Yes and no. There are days I wake up wondering if I made the right decision. Is this really the right field of work for me? Then there are moments when I get emotional because I was able to help my client find housing after months of living on the streets. Social work is not easy. It’s akin to being a teacher in today’s society. We work to help improve our clients’ lives with little pay and zero glamour.
I was drawn to the field because of my experience growing up in New York. Counseling, advocacy, and creative problem solving were part of life in my inner circle, so it was a seamless transition to become an official social worker. I used to be the mediator when my brothers would fight with each other and I helped with problem solving. I had a high school friend who experienced sexual assault and I was there for her as a friend, untrained therapist, and advocate. It was the late 80’s so information was not as prevalent as today. I had to work hard to find resources available for her to get professional help. My friend took my advice and she triumphed.
Despite the lessons learned growing up, I still have a lot to learn. Self-care is still an aspect of the profession that I’m trying to master. I wish I had more knowledge about self-care before burning out during my first position, as a case manager for the caregivers of our kupuna. I saw their struggle to balance the care for their loved ones and their own life and overworked myself to help ease their burden. It was a tough lesson to learn, but thankfully, I have a great support network and mentor. My mentor taught me about the importance of self-care and my family is there to remind me to laugh and play.
Today, I serve the mental health and substance abuse population in the community. I sometimes do face-to-face visits in homes smelling of urine, smoke, and other things I cannot find a definition for. At times, I encounter bed bugs and catch myself checking every itch to see if I've finally managed to bring one of those buggers home.
I have been screamed at and questioned on my role in my client’s life. I am aware they are frustrated but sometimes, it can take a toll on me. These are the times when I wonder if the job is worth the low pay and high student loan balances.
Before I throw in the towel, I always remind myself of the important moments. I go through them like a list. The time I was able to help a client find housing, the time I was able to advocate for a client regarding their medical prescriptions, or the time…etc. It helps to not only keep me calm in the face of a frustrated client but it reminds me why I’m here. I am here to help advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves. Making a difference in someone’s life is priceless and there are a wide range of opportunities to accomplish this within the field of social work.
By: Cynthia Macey
2018-2019 academic year blog posts are written by Sruthi Vijayakumar & Cynthia Macey. 2017-2018 blog posts were written by Holly Arroyo & Jenalyn Camagong