Back in My Day: In Defense of a Generation

When I first started this blog I was 28 and returning to college for the first time in over 5 years. Most of my time back in the classroom has found me surrounded by people 10+ years younger than myself. My best friend at school is 12 years younger than me. At first I had a lot to say about the way these  millennials did things. If you go far enough back you will find multiple disparaging posts about these annoying millennials and how the way they do things is wrong and the way I do things is right.

I was an ass. I was still operating from a place of dichotomous thinking, there was little to no room for gray in my life back then. This is an area where I personally feel I have experienced much growth in the last 4 years. Now instead of leading from a place of judgement I generally lead from a place of celebrating differences.

This leads into the purpose of this post. This week brought with it some negative energy. The negative energy was not a huge shocker, that is just where our nation has been this year unfortunately. It feels like every week I am trying to balance negative energy and protect myself from allowing to get beneath the surface. This week was different though. It was not negative energy being spewed at me from the news, or social media, or even people in my cohort.. It came up at internship. At the end of supervision we were addressed as a group and comments were made about “work ethic” and “expectations”.. The word “entitlement” came up. It was unexpected and left a lot of people on edge.

Shortly after supervision I met with my supervisor for my end of semester review. I got high marks across the board and plenty of complimentary feedback. My supervisor ended the review by making it clear I was doing an excellent job and supervision was not about me. I was grateful for the good review, obviously that is important, but it did not change the way I felt about what took place in supervision.

Everyone I work with on the clinical team is doing an excellent job in my eyes. We all give 100%, we each have our own unique talents we bring to the team, we are all mindful of self-care and model for our clients everything we are talking about with them when in session.  I have worked with jaded cynical people in the past, I have compassion for them, burn out is a very real thing, but this is a team of highly committed clinical workers who care about our population.”Entitled” is not a word that would cross my mind when describing the group of women I am privileged enough to learn from and with. It was all a bit puzzling and left quite a few of us very uncomfortable. None of us could figure out what triggered this. It was not explained. Had we done something wrong? I definitely did not see it.

At the end of my review my supervisor shared with me that after our site visit a few weeks back our seminar instructor shared with her that some of the students from the younger generation were “entitled”. They did not feel they needed to work long hours or weekends, this kind of thing. I started to wonder if this message that was relayed was even for us. None of us have given any trouble about the hours expected of us, we all work weekends without complaint.

This was all disappointing to me on many levels. I was disappointed that someone from the school was engaging in what felt like gossip when it was relayed back to me. I was disappointed that my supervisor took this information and made negative generalizations about an entire generation of people as well as casting negative judgments about the younger generations work ethic just because it might look different. I was disappointed that a moment of negative talk between two professionals seeped into supervision and had a negative impact on the clinical team. This could have stopped at any point but it didn’t. That is how energy works, it just keeps growing until someone breaks the cycle, until sees it for what it is and consciously makes the decision not to engage, not to let it in.

I am not going to lie to you it took me a day or two to get to the point where I felt I could break the cycle.

I have had the opportunity to process this with a few people, hubs was ultimately what helped me balanced it. I know people like to shit on millennials, especially the prior generations. They are called vapid, narcissistic, selfish, out of touch with reality, lazy, entitled.. so on and so on..

I remember when I was child my dad’s dad would tell me stories about how he walked a mile in the snow to get to school when he was a child in Wisconsin. My mom’s dad told us about how during the depression he caught squirrels and bull frogs on the farm in Missouri and that was dinner most nights.

The point they were always trying to make: you have it so easy. Not just me either. Your parents had it so easy, you have it so easy, and your kids will have it so easy too. They griped about the decay in moral fiber, groaned about how baby boomers have no work ethic because my parents would take on vacations – how dare they take time off work. 

This is how it goes. The former generation is always looking down their nose at the upcoming generation saying “you are doing it wrong”. You see this cross-culturally as well, this is not something we have trade marked in America. It is part of the human condition to think your generational cohort is/was the best. I can’t disagree either, mine is totally the best we have The Labyrinth and The Goonies.

What one person may be looking at and calling “entitled” another person may be calling self-care or work/life balance.

This is progress, this is what it looks like. It is a shift in thinking, it is a change in work ethic, technology, attitude, ideas.. Change is constant no reason to be afraid of it. No reason to call names. There is room for everyone.

