. (Sarcasm).

So I looked at all of the job postings and wrote down all of the descriptions of jobs and contact information. One caught my eye. It paid the most. Like $24,000 a year. Which to me was totally off the charts. I would be RICH! Job Title: Juvenile Detention Officer. Sounds easy enough. I typed up my resume, proudly displayed my degree in Psychology across the top and sent it in. Im pretty sure via snail mail. And what do you know….they called me. For an interview. I was so pleased to tell my Dad I had an interview and would be out of the house and on my own as timely as I could. And then I told him the job title. And he might have grimaced a bit. Or been nauseous Im not really sure which. What could he say, though…he TOLD me to find a job.

As if you didn’t already picture this as my childhood I was a bit sheltered. I grew up in middle class, white suburbia. Not a whole shit ton of exposure to crime, domestic violence, drugs or broken homes. So walking into a jail for the first time (well OK an American jail…thats another blog) was quite eye-opening and a tad scary to be honest. But my interviewer was female and cool and put me at ease. She did look at me funny when I first walked in. “UMMMMM are you Jennifer Ellis?” she asked. I MIGHT have been a tad smaller than she expected, or blonder, or both. Let me just fast forward here and say I nailed it. The interview that is. I was funny. And charming. And scared shitless. And might have embellished how deep my desire was to help wayward youth. I just needed the paycheck. HIRED! Hired? Holy crap. A mix of happiness and total fear filled my parents. And me.

It was everything you picture it to be. It was sad and depressing and eye-opening and life changing. Working in a Juvenile jail. I worked there for a year before moving to Austin to work in Juvenile Probation there for several years. I learned more about the world, about me, about people, about everything in that first year working than I ever did in years of college. That job shaped my beliefs….political and social. It changed the way I look at people. It slapped my stereotypes in the face. These kids and their families taught me more than any book ever could have.

One of my first night’s on the job two 16 year old boys were brought in for murder. I spent 8 hours a day for a year with them. Taking them meals, walking them to class, giving them chores to do, medication, walking them to visitation, speaking with their families, walking them to court dates. You really get to know someone when you spend 8 hours a day with them. They were tried as adults. And sentenced to 75 years in prison. I don’t have much to say about that. Except that I still think about those two boys sometimes.

When I tell people now that I was a Juvenile Probation Officer they laugh, then look at me and say “Seriously?”. It seems like a bazillion years ago. I guess it was. I had my hair pulled out, was bitten, spit at and had a few things thrown at me. There were moments I was scared. But the good far outweighed the bad. Those few years…before kids, before you get old and jaded, when your mind is open…I wouldn’t trade them for anything. That job changed how I thought. And shaped how I raise my kids. How I look at other kids. I am so grateful I was too stupid to realize how stupid the whole idea of me working in a jail was. Funny how things, moments, people can affect your life in so many ways, for so very long after they over.

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FOUR AND A HALF YEARS

She keeps saying it and I keep glossing over it. But for some reason this weekend it hit me. She is leaving in four and a half years. “Going faaaar away to college” she says. UGH. My stomach HURTS. I swear to you she was just yesterday four and a half years old. We were trying to decide if we should hold her back in Pre-K for one more year since she has a summer birthday. Thank God we did. I got one more year with her. Or this blog could be titled “THREE AND A HALF YEARS” and I’d be having more of a nervous breakdown than I already am.

So in my head I am still about 19. My body sometimes feels every bit of 42 but Im pretty sure Im still the idiot 19 year old girl I once was. How the hell I have a kid talking about college is beyond me. I swear there are days I still wake up and think “shit there are 2 humans relying on me to keep them alive”. But really they aren’t. They are potty trained (for the most part 😉 ), they make their own plans with friends, they shower themselves (mostly), they feed themselves, they come and go as they please and Im pretty much done parenting Maddie. Andy still needs reminding that his teeth are not self-cleaning.

I always heard adults saying “enjoy their childhood it goes VERY fast”. They were so right. I blinked and she was a lady. A person. She’s always been opinionated and wise beyond her years but SHIT. College? She’s asking to visit campuses and discuss what places have what majors and what universities have strong support for women on campus. Seriously? My college search criteria consisted of “what school has bars within walking distance?”. Who’s kid is this?

Looking back on Elementary School it is mostly a blur. All of the grades kind of run together. Literally FLEW by. We are about to register her for High School classes. I will likely vomit during the process. How am I even old enough to have a high school aged kid? Wasn’t I JUST in High School? She gets her driver’s permit in 8 months. Holy Hell. This is all going way too fast at this point. I am so very proud of my daughter. She gets straight A’s in honors classes, is the Secretary of Student Council, is very disciplined in Cheerleading and works hard three to four times a week at practice. She is a decent guitar player and at times I see her be so sweet to her brother when she thinks Im not watching. She truly loves her friends. She is a good person and we could not be prouder. I often say she ended up great DESPITE her Mother but Im just going to go ahead and take a little credit…my mini-me 🙂

Above all of her accomplishments I am most proud of how strong she is. She battles a daily barrage of health problems, weakness, exhaustion and aches and pains that a stupid autoimmune disorder dishes out to her and still pushes on. And God Bless the man who decides to spend his life with her. She is a HANDFUL. Strong-willed, opinionated, and mouthy. I have no idea where that comes from….yes I do. A long line of Ellis/Cannon/Harris women that don’t take any shit. A kind heart and a strong gut.

Four and a half years is going to fly by. I know it. I dread it. Its a funny mixed bag of emotions. A sadness that my sweet first born, beautiful child will fly away from home and things will never be the same. Alongside a swelling pride that I helped raise a person I know is going to change the world. I guess its true that kids are just on loan to us…and the goal really is for them to fly. I plan to enjoy every second of the next four and a half years.

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