On Getting the Most Out of Life: An Interview with Jane Grandi
On Getting the Most Out of Life: An Interview with Jane Grandi By Carl Blumenthal
Jane Grandi, 65, has coped with mental illness since adolescence. She has found satisfaction in family life, employment, and advocacy. On the day I interviewed her, she wore a Museum of Modern Art T-shirt with pictures of famous artists on it. Monet is her favorite because his paintings of water lilies represent tranquility.
City Voices: Can you describe some of your jobs?
Jane: I worked in retail, in sales, at Abraham & Strauss, Sachs Fifth Avenue, and Franklin Simon. Did some modeling of clothes for customers. My first husband was a police officer. I was a traffic enforcement agent (“meter maid”) for 17 years.
Voices: And education?
Jane: I graduated Midwood High School. Got 18 credits from St. Francis College. [Both in Brooklyn].
Voices: What are examples of your advocacy?
Jane: One time I convinced a jury I was on that a young guy accused of robbery shouldn’t be convicted because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Twenty-five years later I saw him again. He had become a police officer. It was the best day of my life.
My involvement with law enforcement. I know how to talk to officers at meetings on how to treat people with mental illness. I’m against solitary confinement. It makes you mentally worse. There’s no justice for many people.
I went to [Senator] Schumer for help [when he was a congressman]. He told me I had Medicaid rights and helped me get food stamps. It’s good talking to politicians about what’s on your mind.
Voices: What are your other activities?
Jane: I take care of my husband who’s older than me. The usual things a wife does.
Voices: Anything else?
Jane: I’m beginning to write about my experiences. A doctor once told me writing about myself wasn’t good. But now I feel better when I do. Writing relieves anxiety.
I go to support meetings here. I’ve been to ones at Baltic Street [Advocacy, Employment and Housing, Inc.].
Voices: What are your plans for the future?
Jane: I’ve taken some of the peer courses [at Academy of Peer Services]. I’ve applied to Howie the Harp [for peer specialist training] a couple of times. Withdrew my application cause I’m not sure anyone would hire me at my age.
Voices: It sounds like you would have a lot to offer with all of your experience. Why not give it another try?
Jane: They told me if I want to I’ve got to fill out the application again. I’ll need to go to 125th Street [Howie the Harp’s Harlem office] and do it there.
Voices: Anything else you’d like to do?
Jane: I don’t think ahead the way I used to. One day at a time. I like dancing. I learned as a kid. We do ballroom dancing at the senior program where I go.