There’s something about the month of May that makes me reconsider my entire life. It’s like an internal check-in to evaluate how the year has gone up to this point. It’s also my half-birthday month–which is another reminder that I only have 6 months to go until I’m a year older. Last year around this time I was living in Atlanta and working in a job I didn’t really love. Needless to say, a lot has changed since then and I’m happy to say that I’ve had the chance to travel a bit more because that was one of the things I resolved to do last May. Since then I’ve traveled to Las Vegas, Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Spain, England, France, Italy, Monaco, and Malta. In addition to that I quit my job and moved across the country to California. It’s been eventful to say the least but I’ve learned a lot and have also acquired a new skill set. Working in a busy hospital and coordinating care will definitely have you learning a lot of new medical terminology that you didn’t learn in graduate school. I also decided to try my hand at teaching and am now facilitating a class of 16 graduate students in a weekly online class. It’s been challenging but fun so far. A lot of decisions were made last May and we’ll see what happens this year.
One thing that has been nice about relocating across the country and starting something new is that I’ve had the chance to do more work in direct practice. A lot of this year was spent being a desk in my cubicle and while my work had an impact on a lot of people, I wasn’t working directly with clients. One thing that I’ve had a chance to see up close is the fragility of life and how quickly things can change–especially working in a hospital. Instead of being in the background I’m on the front lines answering questions, de-escalating situations, talking to concerned family members, and a list of other things that don’t full under the “medical” category. Each day is unpredictable and there are multiple interruptions and interventions that have to be made in addition to all the daily duties. There are multiple impromptu therapy sessions where I process varying emotions with clients that almost always consist of frustration, anger, and helplessness in some regard. There are constant adjustments to make and people to call or talk to in order to coordinate resources. But it’s made me more grateful for the things that are typically taken for granted, like the use of my limbs or the ability to move around without an assistive device. All that being said, carrying the emotional weight of people who are going through major life changes and have to adjust to a new way of living along with their families can be draining (to say the least). It’s definitely made me become more aware of the need for all social workers (including myself) to do something for self-care. I’ve had to pull some things out of my own toolbox to ensure that I’m able to be emotionally present for my clients. In a profession where burnout happens frequently, it’s imperative to take care of yourself so that you can competently and compassionately take care of others. You owe it to you.
I feel that I’m due for another post and while I have been consistent with writing in the past, sometimes it’s almost impossibly hard to translate my chaotic thoughts into something coherent. But I’m going to try. I’ve come to the realization that most people live with a set of “ifs” or “what ifs.” It’s that feeling where you just KNOW that things would be different IF distance wasn’t a factor, IF money wasn’t an issue, IF you had made a better decision. The list goes on and on. Sometimes that “if” is a person. I’ve seen the look of regret on the faces of many older adults as they’ve lamented on losing their first love or a painful goodbye that they never fully got over. I say all that to say that sometimes you have to know exactly what you want—even if it’s a big thing, and work backwards. You can eliminate a few “ifs” IF you are willing to make huge decisions that are uncomfortable in the present but lay the foundation for a better future.
So today I started a new job. Not a hustle or on a “as needed” basis, but a real job. It’s something that I’ve (halfway) actively pursuing since early last year. While I’m excited about new opportunities, I’m also hesitant. I love flexibility but it’s time to have something resembling security with health insurance and a 401K. I’ve met so many people who settle for a “regular” job, they put in their hours, go home, raise a family, take a vacation once a year, retire, and die. Not a bad plan, but definitely not for me. This job is not where I want to be for the rest of my life. It’s a means to an end. And if I have to sacrifice by waking up early EVERY morning in order to get stuff done and to meet my goals, so be it. I’m not a morning person but I’ll be one because what I want to be as a professional is bigger than pushing the snooze button on my alarm clock. There’s a saying that says one has to be willing to do what others won’t do in order to get what others won’t get. In my case, getting a regular job is doing what others are doing. However, my special twist is that I’m also pairing it with three additional jobs and an increasingly challenging doctoral program. With the end goal of being in a very very good professional place by the time I’m 25. The biggest challenge will definitely be balance and making sure that I don’t get in my own way. I’ve made some hard choices and there are plenty more to come. But, as I tell my clients, settling feels good for the moment but you never get any lasting results. Being deliberate and planning takes time, effort, and sacrifice but it sure beats waking up one morning and realizing that you’ve wasted your life. At least in my opinion.
I can imagine that several things come to mind when you think about the beginning of something. I think of the beginning of spring, the beginning of a new relationship, even the beginning of school or a new career. All those examples mark a transition from one period of time to another or one part of life to another. In my experience, new beginnings have always been marked with a choice or a situation where I was forced to get outside of my comfort zone. I was require to do something or go somewhere that I have never done or gone before. One of the important things that I’ve learned is to keep calm, and then adjust as necessary. It is so easy to let fear or intimidation affect your choices but I have found that something as simple as taking a few deep breaths can help me in thinking more clearly. What are some beginnings that you’ve experienced?