I made it through my first micro-grant interview process. I have a second one in a week when I'm home from Atlanta.
They asked that I bring them several different types of paperwork and I'm used to paperwork. I'm used to grants depending on deadlines, getting things filled in properly, and having all the topics addressed. What I'm not used to is the difference between applying for a grant geared toward a woman who is chronically ill & physically disabled compared to an academic grant. Instead of literature reviews and discussions of the missing area I had to discuss MYSELF. What pray-tell did I bring to the table and why was I deserving of a micro-grant.
Of course, I'm used to this being a necessary element of any granting process. But not THE necessary element of the process. In addition to my cv and my resume I also had to submit my doctor's forms, my list of medications, and IF I had them (I didn't) I was to bring my medical records for the past year. Since I didn't have them I signed a waiver that they can ask my physicians about my health for the last year. Next I'm supposed to meet with a rehabilitative counselor to discuss how and why illness has impacted my ability to work and how and why I see this micro-grant helping me.
OBVIOUSLY - self-work is helpful only so much as I don't over-work, am able to rest, and quite frankly- if I ever got really sick and had to take months and months off work - I'd still be screwed. But generally, if I can work 1/2 - 2/3rds time I'm OK. I generally take about one full day off per week to rest and lay horizontal. And frankly- I've LEARNED how to accommodate pain and function in a way that many chronically ill patients haven't. Meanwhile - I generally cannot do that at an OFFICE. I often have to do that at home or with a FLEXIBLE schedule. I've needed to have an office with a door so I can lay down and REST and sleep during my lunch hours. It sounds luxurious to some, but I've lived a pampered academic and government lifestyle where I HAVE been able to do this. I've been able to close my doors and sleep for an hour. I've MANAGED. I've functioned. I've WORKED my entire life sick until very recently. And I want to keep working only in a way that works better for me. And that's exactly what I told them.
The difference is THIS TIME I was a little more arrogant sounding and mentioned my education. I said I didn't WANT to work lower level or lower paying jobs BECAUSE I've worked my ass off to get my masters and doctoral degrees and believed my work should reflect that. It was the first time I've ever just come out and said that. Mostly because I don't value ANYONE based on what they do. On the other hand - I've been so busy having 2nd jobs or part time jobs my entire life that I've always lived the "I'm not too good to do this work." BUT NOW- I HAVE to have that philosophy. Because I WANT something.
I want to live without depending on a (fake) husband's insurance to stay alive. I want to make enough to have a little place where I can someday adopt a foster child and raise them close enough to my family and close friends to HAVE a sense of community and social support. I want to have a good enough job that I CAN take a day or two off work if I get sick and need to rest. I want to have a sense of stability and continuity and joy in my work. I want to love what I do and do what I love. And - I want to have healthcare so I CAN have self-care, vacations, and time off as necessary.
As we went over the paperwork for the grant I got tears in my eyes. Yes - they felt like tears of desperation. Instead of "valuable insight" or discussing data or my findings or what I was adding to the field I was giving them ME. I need a grant so I can help myself. It is the first time I've ever just asked anyone for money so I can do something for myself. It felt vulnerable and frightening.
I recovered myself but it didn't feel the same as all those years of training and hiding behind the veneer of academia. That's why we do those rituals and they come in useful. One mentor told me, "They like to reward winners, Melissa and you've been awarded two grants, so play that up." I'm not sure I like this new vulnerability and putting MYSELF forward. I might be able to get used to it but right now I'm still raw from the exercise. What I thought would be a fun exercise was scary - like applying for foodstamps and NEEDING them and asking for them with humility and gratitude. It is quite different to apply for a micro-grant to get a company started that might stand between me and not eating, me and healthcare, me and living with my parents or not. This matters. This felt like my future.