What I’ve Been Doing for the Past 6 Months

Convicted murderer, high gang affiliations, addiction, domestic violence charges, and theft. I have to admit, I was quite nervous. Still, Te Whakaora Tangata wanted me to interview some people who attend their organization. I had never conducted interviews before, let alone talked for an hour at length with Maori people. What could I say? What couldn’t I say? What would be taboo for me to bring up? Will I insult them? What do I need to know before going into this? These questions and about thirty more were cycling through my head.

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For those who didn’t know, for the past 6 months I have been living in New Zealand, working with Maxim Institute. Maxim Institute is not the think tank where they come up with a bunch of ideas for a dirty magazine (sorry if that joke flew over your head), but rather a political think tank where we discuss policy and inform the leaders of the nation about issues that matter. Yeah, it’s been an interesting time. And for those who know me and are like, “Eric? You? Working at a political think tank? Yeah, okay. So what are you actually doing in NZ, common, you can tell me.” Ummm, I don’t know what to tell you. I have been.

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I graduate on Thursday and reflecting on what I’ve done here has been bitter/sweet. The beginning of this post was describing the project that I have been working on for the past 4 months. Basically Maxim and Te Whakaora Tangata (an organization that works on the Marae (a sacred meeting place for Maori (the native people of NZ))) have partnered to bring their first placement together in the internships history. Mainly to best take advantage of my specific skills as a Social Worker. What can I say? I’m kindof a big deal.

The day that I applied to the Maxim Institute, they asked me what I was passionate about. I told them that I loved being on the ground floor, helping people in their place of need. TW saw this as an opportunity to do something that they have been meaning to do for some time. They asked me if I could go to the Marae and interview people who have used their services. The object was to hear them out. The opportunity to be heard is a very powerful thing. To be noticed, to feel loved, cared for, and heard…can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. Additionally, as an organization, it is important to know that you are serving the people in the most effective and efficient way possible. This is done by the very popular and arduous process of research. I was to ask specific, and yet representative people questions about their past, present, and projected future through the work that TW has been doing in their lives. I was beyond excited. This was an opportunity for me to do what I have always wanted to do.

With my mentor Luke helping me through the process, I felt much more confident, as he has done this very thing in Germany 4 years ago. I knew from the start that the interviews would be incredibly helpful for the organization and for myself. I would gain knowledge and understanding about the people and culture, and TW would understand what they are doing well and maybe not so well.

Looking back on the experience now, I could not have been set up with a more perfect fit for my placement. This is Social Work. Helping people where they are at. Not in a cold office with a fluorescent light beating down on you, but on the streets, in their meeting places, in their homes, with their families, seeing the problems they’re facing, understanding their stories, and doing something about it. Social Work requires action, and I feel that my placement allowed me to know more about what that looks like. Now I am left with the question: “So what? What will you do about it?” Honestly, I can’t wait to answer that call, and this placement has given me the confidence to act.

This project was my baby, and tomorrow I present it to the organization, Maxim as well as the Lion Trust. I am excited and hopeful that the results will spur further action to aid the people in the Manurewa area. From here, I go on to bigger and more challenging opportunities in Social Work.

I will continue to live in the Maxim Intern Residence that I’ve been living in, until November, when the new batch of interns move in. There I will be living with the guys that I will be flatting with for the coming years in NZ. I have to say that I am excited for the changes ahead. Change, historically for me, Eric Peterson, doesn’t usually hit me until about 1-2 weeks later. At least not the sad things. So whatever comes, let it come. I’m ready for you.

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It wasn’t an Easy Decision….

For those of you, my readers, who are wondering what I plan on doing NOW that I have graduated…I wrote this for you. It is a detailed description of the process I went through many years ago to be where I am today. Enjoy.

Hello everyone. Friends, family, readers, and other people I know but are somewhere in between.