Even though it was made clear this message was not meant for me it still made me very uncomfortable because I just do not agree with it. Over time of getting to know all these beautiful people who are 10+ years younger than me I have personally learned that yes, they do things differently (sometimes I feel super old working with them because they know things I don’t know and do things I don’t do), and that is not bad or wrong or any other negative judgment one may want to attach to them. I am just as open to learn from them as I am to learn from my mentors who are 10+ years older than me. Both generations have a lot to offer in terms of their approaches to the work and their life perspectives.

I do believe in work/life balance. That does not make me entitled. I will practice self-care and I will also make my clients my top priority when I am at work. I will have boundaries and I will say no in my personal life and my professional life and that does not make me selfish. My approach to social work practice will be my own and it will not be any more or less valuable than any other’s, it will be mine though. Our differences are what make this a great profession, I thought that was a given, for some maybe it isn’t. I do not hold any of this against them, I just see it differently.

work-life

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Being Mindful of Our Power

mother earth1

I have been sick all day and as a result I am now unable to sleep. I laid in bed, slept for an hour, and then was woken up by my symptoms. I laid in bed for another hour awake and then decided it was time to get up and go to the couch until I get tired again. I have my book and plan to read for a bit, that usually makes me groggy, but first I wanted to write this post because I had been brainstorming it all day.

This morning Todd got up before me, I took medicine for my symptoms last night that made me sleepy and left me with an enormous exhaustion hang over this morning which is why I chose not to medicate again tonight. So he got up and was feeling ambitious. He kissed me goodbye and headed out into the world to run errands. When he returned 20 minutes later I had moved from the bed to the couch but that was the extent of my ambition for the morning. Todd was still on a roll though, he decided today was the day he was going to get on the roof and cut back branches from our Live Oak and Camphor trees. As it stands both trees had branches that were hanging so low they were laying on the roof. And last week the Live Oak dropped an enormous limb onto our neighbors garage causing enough damage to warrant repairs, it was time for action before this happened to us.

I accompanied Todd to the backyard to ensure he made it safely on to the roof and hand him up his tools and then came back in to rest. We had a system where I would come out every 15 minutes to check on him and if he needed me at any point he would pound on the roof 3 times. This went on for two hours.

He accomplished a lot, he swept all the leaves and debris from the roof and cut back many low hanging branches that could have been problematic in a bad storm. At one point during one of his breaks to drink water I was talking with him from my spot on a bench in the backyard and I made an observation about some of the limbs he had already cut that were laying in front of me. I was noticing all the signs of life in these branches and I started getting really sad. Some leaves were chewed up and were clearly a food source for the tree’s inhabitants, some leaves had little seed pods/egg sacks on the back of them showing again how this tree gives life to the world around it. As I was expressing my sadness over the fact that were wreaking havoc on an ecosystem Todd mentioned how he had made similar observations while he was working. He said that there were lots of insects living in the leaf debris laying on the roof, he was essentially catapulting all these creatures along with their home on to the ground when he swept. He also mentioned that as he sat on the roof pitch talking to me there were two squirrels on the roof with him that were trying to get into the tree from the roof and he was realizing he had just removed their access by cutting back the branches. The squirrels did manage to get into the tree but still, we both were very aware of the impact we were having on a lot of life with our actions.

This was hard for me to sit with. Even as I was dragging the massive branches across the backyard to throw in what is becoming a bit of a compost pile, I was thinking about the life I was disturbing as I crossed the yard. It has been a very wet week in Florida thanks to Hurricane Hermine and as a result our backyard is littered with mushrooms of all shapes and sizes. I certainly destroyed a few as I did my work today, although I did my best to avoid as many as possible.

When it was all said and done I felt torn between gratitude for the hard work and commitment my husband had given to the upkeep of the home we share and melancholy over the impact we had on our backyard’s ecosystem. What repercussions will our actions have on the life surrounding our home?

This is my INFP self all the way. I realize there are people who do their yard work, or maybe hire others to do it, and do not think twice about what any of it means on a broader level. I do though. I also realize that I do not pay much attention to things like the cost of gas, while others are maybe a bit more mindful in areas like that. There is no judgement in any of this, it just highlights differences in perspective.

