Make it Stop

Someone is out to punish me. I’m convinced of it. My god, could this have come at a worse time?? I don’t think so.

I received a letter in the mail today that my application to be a mentor in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program has been DECLINED. I was home all day basically doing nothing, and neglected to check my mailbox until 5:00 in the afternoon. That’s classic beast apathy right there. I opened the envelope, read the letter, and just stood in my kitchen . . . stupefied. Shattered. Feeling like I was about to keel over and break – physically – into a million pieces onto the floor and lie there in busted fragments, hopefully to fucking die so I’ll be put out of my misery for good.

An online application eight weeks ago, then two phone conversations, then lengthy character referrals from four friends/co-workers, and then a grueling, very personal and intrusive two hour face-to-face interview. They were, to my understanding, trying to unearth past criminal records, drug use, a history of sexual abuse either as victim or perpetrator, a reckless driving record, spotty employment history, poor people skills, violent temperament, etc. I have NONE of those. Plus I was a teacher for six years! And yet, this reputable nonprofit organization has decided that I am UNFIT to have a young person in my charge for a mere eight hours per month. Do you have any idea how that feels? I am, in a word, devastated. I’ve been crying for hours. My eyelids are swollen to five times their normal size.

It is the strict policy of Big Brothers/Big Sisters not to disclose the reasons for an applicant’s rejection. And that’s just a splendid situation for me right now, because I’m already depressed, already struggling to pull my self-worth out of the toilet, and already suffocating under a blanket of my personal weaknesses, whether they be real or imagined. And now, I’ve been sent an overt message from these people that I, for reasons unknown to me, cannot be trusted to take an underprivileged 14 year-old girl to the museum for an afternoon, or to a yoga class, or to lunch, or to play frisbee at Sheep Meadow in Central Park, or to hear some live music at this summer’s River-to-River Festival, or to the young womens’ department at Bloomingdale’s, or for an inside tour of my brother’s music recording studio in midtown, or just for a walk and a talk. Yes, those are real things that I had planned for me and my “little sister”. I was really looking forward to it.

I am so hurt and crushed. I feel like someone has dragged barbed wire across my heart. I feel like if I were to get hit by a bus tomorrow it would be a great service to humankind.

Before I got my rejection today, I had read countless articles, discussion forums, etc from people who participated in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. Every one of them raved about what a rewarding and gratifying experience it was, how good it felt to make a difference in a young person’s life and be a positive role model. And now I won’t have the chance to feel any of that. Why? What’s so wrong with me? I did well on the interview, I know I did. How did I screw this up? What unforgivable, catastrophic flaw did they see in me? Good grief, do I need this now????

Apparently I have been deemed a person unsuitable to take a kid for ice cream. That’s just swell. I think my bus is waiting . . .

19 thoughts on “Make it Stop

  1. 100swallows says:

    Claudia: You have to pull yourself together, kid. I can understand the immense disappointment after all the tests and interviews and so on while you dreamed up fun outings with your imaginary “little sister”. But now you are reading too much into that organization’s rejection of your application. That’s all it is, after all. They certainly never meant to put you down or declare you an NG or a human failure. Look for other ways to find a girl to spend time with and share your fine imagination and love of life. But you’ll have to brighten up a little before introducing yourself. 🙂

    • artmodel says:

      100swallows,

      Thanks for your support and advice. I understand what you’re saying. I just want you to keep in mind that this rejection came right in wheelhouse of a serious bout with clinical depression. Under these special circumstances, the sadness and emotions are amplified significantly. That was my larger point with this post.

      Believe me, I have experienced many disappointments in life, like everyone else. And take my word for it that I have handled them a lot better than this! Really I have. I would not normally be so distraught if I were stronger overall, mentally and emotionally. Honestly, I don’t know if I would have bothered posting it on the blog at all if I were not currently depressed.

      How I wish that it were as easy as simply “brightening up” or “pulling myself together”. That would be great. I am trying, I assure you. But the enemy is formidable, as the millions of people in this country who suffer from depression would attest.

      Thanks again for your comments. It’s nice to hear from you.

      Claudia

  2. Stephanie says:

    Dear Claudia,

    I know what a disappointment this must have been. You know, I know and a whole lot of people know that you would be a great Big Sister. And just as 100Swallows said, you’ll find a way to — it doesn’t have to be through this organization.

    You are an amazing and beautiful person with an enormous generosity and capacity for love. I know it from personal experience and all your readers have commented on it because it comes through even in your writing! How many people would have the bravery to reveal themselves physically, emotionally and spiritually the way you do? You are always giving so much to others.

    Go spend time with people who love you and treat yourself kindly. Find something to make you laugh. If I were there, I would give you a big hug, my friend. When I am there, I will.

    Love,
    Steph

    • artmodel says:

      Stephanie,

      Thanks for that. I don’t know what to say except I love you 🙂

      I can’t wait for your visit! So looking forward to it, you have no idea. That hug sounds wonderful . . .

