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.

Shia LaBeouf: Artistic Narcissist or Viral Genius?

If you haven’t heard already, Shia LaBeouf has minutes ago wrapped up his 72 hour marathon watching his movies. The thing is, he set up a live stream of himself…watching his movies. yeah. In New York City’s Angelika Film Centre, he sat through, in reverse chronological order–I can only assume so that people would see his better works first, for three days. AND, you could watch him watch his movies for the entire time that he was watching his movies…wherever you were in the world. HERE is a link to some of the feed that was recorded.

I can only assume that millions have tuned in to see what the big deal was about. He made news headlines, the story hit viral on multiple sites, twitter exploded with people who were watching or were in the theater with Shia watching, facebook tossed around his live stream site, etc, etc. Some were tasked to watch as much as they could to take snapshots of all the best moments of Shia watching his films. At roughly 7pm East Coast time, the marathon ended with Shia getting up and walking out of the theater to everyone applauding. He shook three hands on the way out, but then it was over. As quickly as it began, it ended.

I would say that I watched about 30-40 min of his live stream. Some yesterday, and some today after work. I made sure to catch the end of it. I have to say, I had some thoughts about the whole thing during and after it was all over. It’s not news to me that in the past five years or so, Shia has been branching out artistically. He will do things to make people think, or to seemingly shock and awe people. People would think him weird and odd. Some would say that he has mental issues or that he’s “not all there.” I wouldn’t be so quick to label Shia in this way.

Continue reading “Shia LaBeouf: Artistic Narcissist or Viral Genius?”

King of the Forest

Courage! What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the “ape” in apricot? What have they got that I ain’t got?

Recently, I attended a weekend retreat for the internship I took through the Maxim Institute in Auckland New Zealand. Alumni Weekend. A time where interns, past and new get together and laugh about old stories, update each other on what the internship has done for them, eat, drink, and you know…be merry. Obviously it’s so much more than that, but I want to talk about something that greatly touched me over that weekend.

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The Conveyer Belt of Life

Chicago beckons me back with the lake on her right, and the giants on her left. She’s my kind of town and my kind of home. Chicago, I’m coming.

FLG30

I’m going home tomorrow for the first time in over a year and a half. Until now, the longest I had been away from home was five months. I feel that I have been doing well in New Zealand. I am always asked one of three questions when people here find out I’m American, and sometimes I get all three.

  1. So what brought you to NEW ZEALAND of all places?!? (Said exactly how you think it’s said.)
  2. Wasn’t there any work in Chicago?
  3. So you have any family here? You moved here on your own?!? Why?!

Those are all fun questions to answer, and I never tire from answering them…

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The Beard is Done, The Date is Set

Well readers, some of you got what you came for. While the event was never recorded, we still got some pretty cool images to share with you all. I had a blast, and I want to thank my amazing sister Ro Birkey for taking such awesome photos. The event went great and I also would like to thank Sean Wilson for helping me out the most and for doing the deed that HAD to be done.

I have not been able to stop looking at my de-robed face all yesterday, and to say I’ve been rubbing my chin is a severe understatement. The look will set in eventually, and it will likewise take me a while to get accustomed to my new chin. This is standard for any massive shaving that takes place.

With the money that was raised, coming approximately to $3000, I have reached 84% of my goal!!, and I couldn’t be more happy with the result. All of the proceeds will be put towards helping me get to NZ (paperwork & flight costs). This reminds me! I have set a tentative date for when I plan to leave the U.S…God willing. I will plan on leaving for New Zealand mid January. If the paperwork is not done before then, I will reevaluate my departure date. This is what I am going to try for though.

Thank You again to everyone who came out to my party and helped support me in my effort to get overseas. I could NOT have done this without you, my friends and my family. You are responsible for all the good that comes from my work in NZ. Thank You.

EP