Nipping the Bud

cult comp

 

Today at the beginning of class my professor asked if everyone had gotten the email from our program head about professionalism and what we all thought of it. This particular class is not one of the classes that is having issues but some of us in this class are in other classes where things have happened that shouldn’t have so it was still nice to be able to air things out. This particular professor has great control over the class, she is very structured and she is not afraid to tackle the difficult topics. So she proceeded to facilitate a very meaningful conversation about what is going on in the program right now and our reactions to it.

Our professor explained that having these conversations facilitated by a professor is one of the ways the faculty is going to try to nip this problem in the bud so it does not fester and get worse. The class that I have tomorrow is the class I am where the most issues arise. There have been issues with students being disrespectful of the instructor and fellow classmates. Lectures get hijacked and the instructor has difficulty regaining control and then a lot of time is wasted. At times it feels like a hostage situation in this class. I don’t worry much about it because I doing well in this class regardless but it is a hard class and a lot of students are struggling in part because we rarely have the time to cover the material properly due to interruptions that derail the lecture.

I am curious to see if my professor tomorrow tries to facilitate a similar discussion. I feel like if done right this class could benefit from an earnest conversation but I don’t know if an attempt to pull it off would work in this class. We’ll see though.

It sounds the faculty is in the early stages of deciding the best way to address and correct what has been going on so we will see how this all unfolds. Even my professor today said that our cohort is a bit of a problem child though and I think that is embarrassing. At the end of the day I still really want to believe that everyone has it in them to turn this around. Everyone grows and learns at different speeds, maybe for some people this inner growth just takes longer, that does not mean they are not capable of it though.

I am curious to see how this will all play out, I am really hoping for a best case scenario. Our cohort could be a real underdog story if we are able to pull it together and turn things around for the better.

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Poise and Grace

grace

 

Truth be told in terms of physical movement and motor control I do not possess either of the competencies listed above. That being said, in the realm of interpersonal relationships and human emotion/self-control these are two areas I am known to excel in. Now I am only able to say that last statement earnestly because I had, in the past, fallen short in those areas and made the conscious decision to work mindfully on my inner self  in order to grow in the area of dignity and grace.

I have been up front about my lack of inspiration of late in terms of the philosophical musings that are often found dancing along the pages of this blog. I have found myself once again struck, it is like an awakening of sorts and as per usual it has presented itself repeatedly in different forms as if almost begging to be expressed.

I have been re-reading Tuesdays with Morrie recently. I have had little time for leisure reading of late but when time allows I have been picking it up and putting it down. I have not had time for a few weeks but this morning I arrived to campus early. I managed to stow myself away in a quiet corner of an upper floor of the building where my classes are held and it was in this corner where my inspiration first hit. I am towards the end of the book and I do not remember exactly which chapter I was on. Somewhere between marriage, forgiveness and culture Morrie said something that ruminated with me, as so many of his insights do. He was talking about how people behave when they feel threatened and how this behavior when in this kind of crisis can tell you so much about a person’s character. I completely agree, as usual. I have certainly noticed this over the years, specifically in professional settings. Sometimes I have been surprised and disappointed, fortunately for me the few people I have looked up to as mentor’s in my life hold themselves to a high standard which I learned and adapted much like a child modeling their parent’s behavior.

I stopped reading after that chapter this morning, I still had about 45 minutes before class but I just wanted to sit and let Morrie’s words sink in. Ironically later in the day my advice was called upon by a friend and we had a long conversation about how to conduct oneself with class and recover from heart-break with grace and dignity. We talked about the negative feelings that were bubbling up inside of her and her impulse to lash out at those who caused them. I have mentioned on here before how I have always believed that no one can get the better of you unless you allow it so we explored that idea in terms of the way she was currently feeling. The resentment, the anger, the frustration and rejection. They were all valid feelings for what she was dealing with. Ultimately by the end of our conversation she had made the decision to take the high road, wish the person who had wronged her well and let go of the negativity in an effort to take back some control over the situation. She didn’t want to allow the person or situation to affect her in this way and chose to focus on the positive and move in that direction. We ended our conversation with some heart-felt admirations for one another and knowing how lucky we are to learn and grow together through each others vulnerability.

