There are many exciting things observed in the month of March; for one, it is Women’s history month. There is also National Old Stuff Day, National Plant a Flower Day, and of course National Barbie Day!
In all seriousness, it is also Social work month!
This particular March will be my first observance as a newly Licensed Social Worker. As I reflect upon the last two years it took to finish my degree, I try to overlook the 20 pounds I gained, the crippling student loan debt, and the perpetual feelings of inadequacy, and remember why I ditched my biology major during undergrad, picked up sociology, and went for my Masters in Social Work.
Nearly everyday, I think about how I- the girl who still panics when placing her order at restaurants she has visited multiple times; the girl who would be moved to tears when faced with going into a convenience store by herself or would rather run and leave her change than interact for another moment; the girl who struggled to leave the movie theater over the weekend, during the credits of Black Panther, which she already saw, because she could not get past the thought that someone was going to actively call her out and try to school her on how “there’s always a post credits scene after a Marvel movie, you damn noob” -made the career decision to become a social worker?
As much as I am inside my own head, I cannot ignore the fact that there are so many people in the world that need some kind of help. I cannot help everyone, as much as I want to believe I can, I just can’t. But if I can affect the life of one person whether that means: being a shoulder to cry on, finding resources to pay for their HIV medication, suggesting alternatives to self harm, or even simply printing out the paperwork they need to change their name, I know I made some kind of ripple. Trust me, I know that does not fly for a lot of people.
I first decided to become a social worker after my brother was diagnosed with Schizophrenia in 2011. As much as I wanted to believe that this was another case of a prejudice psychiatrist misdiagnosing another African American male, I sadly came to the realization that this, unfortunately, was not the case. I made it my mission to become proficient in this mental illness, so I could speak intelligently and ask the right questions. I pushed down my own neuroses in order to educate my family, teachers, neighbors, and complete strangers. I sat in courtrooms and watched how the judicial process punished people for exhibiting behaviors they could not control. I watched the pharmacy techs at CVS change their body language after they read we were picking up anti-psychotics and mood stabilizers.
Amongst all the chaos and heartbreak, the type of people that consistently showed compassion and empathy were the social workers. They were in the form of counselors, program administrators, case managers, and therapists. They had such a valuable, underappreciated, skill set and I knew I wanted to be one.
Don’t get me wrong, not all of them were gems. Now that I am in the field, I have unfortunately witnessed a lot of burned out social workers or those in it for the wrong reasons. Nonetheless, here I am.
Do I overthink every social interaction I have? Yep.
Do I come home exhausted every day? Absolutely.
Do I like making very little money? Nope.
Do I say ‘I hate people’? Every damn day!
Happy Social Work Month everyone!