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90 day review.

January 9, 2013 Leave a comment

Today, I had my 90 day performance evaluation at work. I’ve gone through employee evaluations before and also as a social work intern. As I sat and talked with my supervisor today, I felt like this was the first evaluation that mattered. In completing my MSW program, I have focus for the first time in my life regarding my career. My current job is my first real social work position. I’m fortunate that it allows me to pursue my interests within the field of social work. I love my job. But it’s the hardest job I’ve ever had. I think my internships during grad school prepared me for the work I’m doing now, but they were still just internships. I had two internships which lasted eight months long. Any unsolved problems or unmet challenges that presented in the course of my work dissolved once the school year ended. My current job has no such expiration date.

During my interview today, my supervisor and I spent time acknowledging my strengths, skills, and recent accomplishments. Most of the time, however, was spent identifying and partializing my growth areas. At first, I felt hyper-critical of myself as we talked about my biggest challenges. As we talked some more, it felt reassuring that my supervisor and I saw me struggling in the same areas. I know I’m good at my job. But I also know that I there is so much I haven’t experienced. Before my evaluation, I was preoccupied by all the things I don’t know yet, and all the situations with clients that I don’t know how to resolve. After my evaluation though, I feel excited and hopeful about what’s to come. My evaluation was not a time for my supervisor to mark off my strengths and weakness on a checklist, but a chance for me to set goals for my work. It was a chance for me to think about what kind of social worker I want to be and how I can define my role with my clients. In the end, my evaluation was clarifying and motivating.

Back in 2006, I started my first social services job. I knew I had potential. Now, I think I have my first real chance to use that potential.

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Attitude = outcome.

January 17, 2012 Leave a comment

As I left judo practice last night, I thought to myself, “Practice was OK.” The more I thought about it, the more I began to think that I actually had a bad night. When I left training tonight, however, I thought, “Tonight was a really good night.” So what determines whether I have a good or bad practice? Well, I make that determination.

Last night I went to judo on auto pilot. I’ve gone to practice six billion times feeling tired or not in the judo mindset. At times, I’ve gone in with a combination of both. Within in minutes of stepping on the mat, I make myself snap out of it and all I have for the next two to three hours. At practice last night, I don’t think I pushed myself. I had a good first hour of class, and then when randori came around, I went back to auto pilot. My fighting spirit had checked out and I just let it go. When it came time for mat work, I knew I was sucking, but I didn’t rally so that I sucked less. By the time I got home, I was pretty disappointed in myself.

When I left work tonight to head to jiu jitsu and Kata, I was definitely on auto-pilot. Then I remembered how unsatisfied I was with the night before. Tuesday is rough for me since BJJ and Kata are so mentally taxing. But I reminded myself that Tuesday is my night to really challenge myself and learn. I found myself walking a strange line of feeling relaxed and excited to work hard. From an outsiders perspective, it might have looked like I did not have great BJJ or Kata practices. I didn’t pick anything up immediately and had to do extra reps of every technique just to get an inkling of the basic mechanics. Still, I left feeling satisfied with the night and looking forward to my next class. I know this is because I remained engaged.

Learning is not a passive action. I can’t expect to progress if I don’t offer more than the bare minimum. Although I might not have mastered any technique tonight, I have a lot of reflecting to do and some mechanical questions to work through. This is significantly more than last night, when I left just feeling blank and out of sorts. As I move forward with both my social work and grappling practices, I must remember that my work has to come with right attitude. Otherwise, I’ll get stuck on auto-pilot.

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.

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

I Chose This.

November 17, 2011 2 comments

Social work school is trying to kill me. Actually, I think it’s out to get me and all my classmates. Our hair is turning grey and falling out. Toe nails come off. We lose weight; we gain weight. We get migraines. Some of us get Shingles. Others go to the hospital because we think we’re dying, but really we’re just having a somatic panic attack.

I’ve talked to other friends who have gone through advanced degree programs and while they share the same feelings of anxiousness, overwhelming pressure, waning confidence, and sleep deprivation, they don’t recall themselves or their classmates experiencing such physical manifestations of their stress. My classmates and I have also had many in-depth discussions about why our program makes us feel so horrible about ourselves. I think the main problem is that you have to think about yourself too much.

Take this semester, for example, when my clinical course work focuses heavily on trauma, loss, and mental health disorders. This coincides with my field placement, which houses clients who not only go through the trauma of homelessness, but have experienced multiple traumatic events. In my own life, I’ve experienced two traumatic losses: my brother was killed by a drunk driver when I was 17 and my mom, who dealt with mental health issues pretty much her whole life, committed suicide when I was 25. Fine. That’s the reality of my life,, and I’ve done my best to make sure those things don’t prevent me from moving forward. But now, I go to field, immersed in trauma-informed care, and all of these thoughts and feelings that I was sure I’d moved past resurface. Then I go home and read for class about trauma, loss, and mental health disorders. Then I write for class about trauma, loss, and mental health disorders. Then I go to class to discuss trauma, loss, and mental health disorders. Hearing these personal topics discussed in a detached, clinical way sometimes makes me feel a little sick and I can feel my composure dissolve. I think about walking out of class. On rare occasions, I do walk out.

Staff and faculty lecture my classmates and I frequently about self-care. This concept is such a joke to me. Since we have course work in addition to our field work, we don’t have an plethora of opportunities to distract ourselves or take naps. We’re always thinking about what we’ve seen and experienced. We think about how things make our clients feel; how it makes us feel; how our clients’ feelings make us feel; how our feelings make our clients feel. Too many feelings; not enough breaks.

I love what I do. I can’t see myself in any other field, but I do struggle sometimes with the fact the I’ve chosen to pursue work that is often very painful and doesn’t always warrant great feelings of success. Of course, after graduation and I’m back in the work force, I will have the opportunity to go home at the end of the day and disconnect without feeling neglectful of other responsibilities. I know I can make it until May; I’d just like to make sure my toenails don’t fall off in the meantime.