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Whatever it takes.

I have two weeks left of grad school. Well, two weeks left not counting a summer study abroad trip to Cuba. I have three papers and one presentation left. Three of these assignments are due between next Wednesday and Thursday. Normally, I love the pressurized thrill of a deadline, but I am experiencing Senioritis like whoa. How does a girl get her academic mojo back? The unwavering support of family and friends are imperative right now. But right now, I hate to say it, but I need even more than my usual team of cheerleaders.

During the last two years, I’ve counted on one thing to get me through my darkest hours. It’s time to pull out the big guns once more:

I admire you.

February 5, 2012 Leave a comment

Currently, I am in my last semester of social work school. With the end of this period in my academic and professional life approaching, I’ve been thinking a lot about what kind of social worker I want to be. I know I want to be a leader in my field. But what does a leader look like?

When I think of the leaders I truly admire, they are not those with the most charisma and a bag full of slogans at hand. Rather, they are individuals who work quietly and thoughtfully, determining what is best for those they lead in the big picture sense. Real leaders take risks. They hold their ground when the existing power structures threaten their ideals and try to convince the rest of the world that their actions are wrong. Real leaders uphold standards and set precedents. They do not want praise or recognition; they simply want effective, positive change.

I also think leadership must be lonely. To assert yourself against a dominant belief, institution, or system means leaving behind the security that comes with aligning yourself with the majority. When you become the face of a cause or the voice for a group of people, you also become the primary target. Those who initially offer support may feel their courage waning as the opposition grow hostile. Subsequently, they walk away to protect themselves, leaving the leader once again to stand alone.

Right now, I am sitting in the graduate student lounge at my school, surrounded by a few of my classmates who are preparing to take the social work licensing exam. As I look at them and reflect on the beliefs they’ve voiced, the actions they’ve taken, and the work they will do in the future, I feel like I am looking at the quiet kind of leaders I’ve always respected. I am grateful to have these role models in my life and I am excited to see what we’ll do next.

Smashing the challenge.

December 30, 2011 2 comments

I’ll be brief.

So a few weeks ago, I wrote this post debating how easy I should go on myself in terms of school considering I became very sick at the end of October and was pretty much the walking dead until mid-December. Of course, I never want to go easy on myself, but I was worried about my health. I do not believe that grades truly measure a student’s ability. However, I plan on pursuing other degrees in the future so I do need to maintain a certain GPA. Also, I am hyper-competitive (mostly with myself) so I can’t really control my compulsion to achieve.

Anyway, I got all my grades for the semester. I won’t be too braggy and say exactly how I did, but I will say that Shingles is not match for me.

Categories: Challenges, School

Teach me to relax.

December 27, 2011 4 comments

This week marks the second week of my winter break. Next Tuesday, I’ll return to my internship. The following Wednesday, I start my last semester of classes. After that, I will have earned my Master’s in Social Work and full-time employment awaits (fingers crossed). That means this week should be a chance for me to breathe easy and collect myself in preparation for the stress, panic, and chaos that will inevitably sneak up on me during the next three and half months. Sounds OK, right?

Last week, I was perfectly happy with this arrangement. I finally cleaned up my apartment and went to the supermarket. I ran. I read. I wrote. I trained. I even socialized. On Saturday night, I went to my dad’s and planned on staying the next day for Christmas. I thought I was going to go home Monday morning. I’m still at my dad’s.

I don’t know why.

Yesterday started out the same as last week. I’m really good at occupying my time. I read and wrote. I signed up for an LSW licensing exam prep course. I applied to a summer study abroad program. Up until about 4:30 PM, I felt like I was striking a good balance between enjoying my time and keeping focused on the future. I planned on going to judo. I really did. At first, it was not even a question. However, having all day to think about whatever I wanted to think about instead of the social worky things that preoccupy me during the semester, I started to have some irrational fears.

