You ever have those “aha!” moments? Those moments that brings your purpose together? I had one of those moments the other day.
I chose social work because I wanted to help people. I chose the degree because I thought it was pretty versatile. And it is if you’re creative, and even more so if you have a master’s degree- something I’m still not sure I want. But I knew I wanted to help people.
On this academic journey I’ve written many papers about inequality, the dignity and worth of the person, how I’d connect the client to resources, innovative evidenced based practices, etc. I write good papers. I get good grades. I’ve done really dumb group projects. I’ve heard about the good of social work. I hear our teacher’s stories- I had pretend clients in class. I still wasn’t sold. I knew this work was one I wanted to do, but I didn’t really know until last week.
I’m about to graduate soon. May 7th to be exact (!!!). I’ve been doing my intern hours at a fantastic organization that helps LGBT+ youth. My role at the organization varies, but in general I’m a case management intern. So I help connect the client with resources in the community to help increase their life skills and their chances of sustainability.
This organization also has a housing program. There are 6 beds. One room has been infested with roaches. Don’t worry you’re getting the shortened version of this story. We asked the property managers to go in and treat this room, as we were moving a youth onto the property later on that day. So they did. Needless to say… hundreds of dead roaches, with plenty of alive bodies as well. We came to this room with youth in tow. The case manager stood in the room for a minute, and said, “Nope. I’m not doing this. We’re not putting you in here.” And I watched the advocacy begin.
See the issue was that we had another bed, but it was in a room with a girl. And for some magical reason that still hasn’t been explained, since they don’t identify as the same gender, they can’t room together. This is an organization that lets a trans person room with the gender they identify as, and folks with the same sexual orientation can room together so it’s not necessarily about sex, so there are a lot of holes in that argument (what about agender or gender-fluid individuals? Where do they fit? But I digress), but that’s what our superiors stated.
After trying different avenues and none of them really working out, the youth was granted an overnight stay in the other room until the vacant room we had could be move-in ready.
The case manager asked me what I would’ve done- if I ‘d moved the youth into that room. And I told her I probably would have. I probably would’ve been there sweeping up roaches, and trying to rush and clean, I probably wouldn’t have advocated because I wouldn’t have believed in my voice. You see the problem? If I would not have spoken up, I could’ve left a client in a deplorable situation. Those are not the moments to be shy.
That was a mess of a day. That piece was only one item of many, but I learned why I chose this path that day. I learned about what advocacy is. I learned how important it is to fight for my client. I learned how important it is to build a trusting relationship with my client, so I can support them in times like these. And if I couldn’t build that rapport before a moment like that, then I need to have the skills to do it in that moment.
I learned the value in being a case manager. So many people want to go on and do bigger and better things. Shout out to those people. But for me, I believe case managers are so crucial to a client’s success. I believe connecting that client with resources they didn’t have access to before is important. And advocating for those resources that they client may not have access to is also important. I get to help make sure people’s basic needs are met. I get to work side-by-side with someone as they create their goals and move closer to achieving those goals every day. Some of them turn around and go the opposite way. Some of them don’t have motivation. But that’s where my skills come in. That’s where I help guide them forward. That’s where patience comes in. It’s such beautiful work.
This is a profession that will challenge me. It will be hard, but it will be so worthwhile. Self-care is even more important. I’m trying to do something for me each day, even if it’s just a moment. Connecting with people who vibe with you is important. I was excited to begin working, but I’m even more excited now that things have truly clicked for me. I love moments like that, don’t you?
Confession time: I shy away from talking about my work. I’ve been embarrassed to call myself a social worker. However I’m so proud to be a part of this profession now. They work long hours for shit pay, too many clients, and dangerous conditions sometimes. But it takes an amazing person to be an affective social worker. You have to see each individual as brilliant and capable of living a fulfilling life. You have to be able to think on your feet. You have to be able to gauge your client and build rapport pretty quickly. You have to see terrible things happen to people and people who have done terrible things, and you have to pull out their strengths when no one else can even see them. And you get the honor of walking with someone on their journey- whatever that journey might be. You get to be there and help them. That’s not something to be ashamed of.
So I’ve had my “aha” moment. I’ve grown to love my work even more. I have a lot of dreams and aspirations, and I’m not sure about all of them and that’s perfectly fine. But it’s really nice to be sure about something for once. It’s refreshing to know that I made the right call. That clarity helps when the stresses of being a mother, financial stress, end of semester stress weighs you down. It’s nice to have that little gem to carry when life gets hard. Those little gems remind you of why you’re alive- they remind you why you keep going. I’m super grateful for that. I’ll always be grateful to the person who showed me what the beauty of social work looks like. I was in a position to learn and through that observation I recognized my own areas of growth. I have a lot of work to do, but to have the honor of doing this work? It’s definitely worth it.