It can’t be Social Work All the Time

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In a class focused on communities we have a project that requires us to engage with an under served community and perform an assessment of need. We do this through research (pulling census data, historical information, information about the geographic boundaries of the community) windshield surveys and one on one interviews with community members/leaders. It is a group project and my group has completed the preliminary research which means we were ready to go into the field. Yesterday was our first day spent in the community. It was one other group member and myself. We first did a windshield survey and then parked and observed the community on foot.

When we were finished I drove my classmate back to her car and together we processed our perceptions about what we observed in the community. This conversation led to a broader conversation about the social work program. We began talking about our strengths and weaknesses in the program, as we see them, and what we are actively doing to grow in these areas of weaknesses. One thing I have been doing about this area where I feel I need to grow is research and reading, lots of reading. One of my professors, who is aware of my quest for knowledge in this area, brings me a new book to supplement my current reading every few weeks. Every time I finish one, she brings me another. I have been very heavy on the books this semester but it has helped. It helps make me feel like I have some control over this area where I want to improve, I am not fully grasp it yet but I am working at it and that helps me feel like I am making progress.

As this conversation progressed my classmate gave me some very honest and helpful insight into her perception of my growth. An important piece of advice she offered was to try not to over compensate. I sat on that for the rest of the day and realized how valuable what she said was. Admittedly this area I am working on is an area I feel a bit insecure, I don’t have the same confidence in my abilities in this area as I do in other areas. When feeling insecure in yourself it is easy to swing the pendulum the other direction and overcompensate for this area where you believe you are lacking. That doesn’t help anything though. Her words helped me take a step back from all my reading and work and research for a moment and realize I need to take a breath. I am not going to get it over night and I have to take a break sometimes to maintain balance. At one point when my classmate was talking about her insecurities and concerns in the program she even said, it can’t be social work all the time. She was referencing the importance of balance and self-care.

As it is spring break and with these words in mind I have decided to put down my mountain of research and reading materials and pick up a book to read for fun. It has been a while since I have read for fun, I haven’t had the opportunity. Any free time I do have I spend reading one of my texts of one of the borrowed texts from my professor. I actually went and saw her right before spring break to return one text and borrow a new one so I would have something to read while we are in Key West. Well it will just have to wait.

It is easy to be consumed by school, just like I am sure it is easy to be consumed by work and clients when in the field but I know better. That has been lesson one in this program from the beginning, balance. Vacation is not social work time it is Todd and Jill time, it is family time, it is beach time and reading for pleasure time. It is frilly drinks at sunset time and exploring new places time. School will still be there next week when I get back, I am no less committed to any of this because I take time for me.

I have to remember to come up for air sometimes. Once I came to these conclusions I excitedly picked a book from the bookcase that I have not read yet. Dad, Todd’s dad that is, bought me three new books for Christmas that he thought I would like, I cannot begin to express how touched I was by this. I have not had a chance to touch a single one so I decided to start with Wild by Cheryl Strayed. The New York Times called it “A literary and human triumph”. That sounds like exactly what I need right now.

I do have one more school related activity on my schedule for tomorrow but then I am done for the weekend. Todd’s parents arrive tomorrow late afternoon and we leave early Friday morning for Key West. This vacation could not come at a better time, this is a much needed opportunity to clear my head so I can return to my studies next week refreshed and open.