Some of you know what this is about, and some of you are completely in the dark. 3 years ago, I had been wrestling with a decision that entered my brain as a mere idea. That Idea, was working full time at an agency, in New Zealand.

It began with Corbin telling me that NZ had the highest teen suicide rate. I was sympathetic, but it never resonated with me. Next, we began learning about depression in my classes of Social Work. Then one year about 2 years ago, I took a class and I was required to read a note from an Asian, young adult. It was a suicide note. She wrote it with regret that she wasn’t a man, and if she was a man, then people on the streets would notice her and treat her with respect. Light would shine on her and the birds would sing her name. Her life would have meaning. She told her parents in the note that she was sorry for not living up to their standards. She was sorry that she got an A- and a 3.9 GPA in college. She then jumped out her 3rd floor dorm window to her death. As soon as I was done reading the note, I was speechless. “such a waste. such a complete waste of life…potential…so unnecessary. With speed, emotions were sprinting through my mind and coursing through my veins. It was the first time I almost cried at something I had read.

That day something inside of me changed. That day, I knew that this was the population of people that I was to devote my time to and save. God placed inside of me a certain heart, a caring heart, a keen sense to listen, discern, and comfort. Gifts granted to me by my father and honed by me over the years I have been on this Earth. It is rare for a person to know exactly what they need to do in life, but this was my moment.

The next decision was not so easy. In my heart, I felt called to help the teenagers and adolescents of New Zealand. This meant leaving my family, friends, and everything that felt….comfortable. Not many can say that they have started as fresh as I was about to commit to. For two years I struggled. Praying…but only half heartedly. Looking, but not as diligently. One night, a friend, in whom I had not seen in 5 years, spoke into my life in a prophetic and real way. That night, I knew my life was about to change.

I brought it before my small group and a few others, and they affirmed what I was feeling in my heart. This wasn’t easy for them, because it meant me leaving. Still, they are disciplined and spoke wisely on my behalf.

Bottom line. When I receive my actual Masters in Social Work diploma (which is being mailed to me, and line up and agency overseas to work from…..I will be leaving. Yes. It will most likely be for quite some time. Yes. I have thought about it for a while. Yes it will be the hardest emotionally draining thing I’ve ever done. People, for me, this is still exciting. Stepping out in obedience is something I have to do. If it transpires that I should not be going to New Zealand, then I will seek him in prayer and take the next step. That’s all we can ever do. I am taking the step because I truly believe that this is what I should be doing, and that feeling is impossible to get over.

This was not an easy decision, but it’s one that you deserve to know about. I love you all, and I will never stop writing, as long as I have the means to.

A New Frontier in Freedom

Well, this morning I went to my commencement ceremony and walked. Just in time too, four people after me, they announced a severe weather warning and suspended the ceremony! I was so proud to be done, and to re-join my family waiting for me with open arms and bright smiles. Kisses, hugs, and laughing are a big part of my family, and they were in no short supply today. Right now we are waiting for the weather to die down a bit before we fire up the grill and get eating.

I wanted to address the fact that my blog has been receiving SO much attention as of late. Two days ago, my blog post, “Here at the End of All Things…” was Freshly Pressed by WordPress. I couldn’t be more ecstatic and surprised by this, and I want to thank WP for doing that. I first starting writing blog posts in 2005, and I started writing for myself and for the entertainment of others. I never began writing to gain the approval or admiration of the masses, but merely to make you laugh, make you think, and make you love. If I’ve done that, then I’ve done my job.

Now, something I’ve noticed recently, that caught my attention, was a realization I had the other day. The realization was about facebook status’s and the progression of technology in today’s world. This is my thought: If something cool or weird, or awesome happens to someone, they will usually make a status about it. Additionally, if something stupid, unusual, or strange happens, someone will make a status about it. Finally, if something pointless, annoying, or completely irrelevant to me happens, someone will make a status about it. What I came to think is this: Facebook status’s, or “stati”, are just the unfiltered, textual, outward reflection of our minds. It’s Mind poetry, mind education, mind vomit. It’s all of these things. The interesting thing is this: Never before have we been SO in touch with what is going on in stranger’s minds. Never before have we even had the means to express our minds on such a large and public scale.

