First Week of Classes Done

I would like to report that my first week of classes went off without a hitch but that would be a lie. There a minor bump in the road which resulted in a schedule change. I think this worked out in my favor though. I landed myself in the Loss class, which is new, and am really excited about it. It is not just about death and grieving, although that is certainly a big part of the class, it covers all kinds of loss people experience throughout their lives.

I definitely am picking up a theme this semester, “leave your baggage at the door”. I am also taking Assessing I and Social Justice and this has come up in all three classes so far. In one we were required to fill out an anonymous survey regarding our feelings towards certain groups etc. ie: “When I see homeless people I think _______.”

In the loss class we will be writing a paper about all the loss we have personally experienced in life and are expected work through it in this paper. All of these steps are to help us become unbiased and prevent counter transference with our clients.

I have mentioned previously that I have encountered some classmates who, while very nice people, do not seem that  self-aware. I think these exercises will help with that. I think it is healthy to reflect on your feelings about certain topics and life events and make sure you have completely worked through them. I look forward to these activities.

So other than the hiccup in my schedule the first week of class did go well. Hospice is going well also. Last week they were short-handed so I worked three shifts. I particularly enjoyed my Friday shift because I was working alongside one of the people from my training class. He is one of the only other “young” adults that I have encountered while volunteering. Most volunteers are at least 30 years our senior, many even surpass that. I love it though. I get along with the older adults so well and relate with their work ethic as well as other areas.

Last week while I was at Hospice I had the good fortune to meet one of the mental health counselors that works in the bereavement center. Upon first meeting we were discussing the different services the bereavement center provides, one of which is a day camp for children and young adults who have had a loss. I explained about my prior involvement with New Hope for Kids which then led to the counselor trying to recruit me to help with the day camp.  I am excited about this new opportunity but unfortunately it sounds like it maybe scheduled for my wedding day which clearly will not work. She is going to keep me posted and if it does not conflict than I will absolutely be getting involved.

In the interim she had other needs that she feels I could meet and gave me the contact information for the volunteer coordinator in that department. It sounds like I may be making phone calls to check in on the family of loved ones who have passed. They also hold semiannual memorial services which I am interested in.

Today I had a long talk with one of the social workers on campus. She gave me tips and shared some insight into the field as well as the MSW program. A point that she brought up was that she felt I was smart for choosing the minor I did and becoming involved with Hospice because it makes me more marketable and gives me an edge. I have thought about this before, it is not why I have made the choices I have made but I realize it may benefit me when applying for grad school or jobs in the future. The thing she said that really scared me though is that there are very few jobs for social workers in central Florida.

I don’t know how someone just knows that kind of information off the top of their head. It could be that she was recently hired at Hospice so is familiar with what is available (or not) right now. It could be that she keeps an eye on this sort of thing. It could be that she has social worker friends that are actively looking and not having much luck. The truth is it could be a lot of things but her saying this scared me.

3 years might seem like a long time but I know better. I have been back in school for 2 years and it has gone by in a flash. Before I know it I am going to graduating with my MSW and attempting to get back into the work force. I will also need to start paying back the few student loans I will have taken out through out the course of my schooling. The time to start thinking about the future is now. The instructors talk so much about networking and I see why it is so important. When I am done with school I don’t just want to find a job, I want to find the RIGHT job.

My discussion with her today drove home a few points for me like how important grades, internships, volunteering, networking and just overall involvement in relevant work to the field is, while in school. While I am not working school is my full-time job and like any other position I have held I want to do my best. This means making good decisions, not becoming too comfortable, pushing myself, trying new things etc.

I really enjoy any opportunity I have to speak to someone in the field or in a related field, like the mental health counselor. It helps remind me what I am working towards and gets me excited about next steps.

 

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Official Welcome to Social Work

Today was orientation to the Social Work program. Surprisingly I found it quite informative. There is an externship opportunity over winter break I am interested in (if I can make it happen before we leave for Chicago), I am interested in the social work student association along with a few other odds and ends things I heard about as well. I think I have already mentioned this but I am really interested in and looking forward to the trip to the capitol next semester on advocacy day. I have a feeling that will be a highlight of undergrad for me.

They covered a lot about the internship senior year which I appreciated as I have had questions that so far have gone unanswered. Also one of the professors that specializes in the field of study I am getting my minor in presented today. I am setting up a meeting with her soon to pick her brain about the field and her experiences.

 

So, unrelated, Monday I worked my usual morning shift at Hospice however, there was nothing usual about it. I am a patient care volunteer which means I work directly with the patients and their families however, I made sure to get myself cross trained on the front desk so I can cover when needed. Of late there has been a need which has found me at the desk quite a bit. Fine with me, I like doing both.

Monday I came in for the patient care shift and found that the front desk volunteer was unable to come in which led to me working the desk instead. Again, fine with me. I was informed that the executives would be touring the facility in the afternoon, this would be the first time this has happened. I was excited. I know many of the executives thanks to my time working in the executive offices. I ended up staying past my shift to cover the next shift as the person who was unable to make it in for the front desk shift that morning was actually scheduled for a double that day. It worked nicely because, as I expected, one of the executives making the rounds was my executive. 🙂 I got to catch up with my old boss. It was nice to get some face time, let her know what I am up to and just check in with her.

