My Profession: The Reality Behind Social Work vs. What People Think I Do.

As I sit here, killing a sinus infection, there is not much to do besides knock off some Netflix, rest, drink water, and sleep again. Needless to say, I’ve been getting some writing done and this post has been sitting around for years. I decided to finish it up.

I can spot it right away. I’m at a social gathering and I’m telling someone I’ve never met what I do for a living. I tell them I’m a social worker. “Oh..” is their response. When you’re as good at reading people as I am, you try not to laugh at how blunt their reaction comes off. “Oh..” translates into, “Right, so you take people’s kids from them. You make almost no money. You’re a male in a female dominated profession. Wait…why are you a social worker?? You could do anything??”

Sometimes it’s only a few of these I pick up on. Sometimes it’s all of them, haha. Still, it concerns me that this is what people think I do, and why I chose to practice Social Work. The public perception isn’t generally a good one. They’re right. When you think of a social sorker, or there is a social worker in a movie, generally the kids parents got shot and they become a ward of the state. CUE THE MOPPY LOOKING SOCIAL WORKER to take the kid into the Evil System. Or, the parents are screwing up at home, so the social worker comes to the house and tells the parent that they have 2 weeks to clean up their act, or they’re going to take their kid away from them. Think of an example, and it’s likely that social workers aren’t portrayed in a very positive light…ever.

There’s rarely a social worker who is shown finding a foster kid a great home to live in, or a social worker helping a troubled teenager with their depression at school and preventing a suicide, or a social worker sitting with a patient in a hospital in their last hours on this earth. I get it. It’s easier to pin the trope of the Evil Social Worker on this profession. Most of what we do is ugly, hard, and right there in the mud with the people going through it. Still, the image needs to change.

Here’s a dose of truth: Social workers often work in dangerous conditions for low pay. In New York, it is a felony to assault a nurse. However, social workers are not afforded the same safeguard under the law. Social workers provide a voice for the marginalized. That type of work and the individuals who are strong enough to do it speak volumes about the humanity of care. Sherry Saturno LCSW, DCSW had this to say about her exposure to this reality in the field of Social Work:

I have seen my colleagues threatened and exposed to violence in the field. I have read with a heavy heart accounts of fellow social workers who were murdered while performing their duties. I bore witness to a shooting on the job. Every one of these acts failed to obliterate the intent of the work that was being accomplished….There are so many things that cannot be explained: the senseless acts that inflict pain upon each other, and the unexpected compassion of strangers. Even in times of darkness, social workers affirm the power of good in the world by not giving up.

To choose a profession that doesn’t pay well, a profession that is dangerous at times, a profession that takes more from you than it gives back at the end of the day, isn’t a choice that one makes on a whim. To become a social worker, you have to care, you have to endure, you have to keep moving. What we do is a thankless job and an under funded career. We created a thing called, “self-care,” because what we do almost liteally sucks the life from you. I’m being dramatic. Sort of.

To give you a final idea of what I jumped into; when I moved back to Illinois, I had hoped that my home state had gotten its act together and paid attention to the cries of the people and government workers. Instead I returned to a state that was in crisis. Their response to their massive financial woes was to cut programs of the “least importance.” A band-aid for an amputation. What were those programs? Social Services. They sent a message loud and clear. “If you’re hurting, if you need help, if you got that help from Social Workers, go somewhere else. Gone Fishing.” I needed a job, and Illinois was surely not going to help me in that arena. So I left.

A long time ago, I wrote a post on why I do what I do, and in it, I explain that people who are struggling with depression and suicide have always been on my heart. Really, it’s been the underdogs that have been my drive. The people that society counts out, ignores, makes fun of, see no value in…these are my people. These people are why I do what I do. I don’t do it for money, I don’t hold my breath to be thanked, and I certainly don’t do it because it’s easy. I do it because I’m good at it, someone has to, and I’m tired of having no answer to the question, “If not me, then who? If not now, then when?”

There’s a song by Matthew West, it’s not a new song, but the lyrics to the song, “Do Something,” pretty much wrap up this final concept. There are problems out there and we’re the ones who are going to fix them. We are. You. Me. We.

So the next time you’re talking to someone and they tell you that they are a Social Worker or Counsellor, thank them and give them a pie. They don’t get that a lot….the praise I meant.

