A few days ago I took some time to watch the movie Losing Isaiah. There was a certain sense of urgency as Netflix was about to take it off in order to make room for more movies. I first saw the movie at my grandparents house in Michigan. I remember renting it with my very own library card when I was 9 or 10 and watching it in the living room sprawled out on the very comfortable carpet. I remember being happy in the end that the baby was returned to his biological mother. However, this time I watched the movie with a different perspective. One that’s been informed by several years of being a social worker and working with families and kids. The movie brings up some interesting questions that are still relevant today. A mother abandons her baby in a trash can. The baby is born addicted to drugs because she used substance while pregnant. A kind social worker at the hospital he is transported to adopts him. She and her family raise him as her own. Meanwhile, the baby’s mother gets her life together after finally becoming sober and decides that she wants him back because he’s her child and she never received notice that her parental rights were being terminated. So there’s a lengthy court battle where bio-mother’s lawyer insists that black babies need to be with their black mothers. However, there is a marked difference between the income of biological mother versus that of the family that has adopted the child. The life that he lives with his adopted family is vastly different than the one that his bio-mother can finance. The movie ends with full custody being given to the bio-mother who soon realizes that she needs additional support so she reaches a hesitant agreement with her son’s adoptive mother. There are certain situations where I don’t think people should be allowed to have a do over. I don’t think that any child should be denied access to their family of origin but primary custody should have remained with the adoptive parents until the child was old enough to make a decision. I’ve met a good amount of parents who have adopted kids and then decided that they were too hard as a result decided to relinquish custody back to the state. I’ve worked with parents who have voluntarily given up custody of their children because they felt powerless and felt that their lives or the lives of the other children in the home were at risk. It’s a hard decision to make. My whole point is that kids shouldn’t be taken out of a loving, stable, and safe environment because their bio-parent decides that it’s for the best. There were other options that would have allowed Isaiah to stay where he was happy. Yes, children can be resilient and they can recover but there’s no need to inflict that trauma on a child and mess up his primary attachment so that he can be with a black parent. No reason. It’s cruel and unnecessary.
Like many people on social media, I was immediately worried when I saw the missing person poster of Nayla Kidd, a student in New York who had gone missing. It was almost as if she had disappeared into thin air. As is my practice whenever I see a missing person poster, I prayed for her safe return. She was enrolled in a rigorous program of study at a pretty prestigious university. I followed the case fairly closely and was relieved then the news broke that she had been found safe and sound. You can read more about her story in her own words here. As I read her words I realized that her reasons for wanting to get away were very similar with that of many others. Life tends to happen so fast after high school. You get into college, you start working a job and you are immediately thrust into a path that sometimes already seems pre-destined. You’re expected to make adult decisions that can have a permanent impact on your career and life. I could identify with Nayla’s sentiments of feeling overwhelmed and upset with the current direction of her life. In her situation, she made a very deliberate choice to take a break from it all for a while. She needed time and space to consider her options and make decisions that were more in alignment with what she wanted out of life instead of forging forward through labs and classes that she didn’t enjoy. I don’t fault her for this at all. However, I also can’t imagine what it was like for her friends and family who were probably worried sick about her safety and well-being. Last summer a former college classmate of mine went missing for a long period of time. It wasn’t a case that got a lot of media attention but it had a horrific ending when her body was found in a lake. She was a beautiful soul who left behind 3 kids and the entire situation was just so numbingly sad. I say all this to say that a lot of anxious, tears and worries could have been avoided if Nayla had felt she could communicate her displeasure in her current situation and let someone know that she was fine but needed some time away. However, those type of declarations aren’t always supported or respected and this was probably one of the reasons why she didn’t feel comfortable sharing her plans with anyone. I’m so glad her story had a better ending than my college classmate and I hope she finds what she’s looking for.
These past few weeks have been unusually stressful for me. I feel like everyone has a certain level of stress that they manage and cope with on a daily basis. It’s like a “regular load” of sorts. And then there are the things that can’t really be helped. It’s like Murphy’s Law gone haywire. The past two weeks have been exactly like that. From my job doubling my caseload, to car troubles, to making a decision to separate myself from someone who didn’t have my best interest in mind–it’s been exhausting. I was talking to someone the other day and I said that I felt like building a fort in my house out of blankets and chairs, crawling in and never coming out. Very unreasonable I know. The theme of my life sometimes seems to be this song “You Can’t Win.” But one thing that I’ve learned is the importance of being flexible and resourceful when necessary. I have to admit that times like this make me miss the presence of a significant other in my life. I’m not complaining but it would be nice to have someone as an actual support who had a vested interest in my life and was there because they wanted to be. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and would do anything for them but it would so clutch to not go to bed alone every night. I’ve never been one to flaunt my single status or to complain about it but there’s something to be said about the power of “we” versus “me.” Normally I would take this time to launch into some Pollyanna-like declaration that everything will be fine. Someone will come into my life who genuinely want to be in it and I’ll experience some degree of happiness in the future. But I’m just not feeling it right now. Yes, I’ll be fine. I’ve been living this way up to this point and a change isn’t anywhere on the horizon. I’ll continue to adapt and make adjustments as necessary but it honestly does just plain suck at times. But that’s my life. At least for now.