Another detail that made Monday different was my finding out about a particular patient that had passed the week prior after my Monday shift. News of a patient passing in itself is not unusual given where we are, it was this patient that made the difference.

When I first started with Hospice other volunteers talked about how sometimes it can be emotionally taxing, particularly when it is a younger patient that passes. I have experienced that first hand now. I cannot share any particulars other than to say this patient was younger than me. I have been thinking about how I feel about the news of this patient passing and I have not figured out how to put it into words yet. I am sad and feel for the patient’s family but when I think about how I personally feel it is hard to explain. This patient was doing OK, to the point of being discharged the at one point thanks to an upswing in health. I came back the next week and the patient was back. The patient still seemed alright though, wanting to sit up in bed, being able to hold conversations. I had multiple interactions with the patient and the patient’s family my last shift before the patient passed.

This is all still new to me and this was the first patient that actually caused me to pause when I heard the news of the patient passing. Whether it’s right or wrong it is true ( for me at least) that it does seem a bit sadder when a younger patient passes. At the age I am now I feel like my life is just beginning and it doesn’t seem fair that anyone should be gone so soon.

I think what surprises me the most about myself since becoming involved with this organization is the level of balance I have been able to keep. Before I started I felt that even though I am a sensitive person I was strong enough to be able to handle this experience. So far I have been right. It is sad at times and I completely understand why many people are taken aback when I tell them where I volunteer but it is a good fit for me I think. I have enjoyed being a comfort to others even if it is in some small way like making them a cup of tea or just listening for a while. And, up to this point, I have not gone home from a shift in tears.

This has been the most meaningful volunteer experience to date for me. Aside from the fulfillment I get from the work itself, it has been validation for me to know that I can have a tender heart and sensitive disposition while still being strong and capable. I knew this about myself but at times others have doubted me which I am sad to say occasionally caused a little self doubt to creep in. Most importantly about this validation though is that this is me validating myself not seeking it from the outside world. I knew not only that I could do this but that I would be good and helpful where help was needed, and I was right. I don’t need anyone to tell me I am doing well, I know I am making a difference.

 

 

A Reality Check of Sorts

2 weeks ago we received troubling news and I have not had much want to write since. That is the best I can do to explain my silence and what may result in further silence for a while. I am not able to write about the news itself, as it is deeply personal and not mine to share. It is the type of information that makes you reflect on what is really important though and is in part why I have had nothing to say recently. None of the mundane musings that would normally be rolling around in my head seem worth mentioning right now.

That is not to say things are not still good right now though, they are. Even with upsetting news life still moves forward and for us this is still an exciting time in our lives. So I can update on that I suppose.

This weekend is the bridal shower my mother is hosting for me. Although I was resistant to the idea of a shower at first, considering it an unnecessary fuss, I am now tremendously grateful for the distraction and to have a day with all my favorite women under one roof. It is to be held at my house which means this whole week I have been busy with cleaning and prepping. My mother and I made all my our decorations for the shower and I am quite pleased with how everything is turning out. I will share pictures the next time I post.

The semester ended on a good note, that good note being my earning an A in my first official social work class. I decided not to sell back my text, I think I may find it useful in future semesters. I look forward to fall term and being truly full-time again.

I am enjoying my time at Hospice. I have a set shift every week now that I look forward to.

Last week Todd and I volunteered together for the first time and loved it. There was an event going on in a neighboring downtown community where volunteers were needed so I signed up and he ended up being interested too. Volunteering is something I do for myself because it gives me purpose and keeps me centered, it was special to me to share that with him.

This week Todd was informed business travel may be in his future. I am excited for him. Of course I will miss him but I look at that as a good thing. How often anymore do we have an opportunity to truly miss one another? It is not clear when this will be happening yet. If it is this year that will amount to a very busy year in terms of travel for Todd between the business trip(s), a honeymoon and Chicago in December.

In reference to the honeymoon, planning is in full swing. We have listed all the places we would like to visit while in D.C., the next step is to map everything out and group the places that are close together so we make an itinerary. I never plan this thoroughly when on vacation, typically we have an idea of what we want to do and if it does not work out then whatever happens next is considered an adventure.

In this case we have decided to do some research and have a plan. There is a lot to do and see and only 8 days in which to do and see it all. On top of researching things to do I have been researching places to eat, very excited about this portion of the trip. I don’t think either one of us consider ourselves foodies but we do not like chain restaurants and when visiting an area we like to eat where the locals would eat. In addition to that, dinner is not dinner for me without fresh vegetables so I look for restaurants that are heavy handed on the veggies and prepare them in new and exciting ways. And although I am not much of a dessert person, there is this darling macaroon shop I stumbled upon that I am eager to try.

So that’s about it. The day to day is good, there is a bit of a storm cloud hanging overhead but it is going to be there for a while so we just have to persevere.