This strange change in communication has left many with a sense of intrusion that they don’t exactly know how to handle yet. They feel like the world is their stage and they are free to just say what they want. To a certain extent, that’s not far off. Their freedom doesn’t exactly make good dinner conversation, but it is yet another layer of freedom that has been explored. Still, I caution you this: Think…before doing something. Take this advise and use it for multiple situations. If there is something that doesn’t really need to be said, and may offend/hurt, then be aware of your words. They hold more power than you may realize.

I was just driving in my car when I thought about this phenomenon of sorts. I feel we are so used to updating status’s that we don’t realize whats really going on, but these statements are becoming more and more of a representation of “what is going on inside my mind.” This is how my brain works” “These are my thinking patterns.” I wouldn’t be surprised to see some research studies being done on “stati” in the upcoming years.

If you like my recent, “Important pieces in the world” style of writing, here are some other Proud Works that I have written up for you guys.

KONY 2012: An Unbiased Summary

Teenage Pregnancy at 70 year Low

Wordless, (on the treatment of women in the workplace)

Keeping Your Brain Healthy

The Id, Ego, and Superego Explained

Love Hurts…Literally.

Wind: The story you never knew.

Elevendy 11, 2011

FAT…otherwise known as “Insulation.” 

I used to listen to music on the Radio….

Here, at the End of All Things…

“Hmm.” My first reaction after walking out of my last ever class. Not the reaction I was expecting.

Well, I felt obligated to my readers to really get into my “day-after” experience, once I was done with school forever. I have to say, it still feels a little bit like every other summer break I’ve had: You get done, you feel great, but not too great, cause you always have another year of school. You can’t enjoy the break because you always feel like you have to get something done. You always feel like something is due, or that you missed something. Even now, as I am typing this, I have anxiety that I may have forgotten to do something at school, or at my internship, for which I’ve been done two days already.

I have to say that the easiest way to put it is, It hasn’t sunk in yet. Not sure if it ever will. Seriously, I’m unsure. I mean, I’ve been in school my entire life. Let’s get some perspective. I started school, technically we’ll begin in Kindergarden, when I was 6 years old (I was one of the older students in my grade.) If we start the school year on September 1st every year and end roughly June 1st, (rounding out the years I ended mid-June, and college years when I ended early May) This means that I have spent roughly 18 years in the academic field (if you count Kindergarden academic, haha) Now stay with me here, One academic year (the year we determined, sep1-jun1) Equates roughly to 274 days, 6576 hours, 394, 560 minutes, and 23 million seconds. This means that I have spent 4932 days in school, 118 thousand hours listening to teachers, over 7 million minutes taking assignments, and 426  million, one hundred-twenty-four thousand,  eight-hundred seconds with the pressure, stress and anxiety that school creates. Let that sink in.

Hey Eric, you pointed out all the bad things and none of the good things.” Yes. You’re right poignant reader. Very observant.

I do want to spend some time saying this: School can be hard at times, and even seem stupid to others. A waste of time, and a life killer. Get over yourself. If this is actually what you think, put into perspective that without a high school diploma, you might as well be homeless, or selling drugs, or mooching off of someone for the rest of your life, or the jackpot; D. All of the Above. The American Dream? Take advantage of this “really incredibly hard time” for you, and understand that it is going to put food on the table some day. I don’t want to get into a whole other topic about bullying, peer pressure, drug exposure, or family lives, but I recognize that in some cases, school can be pretty horrible.

