It’s rare that I find articles that discuss being an empath and I found a great one here. So much of our self image is shaped by our perception of the world. As I’ve gotten older I’ve found more value in disconnecting for a bit in order to recharge. I’ve also learned the importance of protecting my space and being mindful of energies that drain me. There are countless challenging moments but self soothing can work wonders as well as getting out my head a bit and finding a worthy distraction.
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.
As this year of my life starts to come to a close I realize that there’s a lot that I want to do. While I have definitely had some milestones this year that included finishing my PhD, I’m not satisfied yet. Working in a hospital again has reminded me of how short life really is. I’ve had numerous patients who have passed away without any warning. I’ve had a lot of major changes that were unexpected but I also got hired on to my dream job (at least past time). So far I’ve gotten the opportunity to travel a little bit and I’ve visited 8 countries. I’m hoping to develop a good work life balance in the coming year and maybe flex my entrepreneurial muscles just a bit. The whole dating thing has absolutely been a bust so far so I figure I’ll just set goals around what I can control. Here’s to bigger and better things.
Part of the nature of my job is that I completely change places every few month but it also means that I tend to move quite frequently. Recently, I went through yet another move due to the lease ending on my apartment and it has been more of an adjustment than usual. I try not to do it, but I think that I got emotionally attached to my old place. There were so many good memories but also countless tears cried as I tried to figure out my life and navigate the ever confusing world of dating. My apartment became the place I could go when I had a long day at work and just wanted to sleep when I got home. It was the apartment I went back to after graduating with my PhD and where I celebrated getting a faculty job at my alma mater. It was also the space where I dealt with some of the stress going on in my life and started to meditate in order to sleep more deeply at night. It was the space where I got to spend some quality time with someone who meant a lot to me and where we had some amazing conversations about everything under the sun. I inwardly groaned each time that I walked up all those steps to the third floor but I was secretly glad that at least I got some cardio from merely going home. It was the place where I got a second job offer and completed a total of over six weeks of training. It was my space. And for some reason, losing it has been really challenging. So many times people talk about having something or someone that grounds them and losing my space was a big reminder that I need to be deliberate in doing that for myself. The downside of traveling all the time is that there really isn’t a space to call home and that can make it challenging to really build meaningful connections with others. It’s not impossible but definitely challenging when you’re a homebody. I love to travel and by love, I mean LOVE. But there’s something to be said about having a home to go to after you’re done with traveling. So as I type from my new temporary place, I’m reminded of the fact once again that I think I’m gonna need to settle down soon. Stability is good for the soul. I think.
I admit that I struggle with the general idea that one has to “qualify” in order to get married. There’s this list of things that single women are given and expected to accomplish before they are ready to get married. We tell our girls that boys will always be there and to get their education first. You’re expected to work on yourself, do fun things, finish school, pay off debt, and get a decent job among other things before you qualify for marriage. Now granted, my story is different in that while I’ve always wanted to get married, I had a feeling that I would be on the road less traveled for a long time. I just didn’t anticipate how long it would be. I was hoping for 25 but now I’m pushing 30 without any actual potential mate on the horizon. I find it frustrating when I’m told that there’s something that I’m doing wrong or just haven’t done yet that makes me unqualified to be married. I see people all day, I’m a good listener, I can hold an emotionally safe place and challenge the perspectives of others in a way that is non-threatening and supportive. I’m the sole provider of my household of one and while I’m not rich, bills do get paid and I travel once in a while. I recently completed the highest educational level one can achieve (PhD) and yet the Universe still apparently sees me as unqualified for a mate. I’m all about doing the work but shit, being alone gets old after a while. I’ve learned how to self soothe and what to do to calm myself down but there are times that I’d sell my soul for a hug and the knowledge that someone has my back. Yes, I’m approached by guys but so far they aren’t ready for anything serious or want me to finance their lives and take care of them. Neither is an option I want to live with. It sounds corny but I want to matter to someone. Really matter. I haven’t found that yet and the older I get the less optimistic I am. It’s just exhausting and tiring doing it alone all the time and while I’ll always do what I have to do, I wish things were different.
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 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.