Remembering the college years

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.

Social work today

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.

Another year reflection 

It’s funny how fast time flies but how slow it can drag by. My birthday is right around the corner and it’s always around this time of year that I take another inventory of what exactly has been accomplished. Last time this year I lived in California and was working at a rehab center. This year I’m in Georgia working as a therapist and I have no clue where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing next year. The biggest thing for me right now is trying to finish school. It’s been a long long journey and I’m ready for it to be over. I’ve learned that it can be important to pace oneself at times. I’ve accomplished a few things professionally this past year. I added two additional clinical licenses in separate states and I’ve made some progress with my degree. Personally I’m still single and while it’s not a surprise to me I still find myself thinking, “maybe next year things will be different.” But there’s no huge surprise there and I’m even more cautious since my job requires me to listen to horror stories of relationships gone wrong. Needless to say, I did have one, yes one really good date this year. And while I’m grateful for that, I’m crossing my fingers to double that to two good dates next year. Celebrate the wins right. I’ve definitely learned more about the importance of self care and as much as I want a significant other, I’m just tired of not winning in that department. I feel that eternal optimism only goes so far. I’m deciding to focus on something else for now because it’s a little too depressing. However, I’m grateful to be where I am for now but I’ll continue to constantly look for different opportunities. You only live once. 

Moving often 

I hate moving but I love traveling. There’s always more to think about when you’re relocating and carrying your belongings with you. A little more than a year ago I gave up my apartment, put my stuff in storage, and moved across the country for an adventure. More recently I’ve moved back to my home state and into a new apartment. I love my own space. One thing that’s been helpful in all my moves through the years is that I have a great mother who always wants to help (take over). I’ve flown her in to help me out because I’m on a tight deadline. She’s amazing at being organized but bad at listening to instructions. She likes the moving in process and will inevitably bring in things she likes with the explanation that I don’t have to like them but she’ll use them when she visits. It’s a fair price to pay for the assistance. I don’t know where I’ll be next but maybe soon I’ll put down some roots.

Therapy myths

One thing about my new role is that I have the opportunity to be present for people while they do through hard times. My dissertation topic focuses on married black women and work life balance. So naturally I’m especially intrigued by clients who match the population that I’m studying in my academic life. Black women have higher rates of depression and anxiety than their White counterparts but are also less likely to seek treatment. Week after week I hear black women tell me that this is their first time in therapy or the first time they’ve opened up to anyone. Many tell stories of being discouraged from going to therapy by their families who say that they just need to have faith or pray more. Others speak of being judged by their faith leaders because they feel like they need to talk to someone and just reading the Bible is not enough. It’s ok to need help and it’s ok to get help. The commonality in many stories is that they are all expected to be strong and hold the family together through anything. They feel guilty crying or expressing emotions because they need to keep a straight face and move on. So many have been just existing in survival mode for so long that they’ve lost sight of their own dreams and aspirations. We have to stop discouraging people from getting help. Stop expecting your friend to be ok because she appears “strong.” There’s usually more going on than meets the eye and we have to stop assuming that things are fine. Because sometimes they aren’t. 

Striking out

I’ve made so many decisions since I moved back the South. Where I was going to live, what I was going to do, where I wanted to go, etc. In addition to starting a new job, I’ve also been tasked with keeping up with another job I have and simultaneously getting another two jobs off the ground and running. The thought of totally working for myself has always scared me to an extent. As an unmarried single person, there isn’t even the “safety net” of a spouse who could hold me down while I got something off the ground. I remember reading a quote that said entrepreneurship is like jumping off a cliff and building a parachute on the way down. The thing about building a location based business is that you have to be willing to put down some roots in order to build up some clientele and network. It isn’t something that happens overnight and it takes some deliberate effort. But maybe it’s time to do something different and consider settling down for a change. While I love the idea of some stability, I also hate the feeling of being stuck without a good reason. And if I have to settle down I want it to be close to a beach where I can see and swim with some dolphins. But the truth is that if I’m taking the fairly big step of renting an office, then I need to do something that actually justifies the monthly fee that I’m paying. Logistically, having even two private clients a month would pay for the office itself. Two people out of a city of several million doesn’t sound too bad. It just means that I need to be strategic and market appropriately. Maybe it’s time to step out and do something different. I don’t love the idea of working for other people for the rest of my life.

Switching Gears

It’s funny how life goes sometimes. You prepare the best you can and then you have to make the best of what happens. Two years ago at this time I was having the time of my life in Paris and going on road trips to the countryside. This year is drastically different as I’ll be going into the office and working with clients. But to be fair, I was in Paris earlier this year so I can’t complain. The field of social work is so varied and throughout my career so far I have found myself in a lot of different settings playing multiple roles. My recent venture has me once again diving into the world of being a therapist. It’s a role that I haven’t been in consistently for a while, but one that I went to school for when the medical school plan didn’t work out. Contrary to popular belief, it’s so much more than just listening to people. Working at an outpatient clinic and working with the general public pretty much means that I deal with a little bit of everything. I don’t have a specialty or a specific diagnosis that I primarily work with. Every client requires a different skill set and theoretical framework. It really makes me grateful that I had an amazing post-graduate education that is actually paying off.  A lot of clients just want to know that it’s ok to not be ok. It’s a change in pace from running around constantly in a hospital and doing a lot of case management. So far so good I guess. We’ll see what the rest of this year brings.