On a recent 11 hour flight I had the opportunity to catch up on some movies that I did not make an effort to see while they were in theaters and I ran across Nobody’s Fool. The premise of the movie is pretty simple. There’s a successful woman who has a sister released from prison and the sister comes to stay with her. This woman is in a yearlong relationship with a guy she has never met in person. The movie revolves around finding out the truth about the mystery guy and a budding romance between her and a local coffee shop owner. However, the more subtle messages that seem to accompany most of Tyler Perry’s movies were definitely front and center with this one. Most of his movies involves a successful woman who is missing out because she won’t give a guy with a colored background a chance. Or, the heroine is with a good guy already but she wants excitement so she gives it up for someone more attractive and loses everything in the end. In this particular movie, the main character was struggling with being attracted to someone with a felony and history of substance abuse. But he had changed his life and was now a productive member of society. It’s not a secret that everyone is not born with the same opportunities. Mistakes that are made between the ages of 15 and 25 can drastically change the trajectory of someone’s life. While I understand the importance of not judging someone based on their past, it’s also important to take their past into consideration. The movie ended on a happy note with the successful woman professing her love for the changed man in the rain. She had found someone who loved her but she just needed to look past his past. It was a (seemingly) lovely message but the real world tends to be just a bit more complicated. Changed people aren’t always changed and sometimes old habits can die hard.
Lately I’ve had the opportunity to delve a bit more into a new career and I like it so far. While I like direct practice, there’s something cool about talking about it within an educational context. Being in a helping profession can be challenging because people are always looking to you for help. However, they don’t realize that your help and assistance has limits. There are situations where you don’t have an apartment to give them or you can’t take their chronic ailment away or make their estranged relative talk to them again. It’s one of those fields where you learn by doing and as you do it becomes more instinctual. You start out with a whole lot of theories and information about being ethical but when you finally get into the field the rubber hits the road. Six years of practice has taught me to always expect the unexpected and that sometimes it’s ok to take a break. I like working with patients but I really like working with students and I think that it’s time to be a bit more deliberate in switching gears career-wise for a bit. I like the change of pace and I think that it’s needed for right now. It’s a new challenge and I like the idea of tapping into my creative side for a bit without the additional pressure of someone’s emotional health hanging in the balance. There’s more of a chance to stay in the same location for a bit and that would be nice.
I commented to a colleague of mine the other day that the work we do naturally makes us cynical. I’m not an expert in human behavior or personality but I’ve found that many of the clients I work with have ulterior motives. I think that’s something people don’t always want to acknowledge but it still continues to be true. There are certain times of the year where you see more people depressed because of relationships, then there’s the season of behavior problems with kids and adolescents. Somewhere in the year the presenting challenge changes to people experimenting with a new drug or hallucination with agitation. These cycles go on every year. While they aren’t always predictable, they still happen in a certain order. As I’ve said before in a previous blog, sometimes the key to not getting stuck in the dysfunction of others is to realize that you can only do so much. I can’t fix your spouse, I can’t change the fact that you’re being bullied, I can’t personally guarantee that you’ll never feel depressed again. I’ve come to the realization that life isn’t about fixing people. It’s about laying out their choices and attempting to create an environment where they feel empowered to make the right choices. And when all else fails, respecting the fact that they are ultimately the decision maker and only intervening when it’s absolutely necessary. The interesting thing is that it’s often my job to intervene. Taking away someone’s rights to make their own decisions isn’t something that’s enjoyable but it’s required. Life would be so much better for a lot of people if they took the time to think before making decisions that lead to actions when they are extremely sad, angry, or tired. But that won’t change anytime soon and as my colleagues say, I guess it’s the ultimate job security.