I spent a good part of the day laying on the couch being sick and thinking about what this all means and how I feel about it. I don’t have it all figured out yet, it relates to a bigger theme I am working on in my life right now having to do with my impact on the natural world around me. What I will say though is I am ultimately okay with the actions we took today because for us it was a matter of safety. I do not want my family to be one of those families on the news who had a tree destroy a significant portion of their home. As home owners we have to do what is needed to tend to our property and keep it from falling into a level of disarray that could be potentially dangerous. With that in mind I also feel it is important for us to be mindful of the power we have to destroy and sustain life while we do what is needed to keep our home safe. There are a lot of fragile living beings on our property and it is important to me, and Todd too I think but maybe not in quite the same way, that we are mindful of our impact on their existence.

I feel like there is more I can be doing in terms of protecting the life on my own property as well as on a more global level but I feel even being mindful in this way is a good starting point.

As I finish this post I am thinking about my gratitude. I am grateful for my connection to nature and the earth. I am grateful for a heart that sees things my eyes alone cannot. I am grateful for a life partner that gets it. I am grateful for safety and being with someone who goes out of his way to make me feel safe. I am grateful for time to rest and reflect. I hope that the life we disturbed today is able to bounce back, and if some of it is not I am sincerely grateful for the sacrifice that was made to keep my family safe.

mother earth

Sometimes You Have to Spell it Out

john stewart

One thing I love about social work is the deep commitment to ethics. This resonated with me immediately after I read the NASW Code of Ethics for the first time. Character, Integrity, Ethics, Principle I place high value on all of these things. I have mentioned before how in a previous relationship I got the nickname of “the moral police”, my partner at the time did not understand this side of me, how important these things were to me. I was made to feel too rigid, it really wasn’t until dating Todd that I met someone else who valued these things on the same level as myself. For once I felt normal. Then upon entering into the program I was again validated, there is NOTHING wrong with being someone of strong principle.

I did have to learn balance though. I came to realize that people are neither good nor bad they just are and we are all capable of being both good and bad. I moved away from judgement which I will admit took some work, my socialization process taught me to lead from a place of judgement. Ever heard of Catholic guilt? It’s a real thing and part of living with your own sin is calling others out for their sins as a way to feel better about yourself. At least that was my experience and still is with family who have tried to shame me for some of my beliefs. It’s bad news, very negative, steeped in shame and self-loathing. Crawling out of that pit takes work.

Eventually I did figure out the balance and then a few years later I found a home in social work and my shared values with Todd. I am thankful for my passion surrounding ethics, it has helped me navigate some tricky situations in life, most recently while being in the program.

I was having a conversation with a professor about character  and integrity during office hours my second semester into the program. When explaining where I stood on something I explained that I never wanted to be in a situation where someone would put a question mark over my head (figuratively speaking). I never want to put myself in a situation where my character would be called into question. If you don’t have integrity, what do you have?

So in the program I am cautious. Although I am flexible in most aspects of my life (that is the P side of my INFP personality) when it comes to anything regarding ethics I actually am pretty rigid as my former significant other implied.

This background about me is important to understand why I am feeling the way I am right now. This semester is proving challenging because I feel like my boundaries are being tested quite a bit and I have had to delicately navigate multiple situations that I perceive as ethical issues for me.

I have made the decision I can no longer tip toe around the issues so now I am going to have to address them which will result in a potentially uncomfortable conversation with a classmate. Not thrilled about this but it must be done, I have to stand up for myself or else face my integrity being compromised (I won’t allow that to happen) or risk being taken advantage of because I was too nice to address the issues, not really my style either.

Here are some of the problems I have run into:

The person asking if I wanted to work on an online assignment together that was not assigned as a group project. I do not collaborate on any assignment unless it was explicitly assigned as group work. I told the person No and got that long awkward OKKKAAAYYYYY….. as a response. I guess it was supposed to make me feel bad for saying No or something? Whatever.

Next they wanted to borrow my book to take an open book quiz. Again I said No. My reason for this No was because I highlight and write notes in the margins when I read my text books (this person knows that about me). They would have extra help on the quiz because I do this, that would not be right so the answer was No.

Another complaint I have is that on more than one occasion I brainstormed with this person for a group project and they ended up using my brain work, my ideas and attempting to pass them off as their own without giving me any credit. It would be one thing if they said, “Jill and I were talking and we came up with…” I am willing to share credit but that is not what happened. They essentially stole my intellectual property. Can I even say that though if I had not written my ideas down? I don’t know how that works. To be clear the ideas I am talking about were not ideas we came up with together, they were my input into the conversation, ideas from my head taken from me and then used under someone else’s name. That is when I learned I could no longer brainstorm with this person. At this point I placed a question mark over this person’s head.