That being said, I’m glad that I have a plan, and some goals to accomplish before I move to Grand Rapids, and then to New Zealand later in the year. Still, my original point with telling you exactly how long I’ve been in school was to explain that this is normal for me. Listen, I’ve been doing THIS, for my whole life. I don’t know anything else like I know academics. Sad, but it’s very, very true. I just wrote over 90 pages this year in academic papers, and I’ve totaled my paper writing count IN TOTAL (and this took me an hour and a half to add everything up) throughout my 6 college years to 764 pages! 239 pages from Calvin College and 525 pages from Aurora University. This is a LOT of time put into something that I care very much about.

I wanted to convey to you, the reader, just what this journey for has been like. I hope that you now have some sort of idea what I have been going through these past 6 years of college, and I want to let my good friends know that I will be seeing more of you in the near future. Sorry for being a hermit, ha. I love you all, and I want to thank every single one of you. So come out to my party when I can thank you personally. Peace.

Eric Peterson

A New Chapter begins. The exciting thing? I have NO idea where it will take me…

You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feetthere’s no telling where you might be swept off to… –Bilbo Baggins

If you like my recent, “Important pieces in the world” style of writing, here are some other Proud Works that I have written up for you guys.

KONY 2012: An Unbiased Summary

Teenage Pregnancy at 70 year Low

Wordless, (on the treatment of women in the workplace)

Keeping Your Brain Healthy

The Id, Ego, and Superego Explained

Love Hurts…Literally.

Wind: The story you never knew.

Elevendy 11, 2011

FAT…otherwise known as “Insulation.” 

I used to listen to music on the Radio….

Late nights and Interweb fights

Hey everyone. Whoa. [yawn/stretch/scream] Alright. So I just woke up and it’s 11am. I know that it is kinda late in the day, but believe it or not, I had a GREAT productive stretch the other night and didn’t get to bed until 4:35am. So really…I got about six and a half hours of sleep. Not quite as much as I wanted, but what can you do?

To give you a little idea of the master piece I created the other night, click on this link. I am glad that it turned out so well, but I am not even done! Ha. The assignment was to make our own Midterm and the best one gets a PERFECT grade for the Midterm. Yeah. Just a little incentive. If your Midterm does not get picked, then you have to take the Midterm when you get back from Spring Break. I’m hoping that mine is the best. Still, I have to add 4 essay questions to my Midterm, AND, just like all the other questions, I need to answer them. So that’s what I’ll be doing today.

So, I have done a very good job of not going on facebook while I was working the other night. I have to admit to you though. I feel like I am becoming anxiety prone to checking everything that I usually check throughout my day. It’s sad and very interesting to me. I would wager that you check it everyday as well. I would challenge you to try going 24 hours without it as well and gauge your reaction to it.

I have done this in the past and I have loved it. Leaving facebook for a little while has always helped me to recalibrate and not become a slave to the web, ha. Still, I’m not hating on fb, I am NOT going to delete my account when it’s all said and done. I love keeping in touch with all of you, and have even managed to keep a very valuable long distance friendship going for over a year via facebook. The site is doing a good job at its core focus: brining people together. and I appreciate that.

STILL, we need to be real with ourselves people. When does something become unhealthy? This is a valid question, and one that will change from person to person. And yet, you should be asking yourself that question about the internet, especially for this reason: The internet may bring people together, but it also has the power to keep people apart…Physically. Make sure that you are taking in healthy doses and geting out once and a while to actually SEE the people you interact with online.

Me? Well…I’ll be a prisoner of my computer for the next three days, but it is not because I am glued to pinterest, reddit, youtube, netflix, stumbleupon, or facebook. The reason is because I am working tirelessly to get the Masters Degree and see you all at my Graduation Bash I’m throwing on May 12th. I’m doing this for my parents, my friends, New Zealand, 19 years of schooling…and myself. God is my strength, and in the end, I always have to give Him the credit for getting me through what I thought I couldn’t. Thank you all for your support. And as always, I’ll keep you updated as I walk along this journey. Peace and live in the sunlight.

Eric