I hate inspirational quotes. Thanks to social media and Google, it’s oh-so-easy to find them and spread them around. Some people I know have started sounding like page-a-day calendars.
I’m aware that the job occasionally makes me sound like I could do with a bit of inspiration. (Or need to be talked off a ledge, something like that.) But some of these quotes…they just kill me.
“Failure teaches success.”
Sweet! I’m well on my way, then. And this will not sound condescending in the least to someone required to repeat a grade for the third time.
“Everything happens for a reason.”
Well thanks. Please say that to a sexually exploited child. I’ll wait.
“Everything works out fine in the end. If it’s not fine, it’s not the end!”
What the fuck does that even mean?
Don’t even get me started on people who think my clients need to be their “authentic selves.” I liked Oprah as much as anyone, the way she yelled people’s names was awesome, but her views do not belong in social work.
Then we have the posters on the walls in the office, that the teens and I laugh heartily at before attempting to tear down. Did you all know that team work makes the dream work? Or that you should aim for the moon, because even if you miss, you’ll land amongst the stars? It really helps to pay your rent.
Now quotes are being passed around by my director. Apparently, we all need to, “autograph our work with excellence.” I’ll get right on that. Just autograph my service plans when I submit them, and save the paper we’re wasting by printing out this drivel.
Cynical though I may sound, and as much as I hate those cheesy soundbites, there are times when I need a pick-me-up. We all do. Or we burn out, and probably bring some of our loved ones down for the ride. So I do look for inspiration. For something uplifting, to keep me going with what I have to do. But I have some different sources, and criteria.
For one, the quote has to be from someone I have actually heard of. “Unknown” or “proverb” tends to feel a bit irrelevant to me.
“You have no right to fail.”
A group of friends and I spent two weeks working with kids in an extremely poor village in Ecuador one semester in college. This quote was said by a nun who had dedicated her life to running an incredibly successful school for children in the community. Her point was that we were all college-educated, middle class Americans. Who did we think we were to even entertain the possibility of not helping others?
“Our job is not to make young women grateful. It is to make them ungrateful so they keep going. Gratitude never radicalized anybody” — Susan B. Anthony
This one is a reminder to myself, and what I’m working for, and what I need to instill in all of my clients, but especially my teen girls. Complacency is our enemy.
“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” -Rahm Emanuel
He took some shit for it, but I don’t think he should have. Crises occur. That’s life. But using them as a jumping off point to change circumstances, to get people moving, to make people think and see different possibilities, is what social work is all about.
After a difficult home visit, my iPod is often my best friend. Two songs in particular are my go-to, only to be broken out in case of emergency.
But I will hold on hope
And I won’t let you choke
On the noose around your neck
And I’ll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I’ll know my name as it’s called again
-Mumford and Sons, The Cave
This is why we fight
Why we lie awake
And this is why
This is why we fight
When we die
We will die
With our arms unbound
-The Decemberists, This is Why We Fight
When things get really dire, it’s time for the ultimate comfort food for my soul–Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s honestly one of the most heartbreakingly brilliant shows I’ve ever seen. It also helps that no matter what kind of day I’ve had, odds are Buffy had a worse one. (Friends dying, lying to your mom about late night slaying patrol, your boyfriend trying to kill you after you turn him back into an evil demon by sleeping with him…it’s not easy being the Chosen One.) That’s where the following bittersweet exchange came from, something that I’ve often wanted to hear in my own life:
Buffy: Does it get easy?
Giles: What do you want me to say?
Buffy: Lie to me.
Giles: Yes, it’s terribly simple. The good guys are always stalwart and true, the bad guys are easily distinguished by their pointy horns or black hats, and we always defeat them and save the day. No one ever dies, and everybody lives happily ever after.
One final one, that strikes me in its simplicity, beauty, and truthfulness. On the importance and power of words, which I relate to as both a writer, and a social worker.
“Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic.” -Albus Dumbledore
You didn’t honestly think I was going to leave you without some Harry Potter, did you?
What are your favorites?