Then I started to realize this person was not doing the work for classes. In a group project where we, as a group of 6 people, gave ourselves a timeline to have our work ready one week before our assignment was due this person showed up the day we agreed to have everything ready and not only had they not done their part they had the nerve to ask what their part was. They had not even started doing the research. That is not an ethical issue but it is aggravating.

So now we are caught up to the latest transgression. Earlier this week this person asked what my schedule was like for the rest of the week. I should have known to ask Why rather than share my schedule, that was a rookie mistake on my part. I did share my schedule though and then the person asked for a RIDICULOUS favor. We had a paper due Tuesday at midnight, the online copy was due at midnight at least, we were also supposed to bring a hard copy to class Tuesday night. Apparently this person had not even started the paper yet so they did not have a hard copy with them , obviously. They wanted to know if they could email their paper, have me print it for them and then drop it off with the teacher (on campus) later in the week when I had time.

Even now I cannot for the life of me tell you why the next words out of my mouth were “that shouldn’t be a problem”. I was annoyed the second they asked which tells me the answer is No. You do not agree to favors you are uncomfortable with, at least I don’t. What right do I have to resent this person though? I agreed to this nonsense. I had an opportunity to say No or that I was not comfortable and I ruined it by saying “that shouldn’t be a problem”? Who is this girl? I don’t even think I know her.

Here is my issue with this. The biggest thing, it is a boundary issue. This is not something I would do for anyone else so I shouldn’t be making an exception for this person. My weak spot is that I had just gotten done hearing all about this person’s personal issues (housing issues, money trouble, work schedule conflicts etc etc) so I was feeling bad for them. I am such a sucker. This person has a track record of not taking the courses seriously by leaving early, coming in late, not turning work in on time, not pulling their weight in group work, stealing ideas and otherwise doing their best to skate by on the coat tales of others. Not to mention I do not live near campus. I live downtown more than a half hour away. We are talking roughly an hour and a half out of my day for this.

After I said it shouldn’t be a problem the person went up and spoke to the professor and I heard her tell him to just email her the paper instead of worrying about the hard copy, all I could think was Thank Goodness!

So I did not give it a second thought. Then tonight Todd and I are getting ready for bed and I go to plug my phone into the charger in the kitchen. Once I plug it in I see I have a missed text. Immediately I am annoyed because I prefer not to receive calls or texts after 7pm on weekdays. I check it though in case it is my parents or a friend in trouble etc. It’s not, of course.

It was my classmate texting to see if I would print their paper tomorrow and drop it off with the professor at school. But that’s not all, of course it’s not, they also asked if I would edit their paper for them. They offered to buy me Starbucks as compensation for the editing.

Are they serious?! Um it’s 10:00 and NO. No to all of it, no to everything. No to you texting me at 10:00 at night, No to driving for an hour to drop off your late work for you, No to cheating and No to your bribe. Just No.

It is time to have a conversation with this person. I will be diplomatic because it is not like this person is going away but it is time to establish very clear boundaries. It is also time that this person understand my character a little better so these inappropriate requests will stop.I cannot fault someone for what they do not know. This person is clearly someone who is going to try to get away with what they can, but I am not your Yes Man. I am not weak minded and although I may have a momentary lapse in judgement occasionally, like when I stupidly agreed to help in the first place, those lapses are few, far between and quickly corrected.

Here are the points I need to make

1. I do not deal in bribes.
2. I do not collaborate unless we are given permission to work in groups. That includes editing.
3. I live a half hour from campus and I am not an errand boy.
4. I am “off the clock” at 7pm everyday and I am not available on the weekends unless it is set up in advance and it is a large group project.
5. I do not appreciate late night calls/texts. It is inappropriate and unprofessional. See Bullet point 4.

I talked to my brother about all of this because he knows the person as well. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t being too rigid but he validated my concerns and admitted he wasn’t too sure about this person either. Sometimes (quite often in my case) you have to listen to your intuition. I am going to have to deal with this tomorrow. It is important to me that going forward I have an understanding with this person because I would never do anything to bring my character into question and I am not going to get tangled up with someone else whose character is unclear to me.