It’s unbelievable to me that for two decades I’ve worked as a paraprofessional with a masters degree. It hasn’t been easy the way I’ve had to balance feeling out of place, with liking the work, and being thought highly of. Most days it feels like I’d fallen down the stairs and woken up in the back of some high school kid’s car on the way to the hospital. But lucky me, to deal with this displacement and resulting cognitive dissonance, I have a special chair I sit in every day after my day job that’s in plain view of my MFA diploma on the wall, beside it a picture of my grandparents who wanted us grandkids to be able to afford college, and whose death benefit helped me attend my first two years at one. In the photo, she’s wearing a long, tan coat, and he, a long grey tweed one, her arm wrapped under his, both grateful as ever to be alive and to have a family to take pictures with. Behind them, you can see the scotch pine dividing our back yard from the drainage ditch and the gofer hole in the tall grass beyond, the dirt thrown around it imperceptible behind the waist-high golden blades. Clearly, my life, like this picture, is a memory of loved ones from my childhood no longer with me, but what it doesn’t show is how for me it also represents a big middle finger pointed in the direction of the school-of-all-that, you know who you are, who think working with children with disabilities the way I do, and the way my grandmother did when she was a kindergarten teacher, is somehow less important than being an English professor, primary, or secondary school teacher, whose contempt for paras is unconditionally supported by the bias that we either couldn’t hack being an adult, never tried to go to college, married up, wrapped ourselves around a secondary income, or spouse, just need a little side gig while keeping an eye on our kid, and never want to grow up and have to get a real job, and so now can go on living in the dirt-walled land of the underneath people, in the embarrassing and forgotten shadow.