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In My Own Words

Take note

Jacqueline Quillen
MSM Class of 2011

(May, 2011) It is almost a year after graduating from college and I can honestly say that life has pleasantly surprised me. I never thought I would be where I am today, which is high above the clouds on an airplane returning from a work trip.

Most surprising life events since graduating from college:

1) I got married and only spent two months planning the wedding (Job well done to all those involved in the planning).

2) I landed an internship with a law firm just three months after graduation and pursued a full-time position from that internship in another three months.

3) After eight months, I left my position at the law firm for another job offer with a smaller marketing agency.

I remember having a conversation about marriage with my Aunt Terry when I was no more than 10 years old. Aunt Terry said she married my Uncle Paul when she was 23 and I thought that was a perfect age to be married. As I grew older I thought this age seemed too early to be married, especially if I wanted to continue education or focus on my career for a while. Some may feel that marriage gets in the way of focusing on things like further education, career goals or even travelling. It is more common now to wait longer to marry and start a family. It feels great to have taken the spontaneous route of getting married at 22 years old. I still have many goals I wish to accomplish that I feel even more motivated to do so because I have Seanís support. It feels like we can conquer the world together.

Though it all feels right, it is still strange to think that I am married and now have a husband. (That sounds so old!) I guess what Iím trying to say is that I always feel like a little kid still. The strangeness is the same kind I felt during other somewhat "big" events in my life Ė like getting my driverís license, going off to college, graduating from college, working my first real job. It all feels like one big field trip! Of course the reality of working everyday settled in and quickly replaced that exciting field trip with an exhausted routine.

I can safely say I am not exhausted by routine in my new job because of all the travelling I am doing. The travelling is only for the first couple months which I will be thankful for. My very first task was to fly to South Dakota for a conference about detention issues in Indian Country. The conference was more of a listening session between representatives from the U.S. Justice Department, representatives from Native American tribes, a U.S. district attorney and other representatives of the justice/detention system in Indian Country. Listening to the natives was the most eye-opening experience. One native in particular, Bernie, really impressed me with his outlook on life.

Bernie is a social worker in a detention facility for juveniles. He makes less than $20 a day and has not received a salary raise in five years. He did not mention this in order to complain or receive sympathy. Bernie was pretty much telling the others to stop complaining about not having enough money and simply do it for your passion. I believe his exact words were, "I donít want to hear this whining crap." He discussed his passion for helping children to get on the right path in life and carry out the lessons their elders taught.

Bernieís words hit home to me as he talked so passionately about his daily struggles, especially when he said what an honor it was to be a part of the discussion because he is just a social worker. Just a social worker. Some may see it as "just a social worker," but I find his work incredibly admirable. I immediately thought back to my roommateís inspirational speech at graduation when she told us to go and quietly change the world. Follow our passions and quietly change the world. Bernie is quietly changing the world by helping children who have strayed from the right path with finding their way back. These children then grow up to be more influential leaders within their tribe, like Bernie.

The conference was a mix between people like Bernie, who wanted to make a difference in his own tribe and help others make a difference in their tribes, and people who used the conference to simply complain about the government to the members of the Justice Department. It seemed like the people who were actually hopeful, like Bernie, were the people seeing somewhat of a success in their tribes because they are putting their all into every dayís work. Other people kept complaining about the lack of funding, which is an obvious issue that cannot be fixed after one conference.

The Justice Department did not organize a conference just to hear how much money each person needs, but to create an open environment to discuss hardships tribes experience and methods that may be helpful to implement in dealing with detention. When people started getting pessimistic rather than actually utilizing this opportunity for open discussion with the government, Bernie turned the discussion around to get people back on track. His optimistic attitude did not sugarcoat the still horrible conditions being discussed, but simply got everyone thinking the right way Ė what can we do?

Of course Bernieís inspirational talk led me to contemplate my own life and how I am quietly changing the world. At first I thought how am I, the note-taker at this conference, possibly changing the world? But I am in fact doing a small deed that may make a small difference in the world, especially for Native Americans. I paid close attention to what everyone said during the conference, taking down the most important points, while another note-taker transcribed the entire conference, verbatim. The representatives from the Justice Department are taking our notes to form a bill to present to Congress. Hopefully Congress will pass the bill and provide more support to Indian Country to minimize the amount of crime and increase the availability of resources for detention and treatment facilities.

Though I left one marketing department for a position in another marketing agency, I still thought my new job would be a completely different realm from that of the law firm. At the conference, I realized my new job actually deals a lot with law and the legal system, especially working with the Justice Department. In my last job I worked on improving my writing skills through my daily tasks of writing article blurbs and press releases. Every day got so busy that I could never actually spend quality time focusing on just one thing to improve. I ended up writing blurbs and press releases quickly just to get them off my plate, rather than spending the time to write them in a more creative way.

With my new job I will have the opportunity to improve my writing skills further by writing about things that strike some sort of passion in me. I never would have expected to feel passionate about Indian Country, but I acquired that passion just by being around others who are passionate about their own lives and careers.

One of Bernieís main themes was about working together Ė different tribes working together, Indian Country and the federal government working together, etc. If we all work together, quietly in our own world, we can help change the world. We just have to be patient and keep going, even when there are bumps along the way. Our passion should help guide us through this life.

Read other articles by Jacqueline Quillen