A few days ago I got a reminder of a status on social media that I wrote when I arrived at college for the first time. It brought me back to ten years ago when I first arrived to my college campus as a student. I had a unique experience in that I already had been to the campus multiple times growing up and my parents had attended, my grandfather had attended, and my grandmother had taught there. The journey to college wasn’t necessarily easy. I was homeschooled and used a distance learning school to earn my high school diploma. I was a senior in high school at age 15 but the bane of my existence was high school algebra and I wrestled with it until I finally finished. Needless to say, I’ve only taken one math class since high school algebra and I don’t see myself taking another one in the foreseeable future. I finished high school about 6 weeks after my 17th birthday and I took a year off to take some classes and work before I went to college. I didn’t know what to expect 10 years ago when I started college. I was worried about how I was going to afford it and if I would be able to afford it for all 4 years. My parents had informed me from a young age that they wouldn’t pay for college so I understood that I would have to figure it out without their financial assistance. The bonus was that I had a scholarship that covered about half of my tuition. I didn’t know what to expect once I went to college and in the spirit of true preparation I brought WAY too much stuff. I quickly realized that the 8 storage containers that I brought from home would be way too much for the half of the dorm room I shared. I remember waiting in line at registration and hoping and praying that I could get in. After a small scare and an ok from the director of admissions I was in. The next three and a half years were filled with challenges and acclimation to a more traditional educational environment. One of my goals was to finish in less than 4 years and i was able to accomplish that. I actually had to study for tests and finals week meant that I pulled a few overnighters to finish a paper or put the finishing touches on a project. I focused on the books and attended every class on time. I knew that I was there because I wanted to be and the effort that I put into my education reflected that fact. I honestly can’t believe that ten years has passed by but I can honestly say that I am a totally different person than I was back then. I’ve learned a lot since then and I plan to learn and grow more in the next ten years.
“Nothing in life is free. There’s a price to be paid for everything and the sooner you learn that, the better off you’ll be.” I remember watching a children’s video when I was little where this mantra was repeated several times. But the older I get, the more I think that the saying is true. Nothing that’s worth getting comes easily. Running a business requires hard work, getting the perfect body requires good eating choices and gym time. One thing that I frequently hear myself talking to clients about is creating the life that you want for yourself. While I’ve never been an expert at taking my own advice, there’s something to be said about putting effort into getting what you want. A huge part of success involves actually defining what you want. It’s easy to get caught up in day to day life and lose track of the bigger picture. Be specific, write a plan, or get a vision board. Be willing to pay the price for success because the time will pass by anyway.
One thing about being a therapist is that I get to meet people from different walks of life and backgrounds. While everyone comes to see me for different reasons, sometimes I hear similar sentiments echoed my multiple people. I’ve met with a lot of people who are stressed out because of their adult children who are living in their home. Many times these are devoted parents who have attempted many times to help but they are at their wits end because they truly believe that their adult children in their 20s, 30s and 40s never intend to leave. As expected, there’s often a lot of clashing as the adult kids want to be respected and do what they want to do while the parents feel inconvenienced and many times feel obligated to make some sort of rules or give a move out date. Some of this is truly due to the economy as it can be harder to get a good paying job and the cost of housing continues to rise. Sometimes people have no other choice than to move in with family and save money. But there’s another group that doesn’t see the need to move out because it’s comfortable. In these situations the adult child usually refuses to get a job and the parent feels helpless because they don’t want their child to be homeless. In the cycle of life there’s a time ideally where the parent and the child switch roles as being the caregiver for each other. I’ve met many parents who desperately need help from their children but the switch has never been made and instead they are giving all their resources and money to their children who aren’t appreciative and it’s at the parents’ detriment. However the parents refuse to do anything because it’s their children and they feel obligated to care for their (adult) able-bodied children for as long as they are alive. The endless cycle continues because neither adult child or parent wants to make a different or a difficult decision. It’s definitely a phenomenon that I would love to do more research on at some point.
A friend shared this with me and I found it to be so inspiring as we start this new year.
“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can.
…that you’ll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you’ll make something that didn’t exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return.
And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind.”
– Neil Gaiman
A few days ago I shared an article on social media about the ways the social work is failing. While it was very thought provoking, the author also talked about ways to remedy the problem. As someone who has worked in the field for almost 7 years, the looks on people’s faces when I tell them that I’m a social worker can be quite comical. Unfortunately there’s still a prevalent belief that all social workers do is take kids away from their parents. Social work is one of the only professions I know where you can have a masters degree, two years of supervised experience, a clinical license AND make $17 an hour. That number isn’t arbitrary. It’s actually what I made when I first relocated to my original state of residence. The fact is that we are often overworked and not fairly compensated for our services. Burnout rates are at an all time high because we can’t even afford to take time off and it’s sometimes a struggle to pay bills and make student loan payments out of the pittance we’re given. Don’t get me wrong, you can make a decent living as a social worker but it will probably entail working more than one job, working in an administrative capacity, or being an entrepreneur of sorts. With mental illness continuing to be a growing concern, I wish that the growing demand for mental health providers like social workers translated into an increase in compensation—like it has for nurses. Something definitely needs to change and maybe the change that is needed is that of a union. While I don’t have all the answers, I believe that this topic deserves more discussion and also subsequent advocacy.
This past year has been interesting. I started it in rural California and then had the opportunity to take time off and visit six countries before I moved to the Bay Area. I learned about myself and spent a lot of time alone. I made some strides in my doctoral journey and finished the bulk of my dissertation. I met some great people and strengthened some friendships. I had one great date and enjoyed several amazing concerts. I moved multiple times and lived like a nomad for a while. I became more intentional about self care and I had the chance to flex my therapy muscles more than I have in years. Overall it’s been a learning experience and I’m looking forward to some changes in 2018.
The older I get, the more I realize that being a good parent requires copious amounts of patience. Day after day I meet parents with adult children who are literally sucking the life out of them. They live at home or close by and are constantly requesting more items and money. Yet, they can never make enough to move out of their parent’s house. I get that the economy isn’t typically kind to recent graduates and that it takes a lot more money than it used to in order to sustain a decent quality of life. The parents feel guilty because their child doesn’t have a decent job and can’t make it on their own therefore they open the doors of their house “for as long as needed.” Bad idea. While I know that everyone needs help at some point in their life and that hard times happen to everyone, there’s something detrimental about constantly acquiescing to the demands of your adult children because you want them to be happy with you. Living your life in perpetual sacrifice for your children HAS to stop at some point. It holds them back from becoming responsible adults and keeps you stuck in your life. You can’t continue to cater to the wants and needs of able-bodied adults who don’t feel like working and don’t want to move because they’re leaving their rent-free housing. I hear parents complaining about their children and how stressed that they are but refuse to put boundaries in place and enforce them. It’s not a pretty sight. These are people who won’t have a decent retirement because of their actions and the choices that their children have made. It’s quite unfortunate.