The Beginning of the Ending

This year I start the beginning to the ending of my twenties. Three years ago I wrote a piece on my thoughts entering the ending of my mid-twenties. No this won’t be a drawn-out piece on how a millennial feels old, or document my angst towards my wasted youth. No. In fact, it may be one of the shortest pieces I write on the subject matter. (Which if you’re a regular to the site, might be a relief, ha) Continue reading “The Beginning of the Ending”

How Moving my Life to New Zealand for 3 years Changed Me

I came to change New Zealand. After 3 years, New Zealand changed me. Cliche I know, but this ended up being the truth.

This post has been written over the past 18 months. My thoughts, my observations, and my feelings have obviously morphed along the way, but let’s just start at the beginning.

With 50lbs of luggage, a working knowledge of left hand driving, and one solid contact, I packed up what I owned and moved my life to New Zealand. I kissed my parents, hugged my niece, wished my siblings well, and flew. In my luggage was an optimistic, slightly naive, monstrously unrealistic idea that I was going to get a job, in my field, in the first few months. With…one…solid…contact. Yeah. Right. Continue reading “How Moving my Life to New Zealand for 3 years Changed Me”

How a 10 minute Run Changed my Life

This post comes a little late, and I wrote it a few days ago, but World Cup Cricket has taken over this nation. No apologies.

I was doing my usual workout at my gym on my day off. It had been a while and I wanted to get back into some routine. The workout went well and I went to the treadmill to do my usual 10 minute, post workout run. So, this run may not have changed my life in the way you might be expecting, but it was significant for this reason. A thought entered my head as I began running. “What if I just ran until I couldn’t run anymore? No looking at the monitor revealing my progress, just personal drive. How far could I run?”

Continue reading “How a 10 minute Run Changed my Life”

This is One Year

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At 5 AM today, one year ago, I arrived in my 747 jet airplane over the long white cloud of New Zealand. I was greeted by my very patient friend, Corbin Elliott, and taken to a parking meter. I remember smelling the air. The air had a thin cripsness, filled with, for lack of a better word, purity I had not inhaled before. Was this a magical land, or was I just creating things in my mind? The sun was coming up and I didn’t even care that I had just spent almost 20 hours walking, waiting, sitting, flying, walking, waiting, and sitting again…I was here…I was home.

At least this would become my home over the next days, weeks, months, and hopefully years that I would be staying here. I wouldn’t know it after I stepped off the plane, but I was about to embark on the most trying, testing, shaping, and beautiful journeys I have ever faced in my entire adult life.

This year has been one monument to faith after the next. Faith in what is possible, what is obtainable, and what is good. I have seen oceans, beaches, cities and forests. Mountains, towns, rivers, and villages. I’ve seen suns set and suns rise. (Metaphorically as well). I’ve seen an entire country of beautiful people. People who invite you into their home, greet you as their own. People who have a deep pride in their country, yet don’t take themselves too seriously. People that you want to spend the rest of your life knowing and understanding because the you know the payoff is going to be something huge. I’ve seen pure joy as well as absolute disparity. I’ve seen the dichotomy within New Zealand; the need and yet the hesitance…the bliss and yet the complete sadness…the masks we wear. I’ve seen doubt within myself manifest into thankfulness, confusion transforming into laughter, sadness blossoming into true euphoria. New friends came, old friends kept, family loved, family missed. How do you properly sum up what happened in a year? You’ll have to take my word. It was life changing.

To all my friends that I have failed to keep steady communication with over the 12 months I’ve been in NZ, I am sorry. I was much better doing this in person, as I tend to be traditional in this regard. I urge you to start a line of communication with me if you feel like it, I don’t mind at all, and it makes me glad to see how your lives are going. To those who have been writing to me whether on facebook, WhatsApp, Gmail, FaceTime calls, texts, and yes, letters, I thank you. You have made life 8,000 miles away much less distant.

If you want to see my year summed up in social media, I have linked my Instagram page, which I created after I moved to NZ, so everything I’ve taken on my Instagram up until this point has been a slice of my life here. Also, I’ve linked my year on Facebook, which is a little summary of the 20 biggest moments that happened to me over the year.

I guess the last thing that I want this blog to be about is thanking you, the person reading this. I started this blog with NO intention to have such a wide audience. I made the blog website in my room, during college, while I was procrastinating a test I was supposed to be studying for. I wrote for no one but myself. It was cathartic and therapeutic. Years later I would get “Freshly Pressed,” by WordPress and I suddenly found myself writing for people in India, Columbia, France, Russia, and you. I write because I love to, but also because it is a door. My website is a door that my mom, sisters, dad, brother in laws, and friends can enter and feel connected to me. With the few things I can give to them, and you, due to distance, I can give you this. So Thank You. It’s been one heck of a year. Time to look forward.

Wegweiser mit 2013 und 2014