Kathleen: Finding a Purpose
Sometimes, learning a new skill means much more to a client than obtaining work. Sometimes, learning a new skill leads her to her true purpose in life. And that new skill gives her a way to communicate with and educate others. This is the story of one of our clients.
Distraught, “Kathleen” came to the Displaced Homemakers Center at the Bergen One-Stop unable to find work and without current skills. Due to caring for family members and her own illness, she had not worked outside of the home for several years. In 1968, at the age of 20, Kathleen was viciously raped, beaten and left for dead after an intruder attacked her in her own home. After a trial in which, she says, her character and morals were under more scrutiny than the rapist’s, the courts acquitted him. An actress, theater instructor and corporate trainer, Kathleen suffered bouts of illness and severe depression in the years following the attack and trial. Her marriage ended in an acrimonious divorce.
Kathleen came to our Displaced Homemakers Center from the Easter Seals 55+ program. She stated that she wanted to learn computer skills and return to corporate training. She believed that the computer skills would support her in finding work, although, as she said “I don’t even know how to turn the darn thing on and it scares me!” With the help of a small Displaced Homemakers training grant we were able to enroll her in a “Computer Basics” course at the Kaplan JCC of the Palisades. Kathleen attended classes regularly and enthusiastically and reported “I’m actually learning something and I feel like I can do this!”
After completing her course at the Kaplan JCC, Kathleen enrolled in a MS-Office Administration course using federal grant funding. She reports that her typing speed has improved and she is learning to create presentations using PowerPoint.
While on her path to computer literacy, Kathleen wrote: “For years, I had a lot of guilt after the rape and the trial … don’t know which was worse. I felt like I shouldn’t be here, that I had no reason or rhyme in life. I didn’t ask for someone to come into my home and rape me and try to kill me, yet, it was more important for the court to know what I was wearing and to judge my attractiveness and to come to the conclusion that I had somehow asked for it. I’m still angry. I don’t like what I see in today’s society and I honestly don’t think attitudes toward rape and violence against women have changed all that much. In taking these classes and learning about computers, I have found my purpose. I really do believe I have found what I’m put on earth for – I want to educate the community about rape – especially men – and help take the stigma off the victim. I know I still have a way to go, yet, I’m getting there. I’m on the journey.”
Tracy* came to us when her whole world was upside down. She had discovered that her husband’s business was failing and unbeknownst to her he had not been paying the mortgage for a significant period of time and the house was now in foreclosure. He had told her nothing about their financial troubles and had spent all their savings trying to hide the situation. In addition he had sold a family business without permission and was being sued.
With two children in high school and no income, she felt betrayed and lost. In addition she had been diagnosed with a serious illness a few years ago and was struggling with her health. She had been so preoccupied that she had trusted that things were being taken care of. She was terrified that her husband was getting ready to leave the family and that she would have nothing.
Tracy however was a resourceful and intelligent woman. With emotional support she confronted the situation. With our help she was able to see her skills and abilities – she had terrific energy and personal relationship skills. Seventeen years ago she had been a management executive at a corporate firm. Although she had no computer skills she rapidly learned. She began to educate herself on the current employment scene, attended legal education workshops and consulted a bankruptcy attorney that we referred her to. She also attended our Self Esteem and Confidence Building group and soon hired a divorce attorney.
She put together a new resume, began to go on interviews and was hired as Director of a prestigious non-profit organization. She started on her 60th birthday. Tracy was an inspiration to other women at our center – she shared her journey and helped others believe that they too could overcome obstacles and move on – we’re so proud of her.* not her real name