      Talk soon,
      Claudia

  3. Listen, the BB/BS org is after all a corporation, as always, concerned about all sorts of liabilities. Despite their charity facade, they do not tolerate any amount of risk, and their judgment is NOT an objective measurement of the human spirit. You have to understand that the world in general is not very kind or understanding of the artistic types. This should be no news to you. What you do have to understand is that we function at a high plane of existence, and we bring truth, beauty, and meaning into the world. Artistic people are also cultural consultants, responsible for pointing out the flaws of society. We are considered rebels and often a necessary evil, when in reality we are the necessary good. We are justice without its blindfold. All this represents too much for ordinary folk to digest; they are intimidated and and afraid of us because we place a mirror before their face and show them their true humanity. They are afraid of nudity because they are afraid to be nude, afraid of the unknown, afraid of their true humanity.

    It takes a thousand yeses and a single no to deny such things in a corporation with such paranoia of public perception. You cannot allow the perception of that single, and ordinary, individual who said “no” dictate the way you feel about yourself.

    Where would we be if all art models waited for the approval of everyone they knew before they undressed before an artist? Where would artists be if they waited for approval of every critic before showing their work at a gallery? You have to have faith in who you are and the value of what you do, regardless of public perception.

    It is certain that those children would be better off having a mentor that shows them how not to be afraid of their humanity. Unfortunately, you came across an adult who was afraid, whose sentiments determined what influence those children would be exposed to. But keep in mind, they are not the only organization that could use you help, nor is it the only way to be a mentor to a child.

    • artmodel says:

      Sergio,

      I have been wondering if my profession as a nude art model had anything to do with this. The subject did come up during the interview, but I didn’t perceive any discomfort with it on the part of my interviewer. I found him to be a very nice guy, actually. But like you said, you never know what’s discussed behind closed doors.

      Your comments are compelling. What a great champion you are for artists and creative types. You should be our official spokesperson! But seriously, your points are valid and very insightful.

      What’s most crushing about this though, Sergio, is that I KNOW I would have been a good Big Sister. I just know it. I have a history of working with children and young people, and they are comfortable with me, relate to me, and always respond positively to me, without exception.

      I don’t like unsolved “puzzles”. It’s just my nature I guess. So it’s the not knowing what the problem was that’s driving me crazy. And given my fragile state of late, I’m prone to imagining things that are all guesswork and conjecture. I’m the kind of person who will stick with the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle throughout the entire week, until that last missing clue is filled in. The mystery problem with BB/BS is now my missing clue. Unfortunately, this one will never be solved.

      I love the things you said about art models. It’s refreshing to hear someone express a clear understanding of a very misunderstood profession. You’re right that I would have told my little sister not to be afraid, not to let fears cripple her spirit, and to follow her heart in her life’s journey.

      Thanks so much for your profound comments. They did provide me with a jolt of empowerment. How I needed that! Much appreciated, Sergio.

      Claudia

  4. Bruce says:

    Claudia,
    The others have said it all much better than I could, but you can be my Big Sister anytime!

    • artmodel says:

      Bruce,

      As tall as you are, I don’t think I could be a “big” anything for you!

      What a sweet sentiment, my dear friend. Thanks for making me smile 🙂

      Claudia

  5. Lin says:

    Claudia, this decision had nothing to do with you as a person. You are entirely suitable to be a mentor. You know it, they know it, we all know it. It is simply a matter of your job. Although we readers know that art modelling is a time-honoured artistic profession, the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program has an insurance policy which simply wouldn’t allow for children to be in the care of…gasp…a person who models nude. This is a result of the modern repressive, litigious, politically correct culture. You must realise it is nothing to do with YOU, Claudia, as a person, it is simply a legal issue. The same rules apply over here and I would be subject to the same bigotry if I applied for similar programs.

    As much as it hurts, let it go, my friend. No buses allowed. You are a beautiful person. You will continue to delight and enrich the lives of those of us who are fortunate enough to know you, and you have a higher purpose, even if it is not apparent to you at the moment.

    I am definitely not religious, but in the words of my mother’s favourite movie “The Sound of Music” (which may be deeply uncool but she made me watch some 26 times so I know it rather too well!):

    “Reverend Mother always says when the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window.”

    Stay strong. Wait for your window. It will reveal itself in time.

    Hugs,

    Lin

    • artmodel says:

      Lin,

      Once again, you have set me straight, and provided me with an honest, no-nonsense perspective that clarifies things for me. With the information you provided, things suddenly make sense. Still disappointing, but makes sense.

      What a sad situation, that my nude modeling is a liability in other areas of life. (Dating is another, but I won’t get into that. I’m depressed enough!)

      I have read your comments several times, Lin. And I’ve cried from your passionate convictions, friendship, and kind words toward me. I’m so happy to know you.

      By the way, my mother loves “The Sound of Music” too! Yes, it may be uncool, but it’s enjoyable nevertheless.

      It is largely due to your comments here, and the effect they had on me, that I’ve let the bus pass me by . . .

      Thank you, friend, from the bottom of my heart.

