Strike that, reverse it. Wait, don’t. Either way.
Three years ago, I began my social work career at Anonymous Agency. One year later (so two years ago, just in case you have the typical social work math difficulties) I decided to start blogging. Both were things that seemed like really good ideas at the time. Both have brought me joy, pain, laughter, tears, and taken precious time away from Words with Friends. Both at times have kept me sane, while at other times have made me feel like I’m howling at the moon.
That’s not all they have in common, though. So many of the lessons I’ve learned in each of these endeavors are related.
1.) Whatever you do, someone will criticize or think of ways you could have done it better. No matter what. So just do what you think is best and be committed to it.
If you present a case in staff meeting, or write about literally anything on the internet, someone will be willing to tell you what an idiot you are. Sometimes in those words, sometimes not. The worst is when it’s couched in, “Interesting. I mean, I see it differently. Have you considered…?” The point is the same, though–you’re an idiot. You can learn from what others have to say, obviously. But if you spend any significant amount of time trying to avoid controversy or risk, you will be rather comfortably for a moment and achieve exactly nothing.
2.) Looking back, you’ll hardly recognize yourself. Because you were terrible.
When I first started, I had no idea what I was doing. I had some knowledge and education, sure, but for the most part I was relying on my enthusiasm and desire to do good. Am I talking about social work or SocialJerk? I’m not sure. As a new social worker, there were times that I was fighting so hard to come up with a clinical focus in a session that I stopped listening and let things lapse into silence. As newbie SocialJerk, I was at times afraid to commit to a point of view. But with both, I’m fairly certain that I’ve gotten better, and learned from my mistakes (which I continue to make.) In whatever you do, it’s all right to be kind of bad at first. As simple as that seems, it’s pretty liberating to realize.
3.) You can’t argue with crazy.
Hi, commenters. Yes, you. No, not all of you. You know who I mean. (Well, probably not.) This is a really social-work-inappropriate way to say that you aren’t going to change someone’s perception of reality. I can provide facts to those nutty individuals who live in my computer who tell me that I bring girls in for abortions in their ninth month of a healthy pregnancy, just for fun. I can explain to a parent that I’m invested in keeping their child in the home. I can tell violent elevator thugs that I’m not actually who they think I am, and in fact, I’m on their side! If they’re not willing to accept it, and are motivated enough to cling to the fantasy, they will. I can’t change that, and attempting to only wastes time and drags me down.
4.) Write it down, because you will forget it. Even if it’s amazing. Especially if it’s amazing.
There are those times when I have a momentary breakthrough. Oh my goodness, this kid’s relationship with her boyfriend if just like her relationship with her mother who rejected her! How didn’t I see it sooner? Or, ooh, I should blog about why I like Play-Doh! The public has a right to know! No matter how late it is, no matter how much you don’t want to take your work home with you, just write it down. You will forget. You’ll know you’ve forgotten. It will slowly drive you mad. Not that you can’t get it back. There’s just something to be said for the flash of genius.
5.) Be passionate, it’s when your best work gets done.
Figure out what you like in social work, and do it. Groups? Play therapy? Go for it. Find your population. It’s not that easy, I know. Jobs are scarce, sometimes we have to take what we can get. But there’s almost always a way to bring what you love into the job. (My kids all know I love comic books. I assure you, there’s a clinical explanation.) When I’m fired up about a topic, it’s when I do my best writing. Then, or when someone leaves me alone in the playroom.
6.) Take a break when you need it. Don’t force it. (Except for when you have to force it.)
A lot of writers talk about how you have to wait to be inspired. Obviously, inspiration is great. Writing when you feel passionate is amazing. Sometimes, though, you’re not feeling it. Take a break. The world won’t end. But…sometimes you just have to push yourself. If we only write when we are really feeling it, we’ll be very artistic souls who never write anything decent. Writing is something you need to practice, all the time. In social work, we need breaks. A vacation day here or there or a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off works wonders. Except when we can’t, because we’re really needed. So we do what we have to, and live for the vacation at the end of the rainbow.
8.) Appreciate those who support you.
I would probably have chronic ulcers and be wandering the streets of the Bronx drawing genograms of passing families if it weren’t for those who listen to me when I’m freaking out, tell me they’ve been there too, and get my fucked up social work humor. So thank you all.
9.) Know when to shut up.
I would explain this one, but I think it would take away from the point. I’m still working on it.