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.

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”

Rumors and Here-say

So there’s a lot of rumor going around on whether I am sticking around America, or if I’ll return back to NZ after my trip home. Whether it’s friends hoping, or extended family inquisitively questioning, I decided it was time to bring everyone up to speed and on the same page. Finally.

I am moving back to the United States late January 2016.

There.

Any additional questions about where I will be living, where I will be working, if I’ve met someone, am I sick in the head, what’s wrong with NZ?, does my flat now have a spare room?……will not be answered. Partially because some of the questions are ridiculous, but mainly, because I don’t have answers for anything right now. Except my room. My flatmates will need another tenant. Message me if you’re keen. 🙂

Alright.

Cool.

Yeah.

See you in the New Year!

Are you…?

Alright people, [deep breath]. I really appreciate your interest in my life and I can’t really thank you all enough for those who helped me get where I need to be in my journey to New Zealand. STILL, I think this post is very necessary considering how out of the loop everyone seems to be. I am sorry for that. I had no idea.

Are you in New Zealand?

No, I am not…yet. I know this can seem pretty confusing considering I had a party to raise money to get me into the country, and then I dropped off the face of the earth months later.

So, you’re not going to live in New Zealand?

Not yet. The reason for this is because I moved to Grand Rapids to find a job, pay off loans and live with my best friends. That plan went south after about 4 months. I wasn’t making enough money and my loan payments started to come in fast.

So, you’re not going to New Zealand?

No. I AM going. The plan was always to eventually go, but I need the paperwork to go through FIRST. I need a visa to move into New Zealand and work there as a resident. I have been working on the paperwork since the beginning of graduate school, so it’s been over a year now, and still counting. It’s a long process, and I think I am very close to getting the visa. The plan to move is sometime in January.

I am only getting a job here to pay off loans until the paperwork goes through, which is going very well. In this down economy, I chose to go with the fast option and try to get a job in a job field I only recently came out of. Needless to say, they loved me and gave me a job. I will be delivering pizza for Sarpinos Pizza off N. Aurora St. in Naperville. The pay is very good, and the hours are likewise good.

Are you using the money you raised? What happened to that?

Well, I raised that money because the flights over to New Zealand are really quite expensive and the visa paperwork is equally expensive. The money has been set aside and will not be used until I need to use it to pay for the paperwork expenses and document verification. Again, I can’t thank you all enough for the generosity you displayed in helping me get to where I needed to go. Thank You.

Are you living back home?

Yes. I moved back in with my parents in Montgomery, IL to get a part time position that pays more and doesn’t hace the added variable of ‘rent.’ I love my family, and No, this is not a painful mistake that I made. It was the right one.

_______________________________________________________________________

I hope that I have answered your questions, and yes…these were real questions that I would get very frequently in conversation. Sometimes I was lucky and received ALL of them at the same time, or most of them at least.

Yours Always,

First Day on the Job

Hey everyone. So last night was my first day at the new job. What is my job? Well…I have a bachelors and masters degree in Social Work and wrote hundreds of papers on suicidal ideation, theory, and practice in social work, so……….naturally……………..I’m a Pizza Delivery Man.

I work at Village Inn Pizza, and my job is to take the pizzas where they need to go. Straight to the people’s mouths. I have decided to devote this segment of my blog to, “Things I Noticed On My First Day on the Job Delivering Pizzas.”

1. After spending 2 hours with my co-workers, it was VERY clear that they all needed therapy. Naturally that is exactly what I told my boss. [Boss rounds the corner in the kitchen after playfully tearing down a coworker]

Me: “This whole restaurant needs therapy.”

Boss: “Hahahaha”

Me: “I wasn’t kidding” [I was half kidding]

Boss: “And who are you supposed to be?”

Me: “A social worker.”

Boss: “Really?!”

Me: “Yeah.”

Boss: “Awesome.”

2. Secondly, which is redundant after noting that this is the second point…GPS’s are a delivery guy’s GODsend. I couldn’t do my job without one. I would seriously be dead in the water without it.

3. Lesbians like Our Pizza. I delivered pizza to two lesbians living together. That is all.

4. I Make a Mean Pizza. I do. I got really good at making a pizza in the day that I was there. Which leads me to my next observation.

5. I Learn Really Well in “Trial By Fire” Circumstances. I can’t really explain WHY I learn better when thrown into the fray with nothing but a spork in hand, but I do.

6. I Deliver FAST! Funny thing. Delivery men RARELY get pulled over for speeding because cops think that they could possibly be delivering to a station. Which means the cop that pulled over the delivery guy would endure some heavy ridicule by his fellow officers for making the food late. I love it!

7. I LOVE My Job. Think about it. How many of you get to Drive, Listen to your music all day, AND work with PIZZA all day long. This job is a blast and a half, and I love interacting with other people on the job too. It’s a clear bonus.

Well, that’s what I am doing for “monies,” as Corbin Elliott would say. I thought you would all get a kick out of what life is like for me now here in Grand Rapids. I miss you all like crazy [those of my readers who I left behind in Illinois] and I may possibly be back sometime in the Fall. Until then.