Home > conversations, Help, Human Nature, Listening, social work > This was real life.

This was real life.

As I’ve mentioned several times, I am currently pursuing a Master’s in Social Work. Specifically, I am focusing on clinical social work so that I can become a counselor. I have several areas of interest, including immigrants and preventative health care accessibility, families coping with substance abuse issues, and women coping with recent and past traumas.

In a previous post, I talked about the kind of responses I get when people ask me what I do. Well, over the weekend, I got response to my answer that totally threw me for a loop. I was out on Saturday night and talking with a girl a few years younger than I am. The conversation went a little something like this:

Girl: Oh, so you’re in school work social work? What do you want to do with that?

Me: Well, I want to be a counselor, and mainly I want to work with young women coping with trauma and are trying to get their life back on track.

Girl: Oh, like me!

This has never happened to me before. I didn’t know what to say at first. She went on to tell me a little about her past and the social program she went through so that she could go back to school and become a little more stable. We went on to talk  about the fact that we don’t all start out on an even playing field and how you have to work a little harder when you’ve never had good role models.

During the conversation, I felt a little uncomfortable. I am totally used to clients spilling their guts to me. I am comfortable with my friends spilling their guts to me. In fact, I have even had many strangers on SEPTA spill their guts to me, and I could roll with it. But at first, this girl didn’t seem that different from me. She was also sort of a friend of a friend, so I just really was not expecting her to reveal that she was one of the “underserved” that social workers devote their lives to. So I was super paranoid about being condescending or patronizing, or any of the other things you don’t want to be when a human being opens up to you. I started second guessing myself again when she was telling me about her career aspirations and I immediately began giving her ideas for resources to look into. I mean, really. Did I need to start counseling this girl in our free time on Saturday night? Is that OK?  I did really care about what this girl was saying, so in a way, I couldn’t help myself in trying to encourage to take her success farther. But I don’t even have a degree yet, let alone a license, so who am I to start throwing out a game plan to this girl?

In all my time working in social services, I never felt more aware of the difference in privilege than during this random conversation with this girl. I thought I had learned how deal with that gap already, and here I am, realizing once again that I still have so far to go.

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  1. Ali
    August 9, 2011 at 13:12

    interactions like those are so revealing. it’s brave of you to share this story; no one wants to be caught not walking the walk. reflecting on those kinds of interactions is what is going to make you an amazing clinician.

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