Much later in the evening I was watching my all time favorite TV show, the one show that time stands still for in my life, Project Runway. Tim Gunn is my idol, he is the epitome of style, intellect and absolute class. He is a teacher and a mentor by trade and an absolute inspiration as a human being. So like all seasons of this show there is a clear antagonist, the one aspect of this show I have never liked much. I watch this show primarily for my weekly Tim Gunn fix and secondary to that for the amazing art in the form of clothing. The artist inside of me feels alive and stimulated when I watch this show. The antagonist this season was particularly nasty, I speak in past tense because to my delight she was sent home on this evenings episode. Now although this is just a TV show I am talking about I still feel the need to say that my delight was not in this artist’s misfortune but just in not having to sit through future episodes of her negativity. The aspect of the show that applies to my current brain-work was her disgusting behavior once she knew the inevitable, that she was to be eliminated. She was cruel and spiteful and lashed out at artist’s that had never wronged her. It was the embodiment of everything Morrie illustrated in the book. He was essentially saying when threatened, some people react this way and if as a society we could foster a culture where we all work together we would be better for it.

It is a nice idea, something to work towards, in the interim I would find myself satisfied with little changes that can be made in daily life as a way to better ourselves and each other. Things like letting an extra car in when stuck in traffic, even if their driving is inconsiderate, or being kind more often than giving into the immediate gratification impulse of being nasty. Little every day events like this matter. This is a way to foster the culture Morrie spoke of.

So on  more personal note also related in a way to this topic of dignity and grace.. When I was working the front desk at Hospice this week a man came in carrying an exquisite stack of old leather-bound books. He was there visting a patient, I recognized him from the day before. On his prior visit he noticed that we have a small library of sorts in the shared living room and brought these lovely books to donate. They were so stunning even with clearly being aged that I asked him if he was sure, I would have trouble parting with such beauties. When he said yes I thanked him explaining how touching the donation was and made the appropriate person aware so they could process the donation and put the out to be displayed. While I waited for the employee to come down and collect the books I leafed through some of the pages. He donated a Sherlock Holmes, two poetry collections and then another book I was unfamiliar with but that was equally striking. While flipping through one of the poetry books I stumbled across a few poems that spoke to me, one of which was If by Rudyard Kipling. And in what I am sure is no coincidence it is quite appropriate for what I have touched on in this post so I wanted to share it as well. I have highlighted the lines that I really appreciate and identify with.

 

IF

By Rudyard Kipling

(‘Brother Square-Toes’—Rewards and Fairies)

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;  
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same; 
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

 

Refusing to take off the rose colored glasses: a lesson in defiance from an idealist

rose colored glasses

“..Real courage is.. when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” – To Kill a Mockingbird

 

2 months after I left work full-time and returned to school Todd and I decided to have a garage sale. We had moved into together roughly six months prior and had duplicates of almost everything. After living on your own for a while and then moving in with someone else who has been living alone as well this kind of thing happens.

Unlike Todd, I kind of like garage sales, hosting them at least. I see it as a reason to be outside and a wonderful opportunity for people watching. You never know what kind of interesting people you are going to encounter. What I don’t like about garage sales, haggling. I do not haggle. You tell me the price, I pay it. If I do not think a price is fair I do not pay it. That’s it. Everything is haggling with garage sales though. Ugh. Consequently I am not always as stern as I should be about my bottom line either which is where Todd comes in, he does not negotiate. This is the price, pay it or not. He hates his role at garage sales.

So, back to my point. At our first garage sale we were down sizing all of our duplicates as well as getting rid of  unused items that were taking up space. Towards the end of the day a woman came in and bought all of my books that were displayed. She and I were talking and discovered we have social work in common. She had just moved to College Park to be closer to her daughter who attends a local dance school but she had been a licensed Social Worker for 20+ years. When she found out social work was my intended major we exchanged emails to keep in touch and so I may ask her questions about the field. I immediately took her up on the offer of sharing field knowledge, I emailed her later that week.

Our correspondence was my first encounter with what I now think of as The Social Work Warning Label. In the last two years I have heard a variation of the warning label at least eight times. I know the actual number is higher but that is just the number of in-depth conversations I could remember off the top of my head and counted out on my fingers. There have been plenty of conversations in passing that have involved the warning label as well. So what is the social work warning label you might be wondering? Well if you are familiar or affiliated with the field I am sure you are already a few steps ahead of me.

Essentially it is the conversation that usually follows me telling anyone that has any experience with the field what my major is. It is the “be careful of this” talk ,and the “well this is what happened to my friend” talk, and all the other foreboding gloom and doom warnings that apparently come with this field. All of it is meant to be beneficial, none of it is meant to discourage me in any way. The phrase “burned out” seems to be synonymous with the field. This is just these people trying to prepare me for what may be the inevitable in their eyes based on what their experiences have been.

