Happy Spanxgiving

23 11 2011

People tend to have big reactions when I tell them what I do. “I’m a social worker, in the Bronx.” I inevitably get a look of concern or shock, told that the asker’s job is not nearly so important, and am asked how I do it?

I’ve gotten better at smiling and nodding, or assuring disbelieving conversationalists that I do, in fact, enjoy my job. But  no one really buys that. Sure, it’s rewarding, but isn’t my heart just always broken?

Sometimes, sure. I’ve written plenty about that. But this is a time of year when we eat our weight in potatoes give thanks, so I think I should get this out there.

I love my job. This is why.

It’s fun.

I swear. For all the complaining, breast-beating, and oh-what-a-worlding I engage in, my job gives me a lot of joy. And I don’t mean in the sappy “a child’s laughter is all the thanks I need” kind of way. I don’t dread going to work in the morning, like a lot of people I know do. (I used to, back when I did data entry. I could actually see my soul leaking out ears back then.)

Still don’t believe me? I get it. My righteous anger can be a lot to forget. But let me provide some reasons and examples, that I’ve conveniently compiled into bullet points.

  • I spent a good portion of this week cutting turkey feathers out of construction paper. I then spent most of Tuesday afternoon corralling sugared up toddlers and tweens and helping them to glue said turkey feathers down, and to decorate the office for Christmas. I know it isn’t everyone’s idea of a delightful afternoon, but it’s pretty damn enjoyable for me.
  • Once a week, I mold young minds in my girls’ group. I get to surreptitiously impart my feminist principles, under the guise of having a Beyoncé dance party.
  • Occasionally, I have Beyoncé dance parties.
  • I have gotten to take teen groups camping, to amusement parks, and ice skating.
  • After the Halloween party, I keep the leftover candy the kids didn’t want. Who the hell turns down Rolos?
  • I live in a walkable city, and have to do home visits. However rough the job gets, I have a de-stressing walk to look forward to.
  • On that camping overnight, I got to lead the way in a high ropes course, in which I realized that thirty feet off the ground is a lot higher than it sounds, and my girls learned some new words.
  • I can wear sneakers to work.
  • My Spanish improves by leaps and bounds. (Hola.)
  • At least twice a week, I am greeted with leg-crushing hugs from young kids, and excited shouts of, “Miss SJ!”
  • Girls’ group includes a snack budget.

Then there are the other things I’m grateful for. The things that make my job doable.

  • My Droid. OK, so it’s not an iPhone, but still. It has kept me from getting lost and helped me to get information on the go (translation: phone numbers I’ve forgotten to look up) during visits. It has also kept me entertained for simply hours while on delayed trains, or waiting for a delayed conference (email me to compare Fruit Ninja high scores.)
  • My iPod. Those walks would not be nearly as calming if I didn’t have the sounds of Amy Winehouse, the Decemberists, Mumford and Sons, or Florence and the Machine to keep me going. On really hard days, I play West Side Story and pretend that I’m doing outreach to the Sharks and the Jets.
  • Amy Winehouse, the Decemberists, Mumford and Sons, Florence and the Machine, musical theater, Glee…the soundtrack to my days and my walks that reminds me that the world can actually produce some pretty beautiful stuff.
  • My supervisor, who laughs at my inappropriate humor, shows me pictures of puppies when I’m feeling bummed, and believes in my abilities much more than I believe in myself.
  • My dollar store notebook. Where would I be without that thing? I have no idea, because it has every address I need in it.
  • My zip-up imitation suede boots from Target. Professional, yet comfy. Best $25 I ever spent.
  • My incredibly, amazingly generous family and friends, who somehow find the time to think of me and my families despite everything else they have to think about first. They’ve come through with donations of kids’ magazines for the waiting room, art and office supplies, and Christmas gifts. Not to mention, they listen to me rant and rave, and rarely tell me to shut it.
  • You blog readers out there. I mean, you know.

Of course I’m also grateful for the parents who finally started treating their son’s mental illness, or the mother who is in the process of leaving her abusive boyfriend. But that’s the boring stuff we all expect. So the thing I find myself most grateful for this year is the my secret fun job. The fact that I’m pretty much having a party every day (more or less) and I get credit for saving the world. There are worse ways to make a living.

Happy Thanksgiving, Americans! And happy Thursday, you international folk!

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4 responses

23 11 2011
Katjamichelle

Yes! Despite my whining i too have fun bits of my job that im thankful for: During the summer we get weekly donations from a local CSA so that our participants can have access to free organic produce (what they don’t take staff –me– gets to claim). At the end of the summer we take a trip to the farm to learn about the organic farming process, pick our own veggies, and have a cook out. Have you ever seen hard ass teen boys frollic with glee among the carrots and tomatoes? Well I have.

23 11 2011
Vetnita in MN

I am currently working with individuals in the process of moving out of nursing homes and helping them to rebuild their lives. I LOVE my job! Yet, everyone always has “that look” on their face when I tell them what I do. I get to drive around (MN is not walk friendly), visiting people, tracking down housing and resources, doing on the spot family counseling, and a lot of problem solving. If I have a down day, I can stay in my office (I don’t have to share!!!) and just work on the computer all day. For those of us who are a little ADD, sitting in an office all day doing analysis would drive me to try meth. People always are complaining about their jobs but still think that social workers must be permanently depressed. Yes, I get sad when I see failures and people who settle, but my daily experience is making people happy!!!
P.S. I couldn’t work with abused or at risk kids after having my own. I just wanted to bring them all home with me.

10 12 2011
Shelle Evans

SJ
I just have to say I LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog. I am a student and everyday I am fighting myself on whether this career is right for me. Everytime I read a new post from you, you reassure me that I am making the right choice. Everybody is different and everyone is not meant to be a social worker. Those that are will find joy in the small things that they do. I am so thankful that I found your blog, because if I went off of most forums, I would have changed my major long ago. Thank you so much SJ for just being you! You are an inspiration to many! Im thinking of starting a blog myself!
Shelle

14 12 2011
socialjerk

I’m sorry it took me a while to respond to this, but this is pretty much the nicest comment I’ve ever gotten and I was not sure what to say. Thank you so much, I definitely needed to hear this. Good luck with school, and thanks so much for your support! Let me know if you start that blog!

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