My grandmom is not doing so great, and her condition is such that she’s not going to make significant improvements in her health. So yesterday, I’m looking at my dad making phone calls to her nursing facility to check in and all I could I think about is that one day, it will be me on the phone with my dad’s medical team trying to figure out what’s best for him. Which led to me to think about how many good years I might have left with my dad. Which made me think I should spend more time with him. Which made me question if I should go to judo. If I went to judo, was I choosing judo over my family? What kind of person does that make me if I chose judo, which I’m not even good at, over my family? And lastly, what the hell is wrong with me that my brain would equate going to judo with not caring about my family? By the time I realized what a nutball I was being, the window for me to make it practice slammed shut. Great.

Did I enjoy hanging out with my dad? Yes. The thing is, though, is that my dad would have been totally cool with me leaving for practice and to return to my regular life. He trained for a billion years. He knows how it is. I think my problem is that too much time for myself is not a good thing. I thrive on the challenge of deadline and meeting one goal after another, no matter how big or small. Being still never feels right.

During a break, if I don’t give myself enough structure, I start to question pretty much everything about who I am and what I’m doing with my life. I find myself wishing I was one of those people who could be truly content with small bouts of laziness, but laziness brings me panic. As last night demonstrates, laziness come with a whole spider web of crazy, unproductive thoughts as well.

Here I sit, once again, wondering where the balance lies.

Haikuesday 12.13.11, Part II

December 13, 2011 Leave a comment

I have two tests left.

Then I can go to judo.

Victory is mine.

Categories: Judo, poetry, School

Look closely.

December 12, 2011 2 comments

Recently, I’ve been deeply absorbed in my own little battles. I got pretty sick at the end of October and then I didn’t really recover. It’s made work and school pretty difficult, constructing a treasure chest of stress and anxiety for me. While I’d like to think my normal state of being is pragmatic with a dash of optimism, as of late I’ve been mostly cynical with a touch of skepticism. I’ve written and talked so much about how rough things are that I neglect to think about about what I’m getting out of this strange time.

For the past eleven weeks, I’ve been involved in a psycho-educational group for the young women at my internship. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, this group is designed to help our clients, all of whom have experienced complex trauma and loss, to learn how to use their negative experiences to build a source of strength so they can make plans for their future. Co-facilitating this group has been one of the most beneficial experiences for me, both professionally and personally. I work in a residential setting so everything we do has a family feel to it. Before each group, the staff and I cook for our clients and their children. We all eat dinner together and then the kids go off with staff to do their homework (or just to play for the real little ones) and my co-facilitator and I go off with the moms for group. Tonight was the the last lesson in the unit covering loss, and the moms decided to cook dinner for everyone to make it a special occasion. I thought it was really nice that they wanted to take a turn.

With each group, I keep learning more and more. I interned at a hospital last year and I thought that the constant interaction with so many different patients was showing me so much about people in the way we interact with each other and cope with our experiences. By working with the same clients week after week, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing these young women begin to grow and change. Even if they may goof around sometimes and get off topic, they have these very powerful moments when they  share insight from a painful experience, or respectfully debate a touchy subject. Our group is voluntary, and so is participation. You don’t have to say anything while you’re there. For a lot of people, saying how you feel is terrifying. Yet these young women do it week after week in a room full of people. It’s been very humbling for me. I loved every minute of it.

So while the last month and half has been hard, I know therein lies tremendous value.

Mini-conundrum

November 27, 2011 2 comments

I didn’t realize that recovering from Shingles could be such a slow and stupid process. I’m experiencing difficulty getting my work done, and while I’ve asked for two mini extensions, I’m still panicking. I have to complete four papers, three exams, and one presentation by December 16th.

I’m pretty sure I got myself into this mess by pushing myself a little too hard and not giving myself adequate recovery time after I was first diagnosed. A large part of me is terrified of making myself worse. So on one hand, I think to myself, “What’s the big deal if I get a B+ or two on my report card the semester I got Shingles?” On the other hand, that thought disgusts me and I’d rather come out saying, “The semester I got Shingles, I still got all As.”

Clearly, only Calvin and Hobbes can put things into perspective.

Categories: Reason, School, stress, work