I was talking to Todd about all of this a few weeks ago after my most recent warning label conversation. This is what I have found, every person I have had interaction with in relation to this field has had either a word of warning for me or some other negative tid bit. I have never once heard one person say, “Oh Social Work huh? That’s great, I have been in the field for the last five years and I love it, most rewarding experience of my life.” or “My friend is a social worker and she absolutely loves it.” It is always more to the tune of, “I worked in X field as a social worker for 2 years and couldn’t handle it, now I do X job that is completely unrelated to my degree.” or “Oh my friend went to school for social work and worked for X out of college. She got burned out and now does X instead.” (Which is again usually completely unrelated to the degree).

There are positive inspiring stories as well but they are never what comes first and I feel they almost always carry an asterisk. It will be something like, “This is what I love about the work I do but you have to watch out for X, X and X.”

Balance, boundaries and self-preservation are always a reoccurring theme and clearly very important in this line of work.

I can admit, and have many times when having these conversations with people, that I may be at times a little more naive than most to the workings of the world around me. This, however, was not the case when making the decision to pursue social work.

There is a reason I did not start this journey until I was 28, I wasn’t ready. I have known since I was 18 that this is what fits for me. Even back then when I was still unsure of exactly who I was and who I wanted to be in this world, I knew. I needed time though. Time for life experience, time to mature emotionally, time to figure myself out. I knew all along that this field would be emotionally taxing, that at times I may be working with a broken system, that the work I do may be without recognition, that I could be putting my whole heart into a thankless pursuit and ultimately the work I do may never incur any kind of big change and in turn all I may ever be capable of is marginal improvements. It is still worth it, or what I mean to say is, I still see the worth in it.

In life I do tend to see the possibilities over how things currently are. I do look for the silver lining. There is good in everything and even if it kills me at times I know this is the only chance I have at feeling fulfilled. This is the one thing in my life that I am doing selfishly, just for me, because I know even if I am unable to make a difference in the big picture, trying will make all the difference in my own life.

Tarzan and the Trashcan, why risks are worth taking

I can think of many times in my life where taking a risk did not pay off, in fact, on more than one occasion it led to my absolute mortification.

tarzan and the trashcan

There was the Tarzan /trashcan incident when I was 9. I decided it would be cool to climb a tree (I was a great tree climber as a kid) and tie a rope to one of the higher branches so my friend and I could swing from it. I believe we were calling this game George of the Jungle only in my case it was not the tree I needed to watch out for , no, it was my poorly tied rope. My knotting abilities put my boy scout father and ex-sailor grandfather to shame that day. The rope was a little short and so were we so we had trouble reaching it from the ground. We decided to flip one of those large out-door garbage cans upside down and stand on it to swing from. Since I hung the rope I got to go first. I mounted the trash can and stood there having second thoughts about the whole thing when my friend, impatient for her turn, griped “What are you waiting for?!”. Without further contemplation I leapt from the trashcan with the grace of a flightless bird and grabbed onto the dangling rope. I got one good swing out of it before I came crashing down onto my back completely knocking the wind out of my lungs.

That’s the thing about taking risks, sometimes you end up flat on your ass with nothing to show for it. You can’t let this stop you though. I think of other times in my life when I did not leap and although I may have avoided another Tarzan and the trashcan debacle there is no telling what I missed out on. When you don’t leap that’s when you are left with the “what ifs?”. School for me is an obvious example. I never fully committed to that leap the first time and fell short in the middle. I went back though and I think that counts for something. I think in the end it’s hard to say sometimes what risks are worth taking but here is what I have learned over the years;

Love is always worth taking a chance on.

It’s better to spend that $5 on a beer with friends than holding out for the lottery to finally pay off

And education is always something worth investing in

Ultimately if you do take a risk that doesn’t pay off give yourself some time to heal and you will find you are at least left with a story to tell and that is worth something in itself.

Utterly Run Down

heart break

Today was a long day. I was up at 5:15, out the door by 6:30 and did not return again until after 5:30 in the evening. We were short-handed at work and had twice the call and fax volume as yesterday not to mention most of my day was spent putting out fires. It felt as though I was dealing with nothing but issues and complications today. None of this has anything to do with why I cannot get out of my own head tonight though.

We diagnosed a patient with cancer today. Moments like these are what stay with me over the years. Being a part of someone elses life changing moment gets burned into you. It leaves an imprint. I ache inside for this woman.

I am completely humbled by it all. Suddenly you are standing there in the midst of a person’s ground zero, suddenly the smallest thing can mean so much. I am ripped open emotionally by these moments but they are so significant and it’s when kindness and compassion are most important. Whether it is offering to help with whatever small thing needs to be done in that moment to providing a shoulder to cry on or a hand to hold.