      Claudia

  6. KatManDu says:

    I understand your disappointment and also your desire. Seriously though….why give up? If that is what you want to do….there must surely be other child organizations in your area that you can volunteer for. It might be like dating…..going through alot of incompatible people till you find the right one. I used to work for a child’s organization and the social workers that do the interviewing are trained in many areas and may have picked up on your clinical depression…..they would have considered that to be an unstable environment. It’s not a reflection on you, its really just “business” and they have to put the child’s perceived safety first. But I say…go try somewhere else! The world always needs more willing volunteers and I’m sure you could find someplace as a better fit for you. I volunteer presently at an animal shelter and LOVE it. I get to know the animals so well…that its fun to see them since they start to recognize you (so its not as hard as seeing them once). Anyway….I encourage you to not give up, just see it as a bump in the road on your continued journey. Take care.

    • artmodel says:

      KatManDu,

      No, I won’t give up. There are other opportunities out there. You’re right, I just have to find the right fit.

      During the interview, it was highly unlikely that my depression was detectable. I was not suffering from an episode and was in a perfectly excellent mood. A good chunk of the interview time was spent discussing my childhood, relationship with my parents, etc. I had a wonderful childhood with no traumas or serious dysfunction, which is why I was so comfortable talking about it. I grew up in a very loving family. I though that’s supposed to be a good thing!

      It’s interesting that you mentioned your volunteering in an animal shelter. I have been an animal rights activist almost my entire life. An opportunity has arisen recently where I can participate even more in that cause. So I am looking forward to that.

      Thank you for commenting and for your encouragement. I hope you continue to visit Museworthy.

      Claudia

  7. Brian says:

    Claudia,

    Take it from someone who knows you – the LAST thing you are, is UNFIT to be a leader/mentor to a young person.

    In addition, the LAST thing you need is PERMISSION from someone else to be what you want to be.

    I know the rejection hurts, especially now – but the truth is, it’s really their loss, not yours. You have so much value to add to a young persons life (look at what you’ve done the past year for all of your readers!)…all you need to do is find another way.’

    Brian

    • artmodel says:

      Brian,

      Thank you for that. It means a lot coming from you. Self-doubt and insecurity isn’t your thing. I remember well!

      You’ve really boosted my confidence, and that is priceless. And yes, I will find another way.

      Great to hear from you, as always.

      Claudia

  8. ray says:

    Hi Claudia
    Sorry your still in the dumps. I could give advice but youve probably heard enough. Did you tell the recruiting interviewers about your depression?

    feel better Ray

    • artmodel says:

      Ray,

      Thanks for your good wishes. I’m slowly starting to feel better, in no small part to supportive reader comments like yours.

      The interviewer asked if I had ever been on medication or hospitalized for mood/psychiatric disorders. I answered, truthfully, no. I did tell him that I had depression in my history that I was controlling it successfully with supplements, meditation, etc. He said ok, and then moved on to another topic. The whole subject lasted all of 30 seconds. I don’t know. Maybe it didn’t help my cause. But I didn’t want to just lie outright.

      Claudia

  9. Ed says:

    Claudia, I offer you my sincerest condolences re your unfortunate news here. But I think I know why they decided to reject your application. It’s a long and complex story, but I think it’s supported by compelling evidence. The fact that they had access to your diary (your blog) in making a decision was IMO a big point against you. For even though I adore your blog, I can also see how it would be perceived by BB/BS. Just consider what kinds of things they’re doing in the UK:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1192207/Big-Brother-database-adults-working-children-ruin-innocent-lives-warns-watchdog.html

    ContactPoint is real and in use even now.

    I pass this along not to start any public flame war on your blog (yes of course I know it’s a controversial opinion and plenty of people disagree with me and trivialize my concerns), but merely to offer a perspective that I didn’t see previously represented in reader comments.

    • artmodel says:

      Ed,

      Wow! Thanks for that link, it was really eye-opening. It’s shocking how overboard institutions can go whenever children are involved.

      I have no way of knowing if BB/BS “found” my blog after my interview. But if they did, I can see how my personal disclosures – on top of all the nude art – could be easily misconstrued. What disappoints me is that an applicant’s true nature is what should really matter. If they couldn’t grasp my true nature from my writings, then it shows that paranoid vigilance, however irrational, is the modus operandi. I can’t fight that. I suppose we’re all misunderstood from time to time.

      Thanks again for the article. It shed a lot of light on this subject.

      Claudia

  10. RS says:

    I received a rejection letter from BBBS and it felt like there was something wrong with me. I had told all my friends that I was doing an interview and now I will be asked what happened but I don’t even know. I even called my lawyer to do the same background check on me as BBBS did. (Which cost me $20 for BBBS to do and $100 for my lawyer to do the same, lol) I am waiting to hear back from my lawyer. Maybe I will learn something about myself that I did not know that is in my background. I doubt it though. I think a lot of you for trying to be a good person Claudia and for wanting to help others, especially children. It’s BBBS who lost when they did not accept you as a volunteer. As for me, I will go on and do other things but I won’t be giving money to them anymore and that is a really big lose for them. Good Luck to you love.

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