One of the features that I enjoy on my most used social media site is the one where you can see what you had posted on that same day in years past. Not too long ago I ran across a status I had written describing my excitement of starting college and classes. Looking back, it feels like it happened a million years ago. I remember agonizing about what my major would be and feeling torn between social work, psychology, and music. College was unlike anything I had ever experienced. It was great because I had the opportunity to meet new people, manage a schedule, and experience life in another structured and sheltered environment that was in a lot of ways like my home life. I learned a lot about assertiveness when I had to challenge grades with certain teachers. Before graduation I had to advocate for myself when it came down to required classes for graduation and I found a loophole and used it to my advantage. I learned about discipline and while I never perfected the art of studying, I learned about the benefits of procrastination and racing to meet a deadline while still delivering a quality scholarly work. College taught me the importance of time management and balancing conflicting priorities. The untimely deaths of several of my classmates reminded me of the importance of appreciating and living life to the fullest. Looking back, there’s not a lot I would change–except maybe being a bit more open minded and allowing myself to have more fun instead of being in the books all the time. Ah well.
One of the things that I appreciate about social work is that there is an abundance of things to do. You aren’t required to stay doing the same thing for decades at a time. There’s room to try something different and learn a completely new set of skills while still working in the field. One thing I’ve noticed is that while people are all different, they share a lot of commonalities as well. There’s a video that went viral recently where a lady was recounting her experience at a popular store. She observed a customer being nasty to a cashier that appeared flustered and to be having a bad day. After confronting the customer, the cashier shared that he had had a very recent tragic loss and was struggling to pay rent. The lesson from the story is that you never know what someone is going through so be kind to everyone. The holidays can bring up so many emotions for people as they remember loved ones they miss and re-hash old wounds with family members. It’s a time that many people are especially fragile and as someone who has worked in mental health, I’ve noticed there’s a increase in suicide attempts after major holidays. This isn’t an appeal for world peace (as much as we need it). Just a reminder to try to be a bit more patient and kind as you interact with people. You don’t know their stories.
It’s funny how quickly time can pass when you’re having fun–or even not having fun. Time passes even when it seems to be standing still. In a short period of time I’ll officially be a year older and hopefully a bit wiser. It’s usually around this time every year that I get somewhat nostalgic and ask myself yet again, “what am I doing with my life?” The answer never seems to be what I want. However, this past year was a game changer of sorts. I posted a lot about change and making hard decisions all throughout this year and some hard decisions were definitely made. I traveled a fair amount that included trips to France, Mexico, and Greece. I started a job that I realized wasn’t a great fit. I started working nights and stuck it out for a while. One of the biggest lessons learned this year was the importance of being clear about what I want and going after it. I met some pretty big goals simply because of planning and being willing to step outside the box to make it happen. I had a huge disappointment that made me reconsider the direction of my life–as most disappointments do. Ups and downs are a part of life and this year was no exception. However, I’ve learned a lot and matured as a result of being willing to challenge myself and some beliefs that I previously held. I did a overhaul of my life and relocated across the country just to start from the ground up and begin building again. Definitely not something for the faint of heart but I think it’ll work out
I’ve always had a healthy respect for the weather because I have experienced how quickly things can change. When I saw some really dark clouds the other day I made the decision to put my dog in a more confined area before I left my house. He’s notorious for being terrified of storms and his anxiety quickly turns destructive. I started to drive to my destination and the sky got darker and it started to rain. The rain started coming down harder and then went into blinding rain. I turned off my music and slowed down. The sky got darker and the hail started coming out of nowhere. It was at this point that I decided it was probably not the greatest idea to drive with limited visibility, hail and rain so I pulled over and stopped. The wind picked up and the hail kept coming and began to rock my car from side to side. As someone who hates car washes, the experience wasn’t the most pleasant. All of a sudden I got the tornado alert warning on my phone and then the wind stopped blowing and there was an eerie stillness. That’s how I knew there was a tornado on the ground close by. Years of tornado drills, close calls, and even an instance where friends of mine died in a tornado reminded me that a direct hit from a strong enough tornado is almost always deadly. Technically when a tornado comes you’re supposed to find a ditch and lay in it. For some reason I decided that I was just going to stay in my car. The wind picked up again and then started to cease. It was still raining but people were starting to drive. I started my car again and began to drive immediately realizing that there was water almost past my hubcaps. I’m not an expert in flood driving and it doesn’t help that my car is so low to the ground. I quickly and carefully maneuvered out of where I was and searched for higher ground. I pulled into a parking lot and watched the thunder and blinding rain for a little bit until I deemed it was safe to go. Even at that point there were places where the water was almost over my tires so I had to find even higher ground. This required to get out my GPS and find random side streets in order to avoid traffic and water damage to my car. It reminded me of how life happens unexpectedly and how sometimes you just have to wait it out instead of fighting against circumstances and situations. They will go away in time but you’ll exhaust yourself fighting against it prematurely. I had to find an alternate route to find higher ground and in a similar way sometimes the only means of becoming successful is to take the high road and refuse to be brought down by the opinions and judgments of others. The conscious decision not to stoop to the level of foolishness of petty people can cause you to focus on something that actually does matter.