I recorded Atonement off the TV a few days ago and watched it after work tonight in a feeble attempt to distract myself from the day. As I watched my mind kept wandering back to our patient though. Is she OK? Does she have family surrounding her tonight? Will she be able to sleep after getting such terrible news? I hope so, with my whole heart I do.

 

I carry my soap box with me

Todd is not an activist, it’s not that he doesn’t care about social issues, he just doesn’t get riled up enough to vent and take action. This is an area where we differ greatly. I get riled up. I see discrimination or something that isn’t right and I pull out my soap box and go off. He jokes that I carry my soap box with me everywhere I go just in case I need to jump on it. I guess I do. I am sure for those of you that have read certain posts I have put out there you have noticed this about me. I have opinions, opinions I will voice. At the same time though I believe in being respectful. My opinions are not everyone’s opinions, I am aware of this, and I am not arrogant enough to believe that just because I have a certain opinion that it is necessarily right. It is just my perspective on a certain situation, it is what I believe to be right or wrong and it is subjective. Which is why I voice my opinions here, or with Todd or anywhere else where the time and place are appropriate. I would never force my opinions on anyone just like I do not want other’s opinions forced upon me.

With all of this being said, I am mounting my soap box because I have something to say.

Yesterday afternoon while on break I was listening to a radio show I always listen to, they cover news topics. It is not exactly the news, just a talk show that covers certain stories and it is more for entertainment value. So yesterday they were talking about this new app that was created by a couple of women that allows other women to log-in through FB and rate/comment on the men they have been with. Whether it is ex-boyfriend’s, flings, or any other guy that they have come in contact with in their lives. As far as I can tell there is no regulation forcing these women to be honest, they can go in and say whatever they want about these guys and there is no recourse available to the men. It is done anonymously (we already know how I feel about that). There is apparently a picture of the guy posted with his name and God knows what written about him.

How is this not cyber bullying??? How in the hell is this app allowed to exist?! This is a colossal invasion of privacy and if I were one of these guys I would be looking into my legal rights.

I am ashamed of the women that are actually participating on this app.

OK, so maybe a guy broke your heart, I get that I have had my heart-broken, but this is not the way to deal with it.

Maybe it isn’t that the guy broke your heart, maybe he is just a prick and you feel an obligation to warn other women. I get that too, there are plenty of pricks out there, but again this is not the way.

I don’t care what your reason is for wanting to dog this guy out or exact some kind of revenge, THIS IS NOT THE WAY.

THIS IS WRONG.

I was so infuriated listening to them talk about what this app is about. I went online to learn more about exactly what we are talking about with this thing and it is every bit as bad as it sounds. I read some of the  comments about it which to my relief were mostly negative and were posted from both men and women. One was from a girl who said her Dad ended up on there and random people were just going in and saying nasty things about him. She couldn’t do anything to get him taken down. How awful!

I am completely disgusted but even more than that I am just sad.  Is this really what we are coming to? How cool would it have been if this app came out and everyone saw it for what it is was and completely rejected it? Once again this idealist is let down. This isn’t how we should be treating each other. I have been let down by men, I’ve been lied to, I have had my heart-broken but I do not wish anything but good things to each one of those men and I have gone out of my way to let them know that. Harboring ill-will is just allowing a cancer to fester in your soul. In trying to hurt them you are also hurting yourself.

Impenetrable

No matter how hard we work at life, no level of achievement (internal or external) will ever raise us so high as to be beyond judgement. I had an epiphany while reading this week. A former professor published a book about striving for authenticity, the subject matter suits me perfectly. I agreed to do a book review for him so I have been rereading certain chapters as a way of getting my thoughts together before I begin writing the review.

I have had my fair share of negative critiques in life. This is to be expected, navigating your teens and twenties is a dangerous business, few make it out without some scars. I know for a fact that I have been to blame for emotional scars on others and I acquired a few of mine own as well. I have regret about those I hurt and know that it was not done with intention or malice. I was not, am not and never will be perfect however so all I can do is own my mistakes, apologize for injuries I have caused, learn and grow. The first two I have covered, the second two will always be a work in progress.

The challenge is

– Knowing which critiques are worth processing and which are not worth the time.

– Not always feeling the need to defend ourselves or our actions.

– Understanding that while we may have good intentions in life that is not true for everyone. Some people are just being cruel or catty, do not dwell. Their words have less to do with us and more with them.

– Forgiving those who do mean us harm in their words. They need it.

In life we will always face a level of criticism whether it has foundation or not. The ultimate goal is to face judgement, whether it has constructive benefit or not, and not lose our self-confidence over it. Learn from it, grow from it, but do not allow someone’s harsh words shake you